What is Physical Activity?

Physical activity is any body movement that works your muscles and requires more energy than rest. This means it counts for all activities, all intensities above rest, and during any time of day.

When it comes to integrating physical activity into your daily routine, it is important to consider the following:

What counts as physical activity?

Walking, running, swimming, cycling, exercise classes are all common forms of physical activity. However, because physical activity is any body movement that works your muscles, what counts as physical activity is much more broad than you may initially think! For example, walking to class, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn, dancing whilst washing the dishes, gardening, yoga and even cleaning the house can all be considered physical activity!

This means we can easily integrate small chunks of physical activity into our daily routines, be that during leisure time, for transport to get to and from places, or as part of our work.

The benefits of regular physical activity:

There are many physical, mental and social benefits of regular physical activity. Let's explore a few below:

  • weight management
  • increased energy levels and motivation
  • reduces high blood cholesterol
  • reduces risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
  • increases bone strength, reducing risk of osteoporosis
  • increase muscle strength, reducing risk of injury and falls
  • reduce risk of heart attacks and stroke
  • improved memory and brain function for all ages
  • improves sleep quality
  • reduced feelings of anxiety or depression
  • combat cancer related fatigue
  • increased confidence and social interaction

These benefits produce both immediate and long term protective physical and mental health benefits. This means physical activity can improve your quality of life, with the added benefit of being fun!

Overcoming barriers to being physically active:

Take a read of the list below of common barriers people face to being physically active:

  • lack of experience
  • fear of judgement from others
  • lack of time
  • uncertainty around the venue
  • health problems and the side effects of certain medications
  • cost
  • low self-esteem
  • lack of confidence
  • nobody to go with
  • fatigue and lack of energy or motivation
  • feeling like you lack the skill or fitness
  • childcare

Do you resonate with any of the above? If yes, you are NOT alone! More of us than we realise are faced with the same daily barriers to physical activity. Often getting any daily activity in seems impossible let alone the recommended 150 mins a week!

However, there ARE options to suit your individual circumstances. Here are some ideas on overcoming barriers to physical activity:

  • You may be exercising too intensely for your current ability if you are struggling to breathe. Try slowing down or exercising at an intensity whereby you can hold a normal conversation
  • There are many activity options whether you feel you lack the experience and want a beginner group, same sex group, alternative sports, visit the Get Active search engine to filter your preferences
  • If you lack confidence or don't know where to start, start with what you enjoy. This could be a brisk walk to work, taking the dog for a walk in the local park, 10 minutes of yoga in the front room, or dancing to your favourite songs
  • There are many forms of physical activity that are free and equally enjoyable. Take a walk around your local routes, pop on some trainers and head out for a run, join a weekly activity group, or volunteer yourself! This is also a great way to build confidence and meet new people
  • There are various exercise referral programmes that are designed to support those with long term health conditions get active safely
  • Ask a friend or family member to come with you to your first session, or suggest to work colleagues it might be fun to participate as a group!
  • Try the 1o minute rule - "If I wake up and lack the energy or motivation for physical activity, I'll do 10 minutes. If I still feel rubbish, I will stop and rest" (9 times out of 10 you will feel much better after 10 minutes and even better for the exercise after!)