Keeping active has many benefits.
- It reduces your risk of a heart attack by 40%.
- It lowers your risk of a stroke by 27%.
- It reduces blood pressure
- It lowers cholesterol levels
- It builds and maintains a strong and healthy heart
- It improves your lung function
- It helps weight loss
- It builds stronger muscles, joints and bones.
- It lowers stress levels
- It improves your frame of mind and builds self–confidence.
- It helps you sleep better
- It slows down the ageing process
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Increasing the amount of physical activity you do on a day to day basis is very important. The body needs a good balance of all three types of exercise – cardiovascular, strength and flexibility exercises.
Cardiovascular exercise is exercise that increases the heart rate e.g. fast walking, running, fitness classes and playing sport. It is also known as aerobic exercise. It keeps the muscles of the heart and lungs fit to keep your body working properly. It is often also split into moderate and vigorous physical activity.
Strength exercises (resistance training) build up muscles which keep you strong and use up calories –this is known as your metabolism. Doing strength exercises means you burn more calories even when resting.
Strength exercises can be as simple as getting up and down out of a chair or carrying heavy shopping bags. Or if you can do more, body weight exercises such as squats or press ups and dancing, jumping and hopping all count, as well as lifting weights.
Both cardiovascular and strength exercises will improve your cholesterol, boosting the good HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol. Your heart will grow stronger and more efficient which will also help to lower your blood pressure. All these lower your risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.
Flexibility exercises are the type of exercise that bend and stretch your joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is important to keep your joints and muscles supple as it allows you to do everyday tasks more easily. Things that we take for granted now will become more difficult as we age, if we do not look after ourselves.
Rest is just as important as physical activity, we should aim to get 8 hours of sleep a night. This helps our bodies rest, recover and adapt to the training. Without enough rest then all our work is undone. You should aim to have two rest days from exercise every week.
How much physical activity do you need?
The amount of physical activity that you should do depends on your age.
5–17 year olds: 60 mins of moderate and vigorous physical activity per day, or 300 minutes per week. Most activity should be aerobic, but should also include activities that strengthen muscle and bone, at least 3 times per week.
18–64 year olds: At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. Aerobic activity can be broken up into 10–minute bouts. Muscle–strengthening activities involving major muscle groups should be done on 2 or more days a week.
65 years old and over: Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. Aerobic activity can be broken up into 10–minute bouts. Older adults with poor mobility should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week. Muscle–strengthening activities involving major muscle groups should be done on 2 or more days a week.
It is best for adults to try and get 30 minutes of physical activity a day, rather than try and fit all 150 minutes into just the weekend. You don’t even need to do the 30 minutes in one go – it can be broken down into 10 minute sessions
The guidelines state that it should be moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity.
Increase your physical activity in everyday life
If you are not usually active, every little helps. Physical activity isn’t just about going to the gym or playing sports. Making small changes to your everyday routine will increase the overall amount of physical activity you do, which will help balance the calories you eat and the calories you burn off.
Think of all the small ways in which you can add more exercise into things that you do everyday:
- Walk up the stairs – don’t take the lift.
- Pace up and down while talking on the phone.
- Walk to the local shops or to leave the kids to school.
- Instead of dozing in front of the TV, get up and walk around the room when you feel sleepy.
- Have a quick walk during your lunch hour or after dinner in the evening.
- Get off the bus at least one stop early and walk from there.
- If you have a dog start to walk further or faster.
- If you have a car, wash it by hand instead of going to a carwash.
If you are not currently physically active, you should start gradually.
Calories used in different activities
Everything we do uses up calories, even sleeping. Here is a list of activities and sports with the amount of calories they use per hour.
Calories used per hour