How can I be more active?
- Making small changes to your daily routine and creating new habits can help you to get more active, and stay active.
- What counts as being active may surprise you – you don’t even have to leave your home.
- Even if you’ve been inactive for years, it’s never too late. Being more active can still improve your health.
How can I stay motivated for a more active lifestyle?
- Make small swaps that build activity into your normal routine. Pick times in your week to add more activity such as walking or cycling to work or the shops. It’s more likely to become a habit if you’re doing it in the same place at the same time.
- Set a goal and track your progress. Keeping track of how you’re getting on can help make healthy changes stick.
- Use a fitness trackers or step counter. Upping your step count is a great place to start. Step counters or apps on your phone are a quick way to see if you’re reaching your goals and stay motivated. Some devices can even remind you to get up and move more if you’ve been still for a while.
- Buddy up with friends or family. Discover new ways to spend time with friends and family, and you can keep each other motivated and on track.
- Remind yourself why you wanted to be more active. Write it down or set a weekly reminder on your phone about why being active is important to you. Read more about the benefits of keeping active.
How much activity is enough?
You should aim to be active every day to get the best physical and mental health benefits.
Any activity is better than none, and the more you do, the better. Even 10 minutes at a time can add up throughout the week, and you can build this up over time. We summarise the weekly exercise guidelines recommended by the government at the bottom of this page.
What types of activity and exercise count?
Moderate activity is anything that gets you a bit warmer, slightly out of breath, and your heart beating faster e.g. brisk walking or pushing a lawn mower.
Vigorous activity is anything that makes you breath hard and fast, and makes it difficult to continue a conversation e.g. running or brisk walking up the stairs.
Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights, carrying heavy shopping or wheeling a wheelchair.
You don’t have to join a gym– here are some ideas of what else counts:
Being active at home
Ever since the pandemic began, lots of people have spent more time at home.
But there are lots of ways you can stay active indoors. And what counts as exercise may surprise you, including:
- Family games (a great alternative to watching TV)
- Household chores e.g. Hoovering or DIY
- Dancing to the radio
- Gardening e.g. digging with a spade or fork, or mowing the lawn
- Online classes - from strength training to belly dancing, there are lots of free videos for you to try out
For more ideas, read about staying healthy at home.
Being active at work
Some people spend a lot of time on their feet at work, including some healthcare, construction and retail workers. And that’s a great start, as this can count towards being physically active.
But some of us don’t move much during the working day. Particularly those of us who work at a laptop or computer, or drive a lot. And even if you do regular exercise, it’s still important to try and sit down less:
- Take phone calls whilst standing up or on the move
- Suggest a walking meeting to chat about projects or brainstorm ideas
- Ask for a standing desk if possible
- If your office has a lift, consider taking the stairs if you can
- Get active from your chair – the NHS have information on exercising whilst sitting
Being active when travelling
Think about simple changes you can make to your commute or school run to increase your daily activity – it all adds up. Choose some changes to stick to as part of your everyday routine:
- Get off your train or bus a stop early
- Take the stairs where possible
- Cycle or do a brisk walk for all or part of your journey
Being active as a hobby or in your spare time
Being active isn’t just great for your health. It can be a good way to socialise, make new friends and even learn a new skill:
- Give a new sport a go like football, running or tennis – you could join a local club or head to the park with friends or colleagues
- Go swimming or try something different like water aerobics
- Gymnastics classes or dance lessons can be a great way to meet new people whilst exercising
- Try out yoga or pilates – these are good for building strength, and there are plenty of videos for beginners available online
- Simply suggest a walk to catch up with friends
No matter your age, health or how busy you are there are lots of ways to be more active.
Some people find it harder than others to keep active. You might have a busy work or family life, or an existing health condition. Here are some things you can do to make it easier:
- Talk to your doctor. You can discuss your options, and if there’s anything you should avoid.
- Build up activity over time. You might try starting with lower impact activities like swimming or tai chi. Split it up throughout the day or week if you find it hard to do a lot in one go.
- Try out different options. Find an activity that suits you. If you want to join a class, speak to the instructor beforehand about any support you might need.
- Find out about inclusive gyms and other great options for getting active with a long-term health condition or disability.
The NHS has more information on how to be more physically active, whatever your age or situation.
Government guidelines on exercise
The government recommends that each week adults aged 19-64 should:
- Do at least 2 and a half hours of moderate activity (such as dancing or riding a bike) each week, or 1 hour 15 minutes of vigorous activity (such as swimming fast or jogging) each week
- Do strengthening activities to help develop and keep muscles strong twice a week (this includes any activity that works your major muscle groups, like lifting weights and carrying children, yoga, or body weight exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups)
- Spend less time sitting or lying down (being sedentary), and try to break up longer periods of inactivity where possible
The NHS outlines the physical activity recommendations for older and younger people.
Remember, even small amounts of activity are better than none - it’s fine to build up to the government recommendation over time.
World Cancer Research Fund AI for CR. Physical Activity and the Risk of Cancer. World Cancer Research Fund International; 2018. https://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Physical-activity.pdf
NHS UK. Benefits of exercise. https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/whybeactive.aspx.
Kyu HH, Bachman VF, Alexander LT, et al. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke events: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Bmj. 2016:i3857. doi:10.1136/bmj.i385
Department of Health and Social care. Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers' report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/physical-activity-guidelines-uk-chief-medical-officers-report
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Being active and keeping a healthy weight can help reduce your risk of cancer. Explore these links for more information and top-tips:
Challenge yourself with one of CRUK’s latest fundraising events - a great way to get more active, whilst helping us raise money for our life saving research.
Find fitness activities in your area on the NHS website