If you’ve decided to get fit but are lacking in the stamina department, the idea of getting up and moving can be a daunting one.
But experts now say you don’t have to do all your exercise in one go.
Previously it was recommended that you push yourself physically for at least 10 minutes to enjoy any health benefits. Now the experts are saying being active for just a few minutes at a time is good for you too.
The advice comes from the UK chief medical officers in their latest guidelines on physical activity.
‘In general, the more time spent being physically active, the greater the health benefits,’ the report says. ‘However, we now know that even relatively small increases in physical activity can contribute to improved health and quality of life.’
This suggests even quick bursts of activity – such as sprinting up the stairs or running for a bus – count as exercise, the goal being to clock up a total of 150 minutes of activity a week.
The updated chief medical officers’ guidelines haven’t changed the recommendation that those 150 weekly minutes of activity should be carried out at moderate intensity – this means a level of activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster and feel warmer. But researchers writing in the British Medical Journal say activity of any intensity is good for you, especially if you’re middle aged or older.
In a review of studies that involved 36,000 adults the researchers, from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, found even relatively light exercise – such as walking slowly, cooking or washing the dishes – is associated with a longer life. Their message? Sit less and move more and more often.
If running is an idea you don’t absolutely hate, the NHS has an excellent plan for beginners called Couch to 5K, which aims to take you from your sofa to running 5K in nine weeks. The good bit is that when you start you only have to run for one minute at a time, alternating running with brisk walking.
You can download the One You Couch to 5k app from iTunes/App Store or Google Play.