What does being active really mean?
Being active is not just good for you physically, it has the power to do so much more – it can, for example, help prevent or manage medical conditions, reduce anxiety or stress, improve a person's confidence or self-esteem, or bring people from diverse backgrounds together. But how much activity should we be aiming for? There are guidelines for this, created by the UK Chief Medical Officer:
Under 5's - at least 3 hours a day
All under 5's should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (being restrained or sitting) for extended periods (except time spent sleeping). Children of pre-school age who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (3 hours), spread throughout the day.
5 to 18 year olds - at least 1 hour a day
All children and young people (5 to 18 year olds) should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.
Adults - at least 2.5 hours over a week
Adults should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week.
We understand that if you're new to getting active it can feel a bit scary. Our partners, Sport England, have put together these great top tips to help you get started and feel the physical and mental benefits that even small increases in physical activity can bring.
1. Move more by making small changes
However you choose to move, it's all good for your health and wellbeing.
Making small changes to your routine by including small bursts of activity across your day all add up and help you move more. So whether it's a 10-minute seated or yoga workout in the morning, a cycle or walk with your household at lunch, playing with your children in the garden, or even moving when talking on the phone – every little helps.
2. Choose activities you enjoy
Doing something you enjoy means you're far more likely to keep doing it.
Try out different activities until you find one you like and works for you. Moving with your household, if you live with others, can help when motivation dips, and listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts while getting active can also make it more enjoyable.
3. Set goals and make a plan
A plan and goals covering how, when and where you'll get active can really help.
It doesn't have to be a fully-fledged personal training programme, but just focusing on what you want to do a bit more, or less, of each day can make a difference. So, whether it's walking for a set amount of time at lunch, every day for a week, or sitting down for no longer than you decide, at any one time – giving yourself a target can help with motivation.
4. Start slowly and build up gradually
When moving more, you may feel warmer or even slightly breathless at the time, with muscles and joints getting a little sore a day or two after.
Don't worry, this is normal. But if you start slow and gradually increase the length and intensity of your activity over time, then you can help avoid this. For structured activities, a warm up and cool down can also help to prevent muscle and joint soreness.
5. Pace yourself and listen to your body
Only do what feels comfortable for you, particularly if you have a health condition.
Then on your good days you could do a little more when you feel you can, and on 'down' days you can do less – and just remember that small amounts of activity all add up. If you feel you've done too much, make a note to do slightly less next time until you gradually build it up.
6. Build new habits
Repeat the bits you enjoy daily and keep trying new activities that inspire and motivate you.
Doing activities at the same time every day can help you build activity into your routine. Regularly taking the time to recognise how what you're doing is helping you to meet your goals can also help to create a habit.
7. Get outdoors
Whether it's your surrounding area, a park or your garden, getting outdoors can boost your mood and reduce anxiety.
8. Wear something comfortable
You don't need special kit or equipment, but you do need to be comfortable.
For some activities like running, wearing supportive footwear can help you feel safe and more comfortable. While when cycling, we recommend that people wear helmets for their own safety.
9. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water before, during and after activities to help your body stay healthy.