There’s no doubt that keeping active makes us feel more energetic. But there are other more specific benefits, including helping to:
Regular exercise also boosts the production of brain chemicals that lift your mood and make you feel happy – so it can be a good way to deal with stress and anxiety.
The 4 building blocks to being active
Developing and maintaining stamina, strength, flexibility and balance are particularly important as you get older, and can help you carry out everyday tasks more easily, as well as enjoy activities more.
Stamina helps you to walk longer distances, swim and mow the lawn.
Strength helps you to climb stairs, carry shopping, rise from a chair and open a container.
Flexibility helps you to bend, get in and out of a car, wash your hair and get dressed.
Balance helps you to walk and climb steps confidently, stand from a sitting position and respond quickly if you trip.
Any amount of extra activity that’s appropriate for your age group and health makes a difference.
If you don't do any exercise
If you haven't been very active before it's never too late to start.
Limit the amount of time you spend sitting watching TV, reading or listening to music. Look out for everyday activities that can help you become more active. They could include:
- walking to the shops instead of taking the car or bus
- using the stairs instead of lifts or escalators
- doing the housework.
Every 10 minutes count so try to set yourself achievable goals. Always build up gradually and speak to your GP before increasing your activity levels significantly.
If you're fairly active but could do more
If you're generally fit and have no health conditions that limit your ability to move around, the Government recommends that you build up to doing two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity each week.
Moderate activity may leave you feeling warm and a little breathless. It can include:
- walking fast
- cycling on level ground
- playing a motion sensor game on a computer console like a Wii or Xbox
- hand washing the car.
If you're already active
If you’re already active, you can improve your fitness and health by doing 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. This can include:
- cycling fast or up hills
- climbing stairs
- playing tennis or football.
Staying active isn't just about getting your heart rate up. It's important to keep your strength up too. The Government recommends that you build up to two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities a week.
Exercises that help strengthen your muscles can include dancing, heavy gardening, yoga and pilates. Lifting bags of shopping or weights can help to strengthen the muscles in your arms and wrists.
For more information on improving your strength and balance, see our free guide Staying steady.
Staying steady (PDF 387 KB)