A Guide to How Much Exercise You Need
What You Need to Know
- Adults should achieve a total of at least 30 minutes a day of, at least, moderate physical activity, on five or more days of the week.
- It is estimated that about two thirds of men and three-quarters of women do less than 30 minutes’ of moderate activity a day on at least five days a week.
- Regular exercise not only helps you keep in shape, maintaining fitness levels and weight loss, it also reduces the risk of a number of potentially life-threatening conditions.
- Being out of shape can also have a harmful effect on your mental wellbeing, so taking exercise is a good way of cheering yourself up.
- Moderate physical activity should cause heart and breathing rates to increase. It may lead to sweating, but be wary of overdoing it, so know your own limits.
- Taking a walk after lunch, getting off the bus a stop early and taking the stairs instead of using a lift can help you incorporate are all easy ways to get more exercise each day.
- Exercising with others, for example by joining a sports team, can help keep you motivated and allow you to have fun while keeping in shape.
Why is Exercise so Important?
With so many celebrity fitness videos and newspaper articles on health, it can be difficult to work out how much exercise you should be getting.
Regular exercise not only helps you keep in shape, maintaining fitness levels and weight loss, it also reduces the risk of a number of potentially life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
As well as the effects on your health, the National Audit Office estimates that obesity contributes to 18,000 sick days and 30,000 deaths a year in England alone, while being overweight or obese can also be bad for your mental health, reducing your self-esteem and potentially causing you to fall into depression.
While smoking and an unhealthy diet have long been regarded as factors in chronic disease, it is now clear that exercise – or rather the lack of it – is equally important, particularly for youngsters who have become used to fast food and long evenings in front of the TV or PC screen.
Physical activity is now associated with a reduction in the overall risk of cancer and there is a marked protective effect against colon cancer. The most active individuals have, on average, a 40 to 50 per cent lower risk than the least active. This fact is even reflected in the health insurance premiums you might be expected to pay.
Physical activity is also associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer among post-menopausal women, and possibly also to a reduction in the risk of lung cancer.
- About two thirds of men and three-quarters of women do less than 30 minutes’ of moderate activity a day on at least five days per week
- 70 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls aged 2 to 15 achieve at least 60 minutes’ physical activity each day of the week. However, 20 per cent of children are active for less than 30 minutes a day
- Obesity levels in England are high and rising. Almost a quarter of adults and about 16% of 2 to 15 year olds are now classed as obese
What Is The Right Amount of Exercise?
For general health benefits, adults should achieve a total of at least 30 minutes a day of, at least, moderate physical activity, on five or more days of the week. But it doesn’t have to be done all in one go.
The recommended levels of activity can be achieved either by doing all the daily activity in one session or through shorter bouts of activity of ten minutes or more.
Moderate physical activity should cause heart and breathing rates to increase. It may lead to sweating. However, it does not need to be overly tiring – you should be able to continue for quite a while.
For example, an adult may take a daily brisk walk or cycle to work and children could be encouraged to walk to school, in addition to two or three weekly leisure activities such as swimming, football, or gymnastics. All activity can help prevent obesity, so people should make the most of any opportunities to be active such as using stairs instead of the lift, or doing the gardening.
According to Sir Liam Donaldson, former chief medical officer for England: "People need to stay active over the whole of their lives if they are to stave off the threat of obesity and killer diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
"It is not about spending hours and hours in the gym, but it is about finding ways to build activities into our daily lives.”
How to Get More Exercise
Simple steps to improve your fitness, such as taking a walk after lunch, getting off the bus a stop early and taking the stairs instead of using a lift can help you incorporate exercise into your daily life, making it easier to get your 30 minutes a day.
Getting fit with others can also be a good way of getting more exercise and staying motivated. Think about finding a gym or jogging buddy or else joining a sports team or taking a class. Zumba, for example, is a fun way of exercising while also allowing you to make new friends.
Making Lifestyle Changes
As well as increasing the amount of exercise you get, you should also look at any changes you can make to your diet in order to live a healthier lifestyle. While you don’t have to completely cut out your favourite foods, you should make an effort to reduce the amount fat, sugar and salt in your diet, while trying to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.
Following a healthy diet will help you lose weight, thereby making exercise easier and more enjoyable.
- Feeling too tired to exercise? Then read this guide to boosting your energy levels.
- Eating well can give you the energy you need to get the exercise you need to stay fit. Read the BBC’s guide to the perfectly balance meal and see what you can do to improve your diet.
- If you are using exercise as part of an attempt to lose weight, read our guide on the most effective ways to do so.