Getting active

Woman and man cycling along a country lane

Whatever your age, being active now will make an immediate impact on your health and protect it in the future too.

Physical activity helps control your weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health – helping you to look and feel great.

Quick facts

  • Getting active will help lower your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
  • If you are inactive, you are more likely to have a heart attack than someone who is active.

Many health problems can be helped by regular physical activity. And even if you have a health problem which you feel interferes with your ability to be active, do check with your doctor - they can help recommend the amount and type of activity that is right for you.

If you do have a heart condition, or are at high risk of developing heart disease - for example because you have high blood pressure - our physical activity and your heart booklet can help.

You should aim to be active every day and build up to a total of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week. Don't forget every 10 minute counts.

But, if you're not used to being active, start slowly. Sessions of at least ten minutes throughout the day are a good way to start. You can build up the number of sessions you do each day once you're a bit more used to it.

Remember, if you feel any pain or discomfort stop exercising. If you have difficulty standing or walking but you want to keep active, you can try chair-based exercises.

Where do I start?

You can reap the benefits of being more active from all sorts of physical activity - any increase will be good for your health.

Traditional activities like swimming, exercise classes or playing a sport all count. Physical activity also includes everyday things you may already be doing - like walking, gardening and climbing stairs.

Choose activities that you enjoy to help you achieve your goals and keep you motivated. Why not give ballroom dancing, tennis, trampolining, yoga or pilates a try?

The type of activity that helps your heart most is called moderate intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity is a repetitive rhythmic exercise involving large muscle groups such as your legs, shoulders and arms.

Moderate intensity aerobic activities make you feel warmer, breathe harder and make your heart beat faster than usual. But you should still be able to have a conversation.

As well as these types of exercise, you should also do something that helps strengthen your muscles at least twice a week. This could be exercising with weights, working with resistance bands, heavy gardening or carrying shopping.

Build on what you're already doing

You might not realise just how active you already are. Have a think about the activities you're already doing and ones you'd like to do in the future. Download and fill in your own activity diary sheet to find out how much you're already doing.

The easiest way to get active is to build it into your everyday life. It needn't be a big change to your daily habits, but it could have a big impact on your health.

You could:

  • Walk more each day. You don't need to dress up in sportswear to get active.
  • Climb the stairs more often.
  • Avoid sitting down for long periods.
  • Meet your friends more regularly. Walk or cycle to and from local places whenever you can.
  • Do more activity in your leisure time. Exercising in a class or with a group is a good way to meet new people and make new friends.

Want to know more?

Order or download our physical activity publications: