Physical activity includes a range of movement, from competitive sport and exercise to everyday activities such as walking and housework. It is very broadly defined but it is any movement that makes you feel warm and slightly out of breath.
Benefits of increased physical activity
- Healthy growth and development in childhood
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Keeps your heart healthy by reducing blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Increases your cardiovascular fitness so you are less breathless on exertion
- Strengthens bones and muscles and reduces the risk of osteoporosisA condition where your bones lose bone mass and become brittle.
- Can help to prevent Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, including breast and colon cancer.
- Relieves stress
- Feeling happier and more energised – positive health and wellbeing
How much physical activity should you do?
To improve your health it is recommended that all adults do at least two hours and thirty minutes of moderate intensity activity each week. A simpler way of looking at it is to aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, five times a week. The 30 minutes of physical activity does not have to be done all in one go, if you prefer it could be made up of three ten minute bursts spread throughout the day.
The activity can be anything that gets you slightly out of breath and raises your heart rate. If you feel warm and slightly out of breath when you take part in an activity, this means your heart has to work slightly harder and this will improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Check with your GPGeneral Practitioner, or local doctor before you start any new type of exercise regime and then build up slowly. The best way to make sure you keep active in the long term is to include activity in your daily life and try to find something you enjoy.
Children and young people
Once they are walking, children under five years old should be active for at least three hours a day, taking part in activities like walking, skipping, running or playing on climbing frames. For children over five years old and young people, the aim is to do at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
How to increase your everyday activity
- Gardening – weeding, digging, mowing the lawn
- Using the stairs instead of the lift
- Getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way
- Household chores – cleaning windows, vacuuming cleaning, dusting
- Brisk walking
- Playing with your children in the park
- Parking at the furthest end of a car park and walking the extra way
- Manual tasks such as DIY
Some things that are a bit more energetic
- Exercise classes with friends
- Dance classes such as ballroom dancing
- Sports like tennis and badminton
- Join a team to play sports like football and rounders
- Joining your local gym
Getting out in the great outdoors
If you don’t fancy the gym or joining a class, why not make the most of the great outdoors.
Walking is a great way to get out and about either on your own or walking the dog and can be a good opportunity to meet up with friends and family. You can also explore and learn more about your local area. If you fancy walking a dog but don’t have one, why not volunteer at the local dog rescue centre as a dog walker?
Live in a city? Don’t let this stop you; there are lots of interesting walks in urban areas and who knows you may discover some local hidden gems, a café serving gluten-freeWhen a food has less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten so it is safe for people with coeliac disease to eat.
could be lurking just around the corner! A wide range of walking routes and maps can be found on the Ramblers website.
Go further and discover the National Cycle Network, around 12,600 miles of cycling and walking routes in the UK. Cycling to work, college or school is an easy way to incorporate activity into your day, saving money and also helping the environment.
Don’t like the gym but enjoy being outdoors? Why not try a green gym where you tackle physical jobs outdoors whilst benefiting your local green spaces and improving your fitness.
Department of Health guidelines
The Department of Health published new guidelines on physical activity in July 2011 and have useful factsheets that you can print out for under fives, young people, adults and older adults. These are available here from the NHS Choices website.
Training for sport
If you do regular exercise or you are training for an event, have a look at our page on Sports Nutrition for information about eating healthily for sport.