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Health info

Physical activity is important for good health and wellbeing, and also helps with managing the stresses and feeling positive during daily life.

The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend being active daily and ideally for 150 minutes per week. This page outlines the benefits of activity, how you can build it into your day alongside your caring role and how you can get support if you have a long-term health condition or disability.

Key recommendations

Every minute of physical activity counts to improve your healthand it’s never too late to start. There are 3 key recommendations:

  1. Build strength and improve balance – keep muscles, bones and joints strong
  2. Be active – including moderate, vigorous and very vigorous cardiovascular activities
  3. Minimise sedentary time– break up periods of inactivity

Top tips for getting started

Find something you enjoy: There are lots of options for different activities out there you can try and if it's fun you’re more likely to stick at it. Would you prefer to do something alone, with the person you care for or with a group? Indoors or outdoors? A scheduled activity or a bit more adhoc? Take a look at the Activity Ideas section of the hub for more inspiration.

Build activity into your day: Being more active doesn’t always mean making big changes. Making small choices throughout the day (e.g. taking the stairs rather than the lift) and fitting in small chunks of activity when you can all adds up.

Start slowly and build up: When you’re moving more, you may feel a bit warmer and breathe heavier and you may feel a little achy afterwards. But if you feel unwell, dizzy or get sharp or persistent pains, stop and rest and try something different next time. You can gradually increase the length and intensity of activity and for more structured activities, and always consider warming up and cooling down. These warm up and cool down suggestions from the NHS may be useful.

Be kind to yourself: Don’t expect big changes overnight and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t feel an immediate impact - starting with small changes can build up to a bigger positive impact in the long run.

Whatever activities you take part in, be sure to take steps to keep safe and comply with the local or national government guidance in order to reduce the spread of covid-19.

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What are the health benefits of taking part in physical activity?

The benefits of physical activity are wide and varied. Not only can it help reduce your risks of developing health conditions in the future, but it can help your mental well-being by reducing stress and giving you some breathing space.

PHE

The benefits of regular physical activity go beyond preventing and managing disease into pretty much all aspects of life. Being active can help improve our enjoyment of life, as well as dealing with the stresses we face.

physical activity benefits

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How much physical activity should I aim to do?

Adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Any type of activity is good for you. The more you do the better.

It is recommended that you take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity across the week. This sounds like a lot, but this can be built up in small chunks and even if you never reach that target every minute you do will be improving your health.

cardiovascular physical activity

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What counts as moderate intensity activity?

Moderate intensity activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing.

Examples of moderate intensity activities:

  • brisk walking
  • water aerobics
  • riding a bike
  • dancing
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking

See the activity ideas section of the hub for inspiration and ideas.

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What counts as vigorous activity?

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

In general, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity.

Most moderate intensity activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort.

Examples of vigorous activities:

  • jogging or running
  • swimming fast
  • riding a bike fast or on hills
  • walking up the stairs
  • sports, like football, rugby, netball and hockey
  • skipping rope
  • aerobics
  • gymnastics
  • martial arts

See the activity ideas section of the hub for inspiration and ideas.

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What counts as very vigorous activity?

Very vigorous activities are exercises performed in short bursts of maximum effort broken up with rest.This type of exercise is also known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

It is not for everyone, but examples of very vigorous activities:

  • lifting heavy weights
  • circuit training
  • sprinting up hills
  • interval running
  • running up stairs
  • spinning classes

See the activity ideas section of the hub for inspiration and ideas.

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What activities strengthen muscles and bones?

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.

At all ages it is important you do regular strengthening activities to maintain your physical function.

muscle and bone strengthening

Examples of strengthening activities:

  • carrying heavy shopping bags
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • tai chi
  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • wheeling a wheelchair
  • lifting and carrying children

See the activity ideas section of the hub for inspiration and ideas.

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What if I have a long-term health condition?

When you’re managing a long-term health condition, being active is about finding what works for you. The We Are Undefeatable website has lots of information about activities to help you build activity into your life – www.weareundefeatable.co.uk

Organisations such as MS SocietyDiabetes UK and Parkinsons UK have also developed condition-specific advice which can be accessed on their websites. You may also find these resources useful if you want to get active with the person you care for.

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What if I have a disability?

Many people with a disability find it is even more difficult for them to get active. But there is a lot more help and opportunities than people realise. The Activity Alliance works to make active lives possible for disabled people and provides advice - www.activityalliance.org.uk

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