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How much exercise do I need, Health And Beauty

We're increasingly living in a world where physical activity has stopped being a day-to-day part of our lives. We have domestic appliances to wash and dry for us and cars to get us around, and with the decline in manual labour many of us spend our working day sitting at desks.

When we get home, we think nothing of spending the evening sitting or even lying down in front of the TV. If that sounds like your routine, then it's important to remember any exercise at all is better than none.

Many people's views on sport and exercise were formed during school PE lessons endless laps of a muddy field, or standing around shivering in T-shirt and shorts, hoping the ball didn't come near you. Most of us have seen film of people running a marathon who look ready to keel over.

Not surprising then that many people regard exercise as something miserable that has to be very, very hard to do you any good. It doesn't.

In fact, there's a well-established theory that mild to moderate physical activity is, for most people, the best way to better health. Apart from anything else, unless you do something you enjoy or can at least put up with you won't stick at it. Similarly, if you start off doing too much too soon, you'll get fed up and stop, get injured or even make yourself ill.

So what's the right amount of exercise to get fit and healthy without injuring yourself in the process?

Strenuous, moderate or mild?

The intensity at which you workout can be described as strenuous, moderate or mild. What constitutes a strenuous, moderate or mild exercise workload for you will depend on your current fitness.

If you're an Olympic 10,000m runner, jogging one mile in nine minutes would count as mild activity. For most people, though, it would be strenuous, if not impossible. Experts recommend that for purposes of general health, mild to moderate levels of physical activity are all that's required.

For many of us, this means brisk or purposeful walking, or the equivalent level of effort in another activity. Again, what brisk means will depend on your current state of health or fitness. It's a pace at which you feel you're making good progress while still being able to hold a conversation.

As a rule of thumb, exercise of moderate intensity will make you a little warm or sweaty, and slightly out of breath, but no more than that.

Recommended activity levels

According to the government, only 37 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women take enough exercise to get any benefit from it. To avoid obesity, heart disease and other life-limiting conditions, the chief medical officer (the government's top doctor) recommends the following:

  • Adults should do a minimum of 30 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity, five days a week.
  • You don't have to do the whole 30 minutes in one go. Your half-hour could be made up of three ten-minute bursts of activity spread through the day, if you prefer.
  • The activity can be a 'lifestyle activity' (in other words, walking to the shops or taking the dog out) or structured exercise or sport, or a combination of these. But it does need to be of at least moderate intensity.
  • People who are at specific risk from obesity, or who need to manage their weight because of a medical condition, need 45-60 minutes of exercise at least five times a week.
  • For bone health, activities that produce high physical stresses on the bones are necessary.

Older people

These recommendations also apply to older adults, assuming they're healthy and mobile enough to manage them.

In fact, older people should take particular care to retain their mobility through daily activity. Specific activities to improve strength, coordination and balance are particularly beneficial for older people.

Safety first - avoiding illness and injury

Remember you're taking up exercise to improve your health, not to make yourself ill or injured. Bear the following in mind:

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