Having an active lifestyle and doing regular exercise is essential to maintaining good health and preventing serious long term health problems such as heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Not only this, but being active can also improve your mental health, boosting your mood and overall leading to a healthier, happier lifestyle. Given the overwhelming evidence to its benefits it is important to be as active as possible.
How much exercise should I be doing?
NICE guidelines and the NHS advise that adults should aim to be active daily and achieve at least 150 minutes (2 and half hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. Moderate-intensity activity refers to anything that increases the heart and breathing rate, so the easiest way for most people to get started is to make activity part of everyday life with activities such as walking, cycling and swimming. You will know if you are doing moderate-intensity activity if you are slightly out of breath – a good test is if you can still talk, but can’t sing the words to a song.
It is also advised that you work some vigorous-intensity activity into your daily life. This has proven health benefits and includes activities such as jogging or running, swimming fast, or riding a bike fast or up hills. You may also consider aerobic exercise classes. 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise is through to be equivalent to your allocated 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.
Exercises that improve muscle strength are also recommended to improve blood pressure, maintain strong bones and to keep a healthy weight. The NHs offer strength workout videos with exercises that you can try, or activities such as lifting weights or yoga will offer similar benefits. It is advised that these exercises should be completed on two or more days a week and that you should try to work all major muscle groups when completing them.
How to start
One excellent way to get active is to try the NHS’s Couch to 5K scheme; a carefully constructed 9 week plan to get complete beginners into running. Starting small and building gradually, with break days in between, it offers a realistic and rewarding guide to getting active that can be worked into a busy schedule.
Another useful programme offered by the NHS is the Strength and Flex routine, a 5-week exercise plan for beginners designed to improve strength and flexibility.
Alternatively, joining a club in your local community is also a great way to get active. Whether it be swimming, running, team sports, or anything else that takes your fancy, if you find something you enjoy it can be an excellent way to also have fun while getting fit.