Most of us could do with a bit more exercise in our lives, and it’s all too easy to find excuses… too busy… not enough energy… can’t afford it… whatever your level of fitness and whatever your budget, NHS Live Well can provide you with lots of idea and inspiration to get active
Build activity into your day
To improve your health, try to put some time aside to do activities that improve your heart health and your muscle strength. The government recommends doing at least 150 minutes of activity a week, as well as strength exercises on 2 or more days a week.
But do not worry about hitting these targets straight away: every little helps. What’s more important is choosing an activity you enjoy. The easiest way to increase your activity levels is to build activity into the things you do every day, like going to work, shopping and seeing friends.
Tips to build activity into your day
- Walk or ride part of your journey to work or the shops
- Get off a bus or tube stop before your destination
- If you drive, park further away from your office and walk or ride the rest of the way
- Go for a walk or a bike ride with your friend rather than meeting for coffee
- Exercise before or after work, or during your lunch break
- Lots of gardening can provide a good workout
- Exercise in front of the TV
- Try an online video workout
Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier!
Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier. You do not have to walk for hours. A brisk 10-minute daily walk has lots of health benefit and counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
What if I’m not very active?
If you’re not very active but are able to walk, increase your walking distance gradually. If walking any distance is difficult, check whether your local swimming pool holds exercise classes. The water helps to support you while you move and can help you strengthen your muscles.
- Make it a habit (a weekly walk with friends, walk to the shops, walk during your lunch break, etc)
- Listen to music and step up to the rhythm
- Use the free Active10 app to track your minutes www.nhs.uk/oneyou/active10/home
- Mix it up! Variety keeps it interesting. Inspiration can be found can be found online https://walk4life.info/ www.walkswithwheelchairs.com/ www.ramblers.org.uk/walksfinder
- Join a walking group – walking in a group is a great way to make new friends and stay motivated. See whats happening in your area; www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/
What activities strengthen muscles?
To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you need a short rest before repeating the activity. There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether you’re at home or in a gym.
NHS Live Well tells you how.
Examples of muscle-strengthening activities:
- carrying heavy shopping bags
- tai chi
- lifting weights
- working with resistance bands
- exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups & sit-ups
- heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
- wheeling a wheelchair
- lifting and carrying children
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing.
What are the health benefits of yoga?
Dozens of scientific trails of varying quality have been published on yoga.
While there’s scope for more rigorous studies on its health benefits, most studies suggest yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance.
There’s some evidence that regular yoga practise is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
Does yoga count towards my 150 minutes of activity?
Most forms of yoga are not strenuous enough to count towards your 150 minutes of moderate activity, as set out by government guidelines.
However, yoga does count as strengthening exercise, and at least 2 sessions a week will help you meet the guidelines on muscle-strengthening activities.
Activities such as yoga and tai chi are also recommend for older adults at risk of falls, to help improve balance and co-ordination.
What is tai chi?
Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, combines deep breathing and relaxation with flowing movements. Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, tai chi is now practised around the world the world as a health-promoting exercise.
What are the health benefits of tai chi?
While there’s scope for more rigorous research on tai chi’s health benefits, studies have shown that it can help people aged 65 and over to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs.
Can tai chi help help to prevent falls?
Some research suggests tai chi can reduce the risk of falls among older adults who are at increased risk. However, more research is needed.
Don’t I need to be fit to do tai chi?
No, tai chi is for everyone. It is ideal for inactive older people wanting to raise their activity levels gently and gradually. Also, many of the tai chi movements can be adapted to people with a disability, including wheelchair users.
Can I injure myself doing tai chi?
Tai chi is essentially a gentle activity that is unlikely to cause injury if done correctly. The exercises involve lots of flowing, easy movements that don’t stress the joints or muscles.