How to keep active

Woman walks to work in trainers

It can be easier than you think to increase your activity levels, even if you don’t do much at the moment. Making small changes, like taking the stairs instead of the lift or making short journeys on foot, can really help increase how active you are. And it’s never too late to start making a difference. Even if you’ve been inactive for years, becoming more active can improve your health and reduce the risk of cancer.

The Government recommends that adults should aim to do at least 2 ½ hours of moderate activity every week, but remember that:

  • You don’t have to do it all in one go. All the bits you do throughout the week add up. Just 10 minutes at a time can count.
  • You can build up the amount of activity you do steadily over time.
  • There’s no need to join a gym or train for a marathon, unless you want to.
  • The more active you are, the greater the benefits you can gain.

What counts as moderate activity?

Activity doesn’t just mean sport and exercise. Anything that makes you a bit warmer and slightly out of breath counts as moderate activity, including:

  • Cycling or brisk walking
  • Heavy gardening
  • Household tasks like vacuuming or DIY
  • Dancing
  • Having a kick about in the park
  • Family games like tag

Discover more tips on being active for you and your family on the Change4Life website.

How can I make being active a habit?

Studies show that once we make a healthy behaviour a habit, it’s much easier to stick to in the long term. To help you form healthy habits, try linking activity to a particular point in your day, like regularly walking to the station or bus stop in the morning, or meeting friends for a walk every Tuesday evening.

Does walking count as being active?

Walking is a great way to increase the amount of physical activity you do. It’s easy to fit into your daily routine, you don’t need any special clothing or equipment, and it’s free. You don’t have to walk for a long time – every little bit adds up. And don’t worry if you think you’re unfit. Just take it at your own pace and slowly build up the amount you walk.

  • Walk to or from work, school or college. If it’s too far, try walking part of the journey by getting off public transport a stop earlier or using a car park that’s slightly further away.
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift and try to walk up escalators. If you work on a high floor, build up to climbing all the floors as you get fitter.
  • Go for a short walk at lunch time. Spending time away from a computer screen will give your eyes a rest and help you feel more refreshed.
  • For shorter journeys, walk rather than driving or using public transport. You could save some money and you might even find it’s quicker.

Does the amount of time I spend sitting matter?

From our desks at work to the sofa at home, and driving or taking public transport in between, many of us spend most of our day sitting down. Scientists call this ‘sedentary behaviour’. 

You can be sedentary even if you are physically active, for example, if you sit at a desk all day and exercise in the evening. Reducing the amount of time you spend sitting is important because research has shown sedentary behaviour could increase the risk of cancer. 

Get up and move around to break up periods of sitting time. By making small changes to your daily routine, you can increase the amount of movement and activity you do. Try to seize small opportunities to fit a bit more activity into your day – every little bit counts if it means you’re sitting less. If you lead a very inactive lifestyle, your first goal should be to cut down the amount of time you spend sitting.

  • At home, break up sitting time by doing bits of housework or chores, like the washing up or putting the rubbish out
  • At work, visit a colleague’s desk rather than calling or sending an email
  • Stand up and move around every so often – go and stick the kettle on or collect the post

How can I keep myself motivated?

It might help to set a goal for yourself, either on your own or with friends or family. You could aim to take part in an event, like Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life or Shine, or set a pedometer challenge for the number of steps you want to take in a day.

Once you’ve set a goal, tell others about it. They can help you stick to your plans, keep you motivated, or even keep you company if you’re going for a walk, jog or cycle ride.

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