Embarking on an exercise journey is not just about shedding pounds; it's a holistic approach to well-being. The benefits to our physical and mental health are vast, but how do we know what is enough exercise and where do we even start? In this blog, we’ll outline the benefits of physical activity, and how you can begin to include it in your life for a healthier, happier you.
Why is physical activity important?1
Regular physical activity provides immediate and long-term health benefits. These may include:
- Improved brain health.
- Reduced risk of disease e.g. type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and several forms of cancer.
- Strengthened bones and muscles.
- Improved ability to complete day-to-day activities.
- Improved sleep quality.
- Reduced high blood pressure.
- Reduced arthritis pain and associated disability.
- Reduced risk for osteoporosis and falls.
- Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Support for losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight (for more information see our Benefits of Exercise blog).
How much physical activity do I need?2
The exact amount of physical activity needed to maintain a healthy weight varies greatly from person to person as it is dependent on so many factors.
It is recommended that to maintain your weight you should aim to work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. This could be brisk walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, or you could try swimming laps for 25 minutes, 3 times a week, for a more vigorous form of exercise. However, this is a recommendation, and it’s important to adapt this to what feels right for you.
In order to lose weight, you may need to do more physical activity. Through the development of a balanced lifestyle, you should look to include exercise and maintain a healthy diet which promotes positive changes and leaves you feeling satisfied.
What do moderate- and vigorous-intensity mean?2
Moderate intensity refers to exercise which causes an increase in breathing and heart rate, however you can maintain a conversation. This might include:
- Walking briskly (roughly 15 minutes per mile).
- Light garden work (sweeping leaves or using a lawn mower).
- Actively playing with children.
- Biking at a casual pace.
Taking it up a level, vigorous intensity refers to exercise which causes a substantial increase to your heart and breathing rate, making conversation difficult. This may include:
- Jogging or running.
- Swimming laps.
- Team sports such as football and rugby.
How do I begin exercising for the first time?
Starting a new exercise routine can be both exciting and challenging, especially if you've never exercised before. Here are some tips to help you ease into a new fitness journey:
1. Start Slow:
Begin with low-intensity activities to avoid overwhelming yourself. A 10-15 minute walk or gentle stretching can be a great starting point.
2. Set Realistic Goals:
Set achievable and realistic goals that align with your current fitness level so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Gradually increase the intensity and duration as your stamina improves.
3. Find Activities You Enjoy:
Choose activities that you find enjoyable. Whether it's dancing, hiking, swimming, or playing a sport, doing something you like increases the chances of sticking with it.
4. Create a Schedule:
Incorporate exercise into your routine by scheduling specific times for it. Consistency is key, and having a set schedule makes it easier to form a habit.
5. Get a Workout Buddy:
Having a friend or family member join you can make exercising more enjoyable and provide motivation. It's also a great way to stay accountable.
6. Mix It Up:
Don't be afraid to try different activities to keep things interesting. Variety not only prevents boredom but also engages different muscle groups.
7. Listen to Your Body:
Pay attention to how your body feels during and after exercise. If something doesn't feel right, it's okay to modify or choose a different activity.
8. Invest in Comfortable Gear:
Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that allow for easy movement. Having the right gear can make your workout more enjoyable.
9. Celebrate Small Wins:
Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Whether it's completing a workout or reaching a personal milestone, acknowledging progress is crucial for motivation.
10. Stay Positive:
Understand that progress takes time. Be patient with yourself and focus on the positive changes you're making for your health and well-being.
Remember, physical activity is about more than just losing weight and burning calories, it’s about making exercise a sustainable part of your lifestyle. Exercise should be something that you enjoy and leaves you feeling good. If dancing around the house or kicking around a football with your kids is what brings you joy, then get yourself involved! As part of your weight loss journey it’s important to reflect on the new activities you can engage in, rather than just focusing on the number on the scale.
- Reiner, M., Niermann, C., Jekauc, D. et al. Long-term health benefits of physical activity – a systematic review of longitudinal studies. BMC Public Health 13, 813 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-813
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. April 2023. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html#:~:text=When%20losing%20weight%2C%20more%20physical,occurs%20from%20decreasing%20caloric%20intake. (Accessed: November 2023).