Activity level you require to keep fit
How much levels of physical activity required to keep fit depends on where you’re starting from. Your age, general health and current activity levels will determine how far you can push yourself.
If you haven’t been doing much for a while, there’s good news. Evidence shows that inactive people achieve more immediate benefits from resuming activity than those who are already fit.
Many people’s views on exercise were formed during school PE lessons: running on muddy playing fields or standing around in the cold in a T-shirt and shorts while the teacher explained the finer points of the Fosbury Flop high-jump technique.
The trauma doesn’t end there. TV images of exhausted amateur marathon runners about to keel over or myths such as “no pain, no gain” and “I’m too old to start” have firmly wedged people to their sofas.
But getting active doesn’t mean sweating it out in the gym, running yourself ragged on the treadmill or playing for your local sport team on a Sunday morning in the Arctic weeks of winter or under the burning heat of the Sahara.
Physical activity is very broadly defined. On a basic level, it’s any movement that makes you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Someone unfit or overweight may only have to walk up a slope to experience this feeling, whereas an athlete may be able to run quite fast before the feeling becomes noticeable. Physical activity includes the full range of human movement, from competitive sport and exercise to active hobbies, walking, cycling or activities of daily living, such as housework and DIY.
Adults should do a minimum of 30 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity, at least five days a week. For children and young people the target is at least 60 minutes a day.
You don’t have to do the whole 30 minutes in one go. Your half-hour could be made up of three 10-minute bursts of physical exercise spread out through the day.
This can include a lifestyle activity (e.g. walking to the shops or taking the dog out), a structured exercise or sport, or a combination of these.
“You get benefit from the total amount of activity you do throughout the week rather than how hard you push yourself,” says Nick Cavill, a health promotion consultant.
The best way to ensure you keep active over the long term is to incorporate activity into everyday life. You could walk or cycle instead of travelling by car.
Or you could take up active leisure pursuits and hobbies, such as gardening, or social sporting activities, such as dancing or rambling.
Remember, the health benefits of physical activity only last as long as you remain active. “You can’t put physical activity in the bank,” says Cavill. “It has to be current and regular to confer any health benefit.”
Recommended activity levels
The levels of exercise that is recommended is abased on age and health. The age groups are children and young people (5–17 years old); adults (18–64 years old); and older people 65 years old and above.
Children and young people
Children and young people should aim to do at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day. At least twice a week, this should include activities to strengthen bone and muscles, and increase flexibility.
This can be achieved in bouts of activity throughout the day, including:
- Play during school breaks.
- Walking to and from school.
- PE classes.
- Bike rides.
For general health, adults should do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, at least five days a week. This can be achieved by doing all the activity in one session or through shorter bouts of 10 minutes or more.
It can include:
- Walking or cycling part of your journey to work.
- Using the stairs.
- Doing manual tasks.
Your routine could include two to three more intense sessions, such as a sporting activity, the gym or swimming. During the weekend, consider:
- Longer walks.
- Sports activities.
The recommendations for adults also apply to older people. The elderly should take particular care to keep moving and retain their mobility through daily activity. Activities to improve strength, co-ordination, balance and endurance are of particular benefit.
Suggested activities include daily:
Take all small opportunities to be active, such as taking the stairs or doing manual tasks. On weekends, consider longer walks, biking or swimming.
Overweight and obese
People who are obese may need to do 60 to 90 minutes a day to lose weight. Activities such as brisk walking or cycling are considered as effective for weight loss as supervised exercise programmes.