Being active - what counts?
Being active isn't just about going to the gym, running for miles, or bending into the most flexible of yoga poses. It could be dancing around the kitchen, walking the dog or tending to the garden. However you choose to move, it all counts.
While exercise is defined as planned and structured activities for the purpose of improving health and fitness; taking part in physical activity includes any movement of the body which requires you to move your muscles and burn energy.
Anything that moves your body counts as activity.
To guarantee the health benefits of moving more, try to choose activities that get your heart beating a little bit faster, breathing a bit deeper and make you feel warmer. This can be different for different people depending on things like age and health conditions.
It's up to you how you get active, but the more fun you have, and the easier it is to fit into your routine, the better. Thirty minutes of activity each day is a great target to aim for, but it doesn't have to be all in one go. Every minute of activity counts, and sitting for long periods, while driving, working or watching TV isn't good for our bodies. So try to break up periods of inactivity with a few minutes of movement each hour to keep you heart and muscles working well.
Here are a few ideas:
- Scooting the school run
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift
- DIY tasks around the house
- Parking further away from the office or shops
- Planting and weeding in the garden
- Walking to work or the corner shop
- Playing with the kids in the garden
- Paddleboarding or kayaking on the river
- Dancing around the kitchen while the kettle boils
- Carrying heavy shopping bags
- Playing walking football
- Having a walking work meeting
In the long run, moving more helps protect against serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease and stroke. But there are plenty of short-term benefits too, like improving sleep, boosting concentration, and relieving stress.
The UK CMOs' guidelines (listed below) provide recommendations on the frequency, intensity, duration and types of physical activity at different life stages, from early to later years. Benefits are accrued over time, but it is never too late to gain health benefits from taking up physical activity.