According to the NHS, adults should do one type of physical activity every day. Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week. Adults should also spread exercise evenly over 4-5 days a week or every day, reduce time spent sitting or lying down, and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.
Spending prolonged periods sitting down during the day isn't good for your health, yet, with many of us having desk-based roles, 7-8 hours a day disappear sitting just at work. Unfortunately, with the average person spending 12 hours a day sitting down, physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. So, exercising moderately to vigorously during the week is critical to combat 'sitting disease'.
Exercise can be a love-hate relationship for many people. Even though it can be hard to motivate yourself to go for a walk or run (especially when it's cold and raining), regular physical activity does reduce your risk of various health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, depression, and dementia.
Since the start of the pandemic, lots of people have been working remotely, reducing their chances of exercising on the commute to work, e.g., walking, cycling. So, it's necessary to consider how much exercise you actually do during the day.
A great way to monitor your activity is by using a wearable fitness tracker. Wearable fitness trackers not only count your steps but can measure heart rate and track if you're doing a vigorous workout such as running.
Benefits of exercising
One of the advantages of exercising is that it boosts our ability to fight infections. Through working out, we encourage blood to circulate our body, which improves oxygen intake.
Being regularly physically active can help your general physical health. It:
Supports stronger bones, muscles and joints
Manages weight better
Lowers blood cholesterol levels
Lowers blood pressure
Reduces risk of a heart attack
Lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
Feels better, with more energy and healthier sleep
Exercise can help improve mental health:
It increases hormones linked to happiness, such as endorphins and serotonin.
Even low-intensity exercise can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression by boosting the production of a hormone called norepinephrine.
Types of exercise
Taking part in daily exercise is vital for a healthy lifestyle and choosing a physical activity that raises your heart rate is ideal. However, it's important to remember that whichever type of exercise you do is good for you. It doesn't matter if you can't run, but if you prefer to do Yoga or Pilates because you enjoy it, then do it. The important thing is you do what works for you. Exercise is not a one size fits all. Small amounts of exercise each day, even if that's a leisurely walk, can be a great place to start to improve your physical and mental health.
With moderate exercise, most people need between 150 and 300 minutes of it per week. This includes:
Brisk walking until you can't talk without being out of breath
Cycling at a leisurely pace
Dancing until you sweat
Swimming at a leisurely pace
With vigorous exercise, you should generally aim for between 75 and 150 minutes of it per week. This includes:
Skipping with a rope
Swimming at a fast pace
When it comes to reaching your weekly targets for fitness, remember that the more vigorous the activity you do, the less time you will need to spend doing it each week. If you try fast-paced sports with friends such as football or netball, you will notice your speed slowly start to improve as your fitness gets better. However, doing a mix of both moderate and vigorous activities during the week is an easier way to ensure you hit your exercise targets, meaning you're less likely to burn out.
Before you start thinking about what exercise routine you'd like to do during the week, ensure you check any health conditions you have with your doctor to ensure you don't take part in anything you shouldn't be doing, e.g., further damaging your back.
Make a list of activities you'd like to participate in and figure out if they are moderate or vigorous activities, so you can get a rough understanding of how long you'd need to spend doing each activity each week to hit your weekly target. If you're considering doing brisk walking, as it's a moderate activity, you will need to do a minimum of 150 mins a week. So, if you spread this out across five days, that's simply 30 mins a day. The next step is then to find a time that works for you to fit in your exercise. 30 mins of brisk walking a day could be done before work, during your lunch break, or even after your evening dinner.
One of the biggest challenges many people face is finding the time and effort to fit exercise into their daily routine. However, when you know the benefits of exercising, treating it as a priority becomes invaluable. If you're able to, perhaps try a vigorous activity as you only need to do a minimum of 75 mins to hit your weekly target. Doing two x 40 mins vigorous workout such as running, or aerobics is all you need.
Who says exercising is expensive?
Not everyone can afford to pay for a gym membership, especially when you struggle to find the time during the week to go. Throughout the lockdown, people across the country found innovative ways to exercise at home. You can go for a walk, run, watch a YouTube video or join online classes for aerobics, Zumba or yoga.
Exercise with a friend
When people quit exercising, lacking the motivation to do it or finding the activity boring tend to be the reason. Well, try exercising with a friend or family member, or doing a group sport such as football where your presence is required. Working out with somebody else makes the activity more enjoyable, and you can also encourage each other to do it.