Everyone should try to exercise to live a healthier life. According to the NHS, exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses by up to 50% - that’s things like high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression. Exercise can also lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.
But as well as the health benefits, exercise in any form helps us “feel good” in many ways. For example more oxygen is pumped to the brain when we exercise and it also stimulates the release of feel good hormones, whilst suppressing the stress inducing ones. Exercise promotes new brain connections which could even preserve brain health.
Best of all, you don’t need a prescription to do it and it can be free!
It can take a bit of effort to start exercising especially if you are new to it. But you’ll reap the benefits in a noticeable way.
This article looks at how much exercise you should be doing, ways you can meet the guidelines and suggests a test that could help you understand and track your fitness. There are also helpful links at the end to a variety of workouts you could try.
🚨 If you have a medical condition or injury that might restrict your exercise, it's best to talk to your GP before starting any new regime.
How much exercise should you do?
This depends on your age, but the NHS recommends that we should ALL be physically active every day.
- All adults aged 19 and over should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week OR 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.
- Adults aged 19-64 should do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles on at least 2 days a week.
- Those over 64 should focus on activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least 2 days a week.
For further guidance specific to your age group, including children and teenagers, take a look at the NHS physical activity recommendations at the end of this article. You can find out what these different types of exercise mean below.
How to meet the guidelines
Exercise is a very personal thing. We all enjoy different types of exercise and because we are all unique, it will have a different effect on us both physically and mentally. Some of us enjoy the gym, others like the great outdoors. Some are suited to cardiovascular workouts, others respond better to strength exercises. You could find out more about what exercise will work best for your own genetic make up by taking a DNA test.
If you can’t do that, here are a few more ideas. There are links to useful workouts and exercise plans at the end of this article.
Move more. We are all living increasingly sedentary lives so it’s important to remember to move more. A recent study showed long periods of being in a sedentary posture is associated with a larger waist circumference and a higher cardiovascular risk. So take the stairs, ditch the car, try do more steps. You could also try to exercise little and often: for example, doing 5 minutes of press ups, abdominal crunches or lunges every half an hour over the course of an 8-hour shift. Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost.
Moderate-intensity activity. Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate-intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing. Moderate intensity activities include brisk walking, riding a bike on level ground, pushing a lawn mower or water aerobics to name a few.
Vigorous-intensity activity. Vigorous-intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. Activities include running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills and sports like football, rugby, netball and hockey.
Muscle strengthening. There are loads of ways to train your muscles. Doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats are a good start and if you want to train harder you can add weights in increments. Better muscular strength can improve your muscle mass, and also induce a metabolic effect that helps in burning fat. Bonus!
Flexibility. Exercises like Yoga, Pilates and Thai Chi not only improve your muscle strength but improve your flexibility. Improving your flexibility can have a massive impact on your overall wellbeing, at any age. It can help increase your muscular performance, reduce tension, stress and chance of injury.
Why not have a look at some of the workout ideas linked in our references section to find a workout to suit you?
Are you fit enough? Take the sit to stand challenge.
Our fitness levels change as we age, but a good way to test if you’re as fit as you should be, is to take a “sit stand” challenge. Put simply, you have to time how long it takes you to get up from a chair and sit back down again, 10 times over. It’s an easy fitness assessment you can do at home and is a measure of lower body strength. There are guidelines as to what you should be able to do, depending on your age and gender. Watch the video to find out more and then why not test yourself? You can record the result in your Personal Health Record in your Evergreen Life app.
🚨 This test is for adults aged 20 to 85. Place your chair against a wall and have another person with you. When participating in any exercise or physical test, you agree that you do so voluntarily and assume all risk of injury.
How to work out your result:
Why not focus on your fitness and see if you can improve your sit stand result?
Useful workouts and exercise guides:
- NHS Exercise guides
- 10 times Sit To Stand test
- Bodyweight workout
- More advanced bodyweight workout
- HIIT workout for beginners
- More advanced HIIT workout
- Stretch workout
- Yoga for beginners
- Pilates for beginners
- Exercise for elders
NHS physical activity recommendations for different age groups: