Regular exercise is essential for good health, contributing to benefits that extend across the lifespan. In the United Kingdom, public health guidance emphasizes the importance of physical activity as a modifiable lifestyle factor that can significantly influence overall health and well-being.
Adults are advised to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, along with strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles.
Cardiovascular health sees marked improvements with regular physical activity. Exercise promotes heart efficiency, allowing it to pump blood more effectively, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, which remain common health problems in the UK. Additionally, regular exercise can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contributing to a healthier circulatory system.
Bones also benefit from exercise, particularly weight-bearing activities like walking, running, or resistance training. These activities stimulate bone formation and can help in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become brittle and fragile. It’s especially crucial as one ages, because the risk of fractures and falls increases with age.
Mental health improvements are another significant benefit of regular exercise. Exercise can improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety through the release of endorphins, often referred to as ‘feel-good’ hormones. Physical activity can also lead to improved sleep patterns, greater energy levels, and enhanced cognitive function, which is increasingly important in the fast-paced modern world.
Incorporating just 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine can be the catalyst for these health benefits. This could be as simple as a brisk walk, a cycle to work, or a morning swim. Making it a consistent part of your daily life can help establish a routine, making it more likely to stick as a habit. For those with busy schedules, breaking down the activity into shorter, 10-minute sessions can also be effective as well as being more manageable.
England’s National Health Service (NHS) provides resources and programs like ‘Couch to 5K’ to help people become more active. There is a strong emphasis on inclusivity, with guidance catering to all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, recognising that everyone stands to gain from the adoption of a more active lifestyle no matter what their age or individual characteristics.
Overall, the message from healthcare and public health professionals in the UK is clear: regular physical activity is essential for maintaining and improving health. As a professor of Primary Care and Public Health, I understand the importance of disseminating this message and empowering individuals to take control of their health through informed choices about physical activity. By making exercise a regular part of our daily lives, we can enhance our health, mood, and overall quality of life.