Physical Activity

Physical Activity

The benefits of Staying Active

Why exercise?

Being physically active has been shown to have a huge range of benefits, from physical to mental, and even social! Regular exercise helps reduce your risk of disease, boost your mental health, and is a great way to meet new people. 

The NHS say that people who exercise regularly have: 

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke 
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes 
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer 
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer 
  • a 30% lower risk of early death 
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis 
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture 
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults) 
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression 
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia 

How much exercise should I be doing?

These days we are much less active than we used to be because many jobs are less physical, modern transport means we don’t need to walk or cycle if we don’t want to, and a lot of entertainment involves sitting. That means it is particularly important for us to build exercise into our daily lives. Even if you do have an active job, it’s important that build different sorts of activity into your life outside of work too. 

The NHS recommends making sure we do two types of exercise: aerobic and strengthening. Aerobic exercise can be moderate or vigorous and raises your heartrate and makes you breathe faster. It includes many activities, from brisk walking to fast swimming. This sort of activity keeps your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy. 

Strength exercises work your major muscles (legs, arms, abdominal muscles, etc.), and have many benefits, including strengthening your bones and improving your coordination. Activities can include lifting weights, but can also be things like heavy gardening, and yoga. 

But how much is enough? 

It’s recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a balance of the two), and two or more days of strength exercise.  

Moderate exercise means your heart rate rises, you feel warmer, and breathe faster. You can talk but couldn’t sing a song. Activities include brisk walking, dancing, roller-skating, etc.  

Vigorous exercises however make your heart and breathing much faster, so you can’t say very much without stopping for a breather. This sort of activity includes running, football, cycling, etc.  

Accessing Occupational Health

If you are experiencing musculoskeletal symptoms such as back pain which is affecting your ability to carry out your normal work, please request a referral from your line manager to Occupational Health.  

This can be done by your line manager submitting an OH referral form via the OH gateway portal.  

Physical Activity Information Hub

Some other things to consider when it comes to thinking about how active you should be 

Being Sedentary

Being sedentary means that you are spending long periods without much physical activity. This can happen in different areas of our life, such as at home, sitting on the sofa watching TV or reading, or at work, sitting at a computer or in meetings all day. It doesn’t include the time we spend asleep. 

There is increasing evidence that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health, and there has been a lot in the news about it too. But what would we be looking out for, and what can we do about it? 

It is believed that many adults in the UK spend more than seven hours a day sitting down, and this increases to over 10 hours for the over-65s. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked in studies to an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers, and a higher likelihood of being overweight or obese. It is also thought to slow down your metabolism.  

However, there is still a lot more research required to help us understand exactly what’s going on, and how much sitting really is too much. That said, following the sensible guidelines on daily exercise (see ‘How much exercise should I be doing?’ above), and making an effort to move more throughout the day is likely to be beneficial. 

One expert recommends taking an ‘active break’ every 30 minutes. This could include things like standing or walking to take phone calls, standing when taking public transport, and taking short walking breaks throughout the day. 


Staying active is an important way of helping avoid injury and pain, and also in helping you recover after an injury. It helps by keeping your bones and muscles strong, and keeps you flexible. 

Of course, it doesn’t mean you’ll never get a bad back on sore knees, for example, but for most injuries, experts usually recommend staying active over resting for long periods. For example, bedrest used to be recommended for bad backs, but we now know that in most cases, this is likely to make the problem worse or take longer to get better. 

As you get older, this is particularly important. Staying active, flexible, and strong helps your balance, coordination, and mobility, which many people start to struggle with as they get older. 

Regular exercise helps your body stay used to movement so you’re less likely to injure yourself in the process. And if you’re new to an activity, start slowly and build up. For example, if you’ve joined a gym for the first time, start exercising with lighter weights, and increase them gradually as you get stronger. 

Mental Health

These is now a lot of evidence demonstrating that exercise has a significant positive impact on mental health. In fact people who exercise regularly have a 30% lower risk of depression. Some doctors are even recommending exercise as part of the treatment for people with mild depression and anxiety. 

It’s thought that exercise could have a positive effect on the chemicals in your brain which affect mood, and that it improves resilience, self-esteem, and self-control. It’s also a great way of meeting new people, which is also good for your mental health. 

A wide range of activities have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be hours of hard work in the gym, so find something you really enjoy. Why not try an active dance class, or if you’re looking for something that’s a bit slower paced, you could try yoga which is also great for strength and flexibility. 

Self Help

There are multiple self-help resources available for further information.

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