Exercise can greatly reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% – and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.
Whatever your age, being physically active can help you lead a healthier and even happier life. Research shows that physical activity boosts self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy. It also reduces your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. To stay healthy, adults should be active daily, aiming for at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities.
The easiest way to get moving is to make activity part of everyday life, such as walking or cycling instead of driving the car. The more you do, the better – getting involved in activities such as sports and exercise will make you even healthier.
For activity to benefit your health, you need to move fast enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer. This level of effort is called moderate intensity activity.
The next level is vigorous intensity activity. Much evidence suggests vigorous activity brings more health benefits than moderate activity. With vigorous activity you're breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. At this level you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
People are less active nowadays, partly because technology makes for easier lives. We drive cars or take public transport. Machines wash our clothes. We’re entertained by TVs and computer screens. Less people do manual work. Most of us have jobs that involve little physical effort. Work, house chores, shopping and other necessary activities are far less physical than in years gone before.
We move less, burning off less energy than people used to. Research suggests people spend more than seven hours a day sitting down, at work, on transport or in leisure time. The over-65s spend at least 10 hours sitting or lying down, making them the most immobile group. We should all aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise a week for a healthy body and mind.