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Physical activity is any movement of your body that uses energy. It can be as simple as walking, gardening or shopping, or exercise like swimming, playing tennis or jogging. Physical activity can be an enjoyable, exciting, sociable experience, and keeping active has huge benefits for your health.
Increasing your activity and exercise can seem intimidating, especially if you’re not usually interested in fitness. However, there are many ways to stay fit and healthy without in a way that works for you.
Remember to keep your GP and care team informed on any exercise that you’re undertaking. Make sure you take any advice that they provide.
Drinking and smoking can also make exercise and the steps to a healthier life much more difficult. Try to cut down on alcohol consumption and quit smoking, if you want to get the most out of physical activity.
Remember to take things at a pace that works for you. Start slowly and gradually build up to more challenging exercises, and don’t forget to take regular breaks too. If exercise is consistently causing you pain or making it hard to breathe, or otherwise making your symptoms worse, speak to a doctor or health professional before continuing.
Everyone can benefit from physical activity. It does not matter what age you are, your size, your weight, or your mobility level.
Just 30 minutes of exercise or activity a day can vastly improve your life. It can:
Did you know that people who do regular physical activity can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 35%?
The amount of physical activity you’re able to do will depend on many factors, but most people should aim for around 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. You may find it easiest to spread this out across several sessions, for example a 30 minute walk before work each day. Moderate exercise should increase your breathing and heart rate but you should still be able to talk – activities might include swimming, walking, or cycling.
If you want to challenge yourself a bit more, aim for around 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week instead. This is activity that makes your breathing fast and talking difficult – for example, running, playing sports, or hiking uphill.
You should also aim to build strength on 2 or more days a week. Strength exercises help to keep your muscles, bones, and joints strong. These include things like using weights, carrying your groceries, or doing yoga.
If you are 65 or over, on 2 days a week you should choose to do activities that also help with your balance and flexibility. Examples include bowls, tai chi, yoga, Pilates, or dancing.
With all exercise, you need to be patient with yourself. You won’t be a marathon runner after a month, but after consistent exercise, you will be somebody who feels better in themselves. Start small, and watch over time as the changes in your body and mind multiply!
Some ways you might get started exercising more include:
Be kind to yourself. If you miss a day or two of exercise, or don’t do as well as you think you should, that’s okay! You can always try again tomorrow.
Set yourself small, meaningful goals (for example, managing a dance routine or walking every day for a week), and reward yourself when you reach them, but don’t punish yourself for failing. The more enjoyable your exercise routine is, the more likely you will be to keep it up.
It can be helpful to exercise with somebody else. This makes exercise more enjoyable for many people, and means that you can hold one another to account – as well as having someone to celebrate with when you hit a target!
Remember to warm up and cool down for each session to avoid injury and ensure that you’re staying consistently active and building healthier fitness habits without interruption.
Always keep a filled water bottle with or near you, and make sure that you’re drinking as often as possible, even if it’s just a lot of small sips.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and try to find a comfortable place to exercise if you can. You don’t have to go to the gym if that makes you uncomfortable – many exercises can be done in your own home.
Build up your pace gradually throughout your exercise session.
It’s important you don’t overdo it. If you start to feel any pain or a lot of discomfort, stop immediately.
Keeping up with an exercise routine can be difficult, but it’s important to stay motivated and find a way to enjoy physical activity as part of your daily life.
Here are some of our tips to help you stay motivated:
You can make sure people with chest, heart or stroke in conditions Scotland get the support they need after returning home from hospital.
If you – or someone you know – needs help right now, we’re here for you.
Read our Essential Guides for more information.
Download our booklet on Physical Activity to find out more about the topics discussed on this page
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This page was last updated on May 3, 2023 and is under regular review. If you feel anything is missing or incorrect, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to provide feedback.