Health and Wellbeing

Keeping active: How active is active enough?

Jul 29 2019

With the weather getting better we naturally find ourselves being more active.

We take more walks, choose to spend more time outside, play outdoor sports and some of us even walk or cycle to work more frequently. Question is, are we doing enough to keep active and reap the health benefits? Our Manchester-based physiotherapist Nat gives us her thoughts on the matter…

Physical activity levels in UK

Over a quarter of world’s population is not active enough to maintain their health. Approximately 36% of UK adults put themselves at risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, low back pain, cancer and cognitive decline by being physically inactive. These numbers are even more frightening in children of UK – only 20% of girls and 23% of boys are active enough to meet the recommendation of physical activity levels.

What’s the recommendation on keeping active?

For adults, it’s to perform 2.5 hrs of exercise (of moderate intensity) a week. In addition to this, resistance training involving all the major muscle groups must also be performed at least twice a week. If you want to take it up a notch, you can replace the 2.5hrs of moderate exercise with 75 minutes of vigorous intensity.

Moderate vs Vigorous

What counts as moderate intensity? Think of an activity you would find “somewhat hard”, such as a brisk walk, cycling, or swimming. As for the vigorous intensity, prepare to work really hard and get completely out of breath! E.g. tennis, squash, high intensity interval classes or sprinting.

But is that enough to stay active?

So let’s just say you are meeting this guideline by attending the gym four times a week. However, you also spend 8hrs/day sitting at a desk for work and a further three watching Netflix.

You’re still ticking the activity box, right? Yes and no.

Prolonged sitting has been shown to be a distinct, yet additional, health risk. Prolonged sitting itself has been linked with poor health outcomes such as increased risk of chronic health conditions and musculoskeletal pain. It is generally recommended to avoid sitting for longer than 20-30 minutes, yet we do it all the time. So what stops us from moving more?

Main barriers to keeping active

There are many reasons as to why we are quite the inactive population. Firstly, the majority of us work desk jobs which may require prolonged sitting hours. Is there a way to reduce time spend sitting while working an office job? Absolutely!

Try these tricks:

  • Have a walking meeting
  • Get up and walk to your colleagues desk to have a conversation with them instead of emailing them
  • Fill up your water bottle just to a quarter, so you have to get up and get more later
  • Try desk-based yoga or stretching exercises
  • Get up and move around when having a telephone conversation

Another common barrier falls down to a lack of time. However, 75min of vigorous intensity activity per week target would require you to perform just over 10 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. Regardless of how busy we may be, we all can spare 10 minutes of our time to enable a happier, healthier life and feel better day to day.

Finally, quite often we are limited by our physical abilities, recent or recurrent injuries, chronic health conditions or general fatigue.

Picture this: You’re dying to go for a hiking trip with your friends but you decide to sit this one out as you know your knee pain will stop you half way through. Or you’ve been playing football, but had to stop due to injury and you are worried you may re-injure yourself or simply lack the confidence to play again? Or you got very strong doing deadlifts but injured your back recently? Any of these scenarios can significantly shatter your confidence and affect your self-belief, mood and day to day activities.

How can physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy can help you recover, regain confidence, find out how to stay active while recovering from your injury and possibly even gain reassurance that actually there is no need to avoid your favourite activities! Book an appointment with your physio to make a first step towards becoming more active and enjoying your favourite activities to the fullest!