How much physical activity do I need?
Physical activity plays a central role in keeping us healthy, so it is very important to be physically active on a regular basis.
Beneficial effects include:
- Healthy growth and development in childhood
- Keeping your heart healthy. People who are not physically active are at an increased risk of suffering from diseases such as heart disease and stroke
- Reducing the risk of certain cancers, including breast and colon cancer
- Reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Protecting against osteoporosis – as this is a condition that largely affects older adults, it is important that you continue to take part in physical activity throughout your lifetime
- Maintaining healthy joints and muscles
- Helping to maintain a healthy weight
- Coping with stress and reducing anxiety
- Feeling happy and improving wellbeing –regular physical activity can reduce signs and symptoms of depression. Physical activity often leads to social interaction, improved self-esteem and greater confidence.
Recommendations from the Department of health say that adults should try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate- intensity aerobic activity as week, or alternatively 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity (or a combination of the two). One way of achieving this 150 minute recommendation would be to do 30 minutes of activity on at least 5 days of the week, but you could also do activity in smaller bouts of 10 minutes or so. It’s also recommended that adults do muscle strengthening activities on two days of the week. This is likely to benefit both your health and sense of wellbeing. But, if you wish to use physical activity to aid weight loss, or prevent weight regain following weight loss, you need to increase your physical activity levels to 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity activity every day.
Moderate intensity aerobic activity means activities that make you feel warm, make your heart beat faster and that may make you a bit out of breath. When doing moderate intensity physical activity you will probably still be able to carry on a conversation.
Some examples of moderate intensity activities are:
- active housework and cleaning
- walking fast
- water aerobics
- riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- doubles tennis
- pushing a lawn mower
- gentle cyling
Vigorous intensity aerobic activity means that you will be warm, your heart beating faster and will be out of breath so that you probably couldn’t carry on a conversation.
Some examples of vigorous intensity aerobic activities would be
- jogging or running
- vigorous fitness dvds
- swimming fast
- riding a bike fast or on hills
- singles tennis
- skipping rope
- martial arts
Muscle strengthening activities include:
- lifting weights
- working with resistance bands
- doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance, such as push-ups and sit-ups
- heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
As well as incorporating physical activity into your day, it is also a good idea to try to reduce the time you spend sitting down as this is also bad for your heath. Although daily activities like cooking, shopping and housework don’t count towards your 150 minutes of activity a week, they are good for getting you standing up and moving more. Try to break up periods spent sitting down, for example, by getting up to talk to colleagues at work or standing up and doing something around the house in the breaks on and avoid spending too much time in seated activities like watching TV or using a computer.
These recommendations are also appropriate for older adults who are generally in good health, and it is vital to stay active as you get older to help retain your mobility, ability to perform daily tasks and independence. Try to take part in types of activities that promote improved strength, co-ordination and balance such as cycling, yoga and stretching exercises. As people age, they often tend to experience a gradual loss in muscle mass, strength, power, balance and flexibility, especially if they become less active. Examples of the types of activities that may help include walking, dancing and gardening. And remember, it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf and become more active – just go easy to start with and build up your fitness gradually. Why not join forces with friends and family and take up a new hobby together – pick something fun and sociable that you will maintain your interest in the long-term.
If 30 minutes all in one go sounds a bit too much to start with, don’t worry! You can make up the daily 30 minutes by adding together shorter bouts of activity, such as 10 minutes, three times a day.
- © British Nutrition Foundation 2013