Physical Activity

Moving Our Way to Wellness: An Introduction to Physical Activity

What comes to mind when you hear the words “physical activity”?  Gym equipment? Sports teams? Sweaty exercise classes? While these represent some forms of activity, the scope of physical activity encompasses so much more and refers broadly to any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that expends energy. This means everyday activities like walking, gardening, dancing, house chores and stair climbing all count too. Physical activity has profound impacts on health and quality of life and should be a priority for all. Understanding key evidence and the benefits for reducing the risks of developing long term health conditions might help with motivation.

Physical inactivity

Chief Medical Officers recommend that adults should take at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate aerobic exercise, 75 vigorous minutes, or a blend of the two. This includes sports, planned workouts, leisure activities or everyday active living. However, only around 63% of UK men and 55% of women currently meet these minimums. Over 20% of adults report completely sedentary existences across all age groups so includes the young. Our modern daily living built around technology and convenience cultivates this trend leading to serious consequences. Every year inactive lifestyles contribute to over 35,000 early deaths in the UK from related illnesses. Getting active even if only moderately can reduce the risks substantially.

Evidence for activity related reduction in health conditions

Getting up and moving pays dividends through lives saved and debility avoided:

  • Being active can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by around a third.
  • The risk of type 2 diabetes is reduced by 26% with the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.
  • Lack of physical activity is a significant contributing factor in the development of some cancers, for example up to 25% in breast cancer. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of breast cancer by between 20 and 40%, the risk of colon cancer by 20-30%, the risk of endometrial cancer by 27% and lung cancer by 30%.
  • Mental health gets a boost as well with the chance of developing depression being reduced by 30%.
  • And physical activity has been shown to be of benefit in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving mood, memory, concentration and learning.
  • The musculoskeletal system benefits greatly with improved stamina, strength, suppleness, balance and coordination, all of which help to reduce our risk of falling as we age, reduce our risk of fractures, improve our mobility and help us retain our independence.

Finding Enjoyable Activities

It’s important to choose pursuits that we enjoy and can be fitted in as part of our lifestyle and that are easily accessible to us. One thing nearly everyone can do is to integrate walking in some form and all that is needed is comfortable footwear.  Your local library should be able to give you information on many of the following ideas:

  • There are numerous options for classes to suit everyone at local leisure centres or if you prefer there is a wide variety of home workouts available for those with access to the internet.
  • You will find different walking or rambling groups to suit all abilities with regular organised walks both in towns and in the countryside.
  • Cycling remains hugely popular for commuting or leisure rides and many areas have a variety of cycles clubs.
  • Swimming builds whole body strength with limited joint wear-and-tear.
  • Team sports foster camaraderie, competition and skill building.
  • Creative outlets like dance evolve athleticism while nurturing emotional health too.
  • Gardening supports strength, flexibility.

Find what interests, energises, reduces stress and puts a smile on your face. Moving well can prevent illness and enhance wellbeing. We’ll explore the benefits and other related topics in further articles in this section.

Walking Your Way to Wellbeing
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Unlocking the Power of Every Step
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Dance Like No One’s Watching
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