June 10, 2023

How to get more light exercise into your day

Regular physical activity (exercise) is just as important for our health as the foods we eat. However, we often push physical activity to one side and try to lose weight by dieting alone. Whilst in the short term, you may lose weight this way, the key to keeping weight off long term is changing your lifestyle – changing both your dietary habits and your physical activity routine. Have you managed to consider your physical activity routine and how this could help support your weight loss goals? This article will provide you with some information on physical activity, and how to integrate this into your everyday lifestyle.

What are the benefits of exercise?

Put simply, the evidence tells us that people who do regular physical activity live longer. However, there are lots of other benefits to regular exercise, including:

  • Maintaining weight – exercising helps us lose weight and maintain it at a healthy range. Regular physical activity helps us prevent weight gain.

  • Reducing your risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. If you already have a chronic condition, regular physical activity can help control symptoms such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and back/joint pain.

  • Exercise can improve your mood. If you’re struggling with stress, anxiety or low mood, exercise could really help improve things. Being active increases the circulation of the hormone ‘serotonin’, which is often referred to as the ‘happy hormone’. Exercise gives us similar feelings to chocolate and sex!

  • Improving your sleep quality.

Fitting exercise into your current routine

Rather than rushing out to buy a gym membership, and starting a vigorous training routine, think about what forms of physical activity are sustainable for you. Think about the sort of activities you would still be able to keep up in five years’ time, and consider those changes. The best sort of changes are those that fit into your daily routine. Here are a few examples of activities that can burn extra calories without too much extra effort:

  • If you usually drive the school run, could you walk, cycle or scoot instead, or even park a little further away than usual?

  • If you usually drive to work, could you walk or cycle instead, or park further away than usual? Many work places have cycle to work schemes with tax-free incentives that you may benefit from.

  • If you get a lunch break at work, why not go for a brisk walk round the block, or even run up and down the stairs a few times?!

  • If you have a sedentary job, e.g. office-based, why not stand up more – for example whilst taking phone calls? Depending on your weight, you will burn around 20-50 more calories per hour standing as you will sitting down. This may not sound like a lot, but spread across a week, this can make a real difference

  • What do you do with your evenings? If like the majority of the population, you enjoy chilling out in front of the box, it might be worth reviewing your time. According to one survey, we spend 17 times longer watching TV than exercising! You could try having a walk round the block to break up the evening, or walking/running up and down the stairs a few times during ad breaks, or doing some simple resistance exercises with light weights whilst watching TV.

  • If you have children, why not try some family games and activities, like dancing and charades to get active as a family after school or during the weekend? The NHS Healthier Families website has a ’10 minute Shake Up’ with lots of fun ideas and inspiration for getting active as a family.

  • Use your phone, smart watch or stepometer app to monitor the number of steps you currently do in a day. Try to aim higher each day. 10,000 steps is a good figure to aim for initially.

  • Many local parks do ‘Park Runs’, and this is an excellent way to don your running shoes try out light jogging or brisk walking in a friendly non-threatening environment. You can see if there’s one in your area by visiting www.parkrun.org.uk. You could also try the NHS’s ‘Couch to 5k’ app, which is a tool to help you get from the couch to running 5k in nine weeks.

What counts?

Anything is better than sitting down! However, to benefit your health, you need to be doing at least ‘moderate’ physical activity – something that increases your heart rate, makes you breathe faster, and makes you feel warmer. Or put another way, activities where you can still talk but would struggle to sing the words to a song! You should do at least 30 minutes five times a week, but lots of shorter 5 minute bouts throughout the day all count too as they can be added up.

Whilst exercise is not just about calories burned, it’s sometimes useful to think of activities in terms of the number of calories you burn – especially for those activities you might not traditionally think of as ‘exercise’, like housework and gardening. The following table may help you with your planning. They are based on calories burned for a 90kg person (if you weigh more, you will burn a little more). To help put this into context, sitting down and typing at the computer for 30 minutes only burns 45kcal.


Activity Length of time Calories burned
Ironing clothes 30 mins 103 kcal
Dancing 15 mins 146 kcal
Vacuuming the house 30 mins 158 kcal
Walking briskly 30 mins 203 kcal
Gardening 60 mins 360 kcal

What next?

Once you’ve started incorporating more exercise into your daily and weekly routine, you can consider including (or building up to doing) some more intensive exercise. For some people, this may be taking up a sport, for others joining a gym, and for others, simply doing a regular exercise DVD or online exercise video may work best. Do something you love, or set yourself a goal to do something you’ve always wanted to do. However, remember to start small and work your way up, and remember to always set yourself realistic goals.

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