The best way to ensure that you keep active over the long term is to include activity in your everyday life. You could walk or cycle instead of travelling by car. Or you could take up active leisure pursuits and hobbies, such as gardening, or social sporting activities, such as dancing or rambling.
Remember, the health benefits of physical activity only last as long as you remain active. You can’t store physical activity in the bank. It has to be current and regular to provide any health benefit.
Recommended activity levels
- Adults: 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week.
- Children: 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.
- Targets can be achieved with 10-minute bursts of activity spread throughout the day.
Your age, general health and current activity levels will determine how far you can push yourself. If you haven’t been doing much for a while, don’t worry. Evidence shows that inactive people achieve more immediate benefits from resuming activity than those who are already fit. But getting active doesn’t mean going to the gym, sweating on a treadmill or playing for your pub team on a wintry weekend. Physical activity is very broadly defined. Basically, it’s any movement that makes you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Someone who’s unfit or overweight may only have to walk up a slope to get this feeling, whereas an athlete can run quite fast before noticing it.
Physical activity includes a range of movement, from competitive sport and exercise to active hobbies, walking, cycling, or household activities, such as housework and DIY.
Adults should do a minimum of 30 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity, at least five days a week. For children and young people, the target is at least 60 minutes a day. You don’t have to do 30 minutes in one go. Your half-hour could be made up of three 10 minute bursts of activity spread out through the day. This can include a lifestyle activity (e.g. walking to the shops or taking the dog out), a structured exercise or sport, or a combination of these.
The recommendations for adults also apply to older people. The elderly should take particular care to keep moving and maintain their mobility through daily activity. Activities that boost strength, co-ordination, balance and endurance are of particular benefit. Take all small opportunities to be active, such as taking the stairs or doing manual tasks. On weekends, consider longer walks, biking or swimming.
If you are overweight or obese the 30-minutes-a-day guidelines can help you to manage your weight. But for many people, especially if there’s no change in diet, 45 to 60 minutes of activity each day may be needed to prevent obesity. People who are obese may need to do 60 to 90 minutes a day to lose weight.