Why physical activity is necessary
Reducing the amount of calories in your diet will help you lose weight, but maintaining a healthy weight requires physical activity to burn energy.
As well as helping you maintain a healthy weight, physical activity also has wider health benefits. For example, it can help prevent and manage more than 20 conditions, such as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40%.
The Chief Medical Officers recommend that adults should do at least 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) of at least moderate-intensity activity a week – for example, five 30-minute bouts a week. Something is better than nothing, and doing just 10 minutes of exercise at a time is beneficial.
Moderate-intensity activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate, such as:
– brisk walking
– recreational swimming
Alternatively, you could do 75 minutes (one hour, fifteen minutes) of vigorous-intensity activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
During vigorous activity, breathing is very hard, your heart beats rapidly and you may be unable to hold a conversation. Examples include:
– most competitive sports
– circuit training
You should also do strength exercises and balance training two days a week. This could be in the form of a gym workout, carrying shopping bags, or doing an activity such as tai chi. It’s also critical that you break up sitting (sedentary) time by getting up and moving around.
Your GP, weight loss adviser or staff at your local sports centre can help you create a plan suited to your own personal needs and circumstances, with achievable and motivating goals. Start small and build up gradually.
It’s also important to find activities you enjoy and want to keep doing. Activities with a social element or exercising with friends or family can help keep you motivated. Make a start today – it’s never too late.
Read more about the physical activity guidelines for adults and the physical activity guidelines for older adults.
You may need to exercise for longer each day to prevent obesity or to avoid regaining weight if you’ve been obese. To prevent obesity, 45-60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day is recommended. To avoid regaining weight after being obese, you may need to do 60-90 minutes of activity each day.
Your GP or weight loss adviser will be able to advise you further about the type of exercise you should do and for how long taking into account your current fitness level and individual circumstances.
Does regular exercise matter even if I am lean?
Spending less time sitting down and more time being active is key to preventing Type 2 diabetes.
It could be an activity class, a sport, or it could be getting up from your seat and doing more around the house. Even moving a little more makes a big difference.
Moving more each day will help you lose weight and help to maintain a healthy weight. This is so important as being overweight is a key risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
Moving more will also help you to:
– reduce your waist size
– reduce blood pressure
– manage stress and help you sleep.
How much activity?
You should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days a week. Or 15 minutes of vigorous activity five days a week.
– Moderate activity means your breathing is increased, but you’re still able to talk. It’s things like walking quickly, cycling on flat ground or a leisurely swim.
– Vigorous activity means your breathing is fast and you have difficulty talking. It’s things like running, cycling fast or up hills, or fast swimming.
You should also try to fit in activities that improve your muscle strength two or more days a week. That’s things like heavy gardening, carrying the shopping or a bit of yoga.
We know this can be a big challenge. So break the time into smaller chunks and build up to this amount. Walking can be a great way to start and it’s something you can build into your everyday routine – it’s also free.
Think about taking the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus a stop earlier, or join a walking group.