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How being active helps your health

Physical activity helps with your physical health and mental health. It releases chemicals in your brain (endorphins). These have a positive effect on your mood and your body.

It doesn't take huge changes. Start small and keep moving, whatever your age or ability. You’ll feel better, have more energy and even live longer.

Get active easily

It’s easier than you think to to get active and to be active regularly. You do not need to join a gym or buy equipment.

Try our exercise videos that you can do at home

Some physical activity is better than none. The more you do, the more health benefits you get.

How much activity you should do

Adults should be active for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity on 5 days a week, or 150 minutes a week.

Older people should focus on:

What is moderate and vigorous activity?

Moderate activity is when breathing and heart rate increase, but a conversation is still possible.

Vigorous activity is when breathing becomes heavy, heart rate becomes faster and it’s difficult to keep a conversation going.

Get active to reduce risks to your health

By staying active, you can reduce the risk of up to 35 chronic diseases.

This includes:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • stroke
  • osteoporosis
  • depression

Being active regularly can also help with other problems, including:

  • bone health
  • breathing difficulties
  • high blood pressure

Being physically active can reduce your chances of developing a long-term condition by up to 50%. It can reduce the risk of premature death by 20% to 30%.

Get active and see your life improve

For everyone, being physically active helps to:

  • reduce the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • build your muscle tone and strength
  • reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression
  • improve the quality of your sleep and your daily life
  • increase your energy levels
  • boost your self-esteem
  • keep your weight at a healthy level
  • add years to your life - being active can help you live well for longer

Being active if you are older

Staying active into older age will help you stay mobile and independent. Just keep moving.

Physical activity can:

  • reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • increase the chance of staying pain-free
  • maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • improve your balance and coordination
  • make it more likely that you can live independently
  • give you a chance to make friends and strengthen social bonds

Indoor exercises for older people

Encouraging active play in children

Being physically active is really important for babies, toddlers and children.

Encouraging children to be active can help:

  • improve their learning and concentration
  • develop their muscles, bones, balance and senses
  • develop and strengthen social and emotional bonds
  • establish a lifetime habit of being active
  • reduce their risk of ill health as an adult
  • make children feel great about themselves and develop their self-confidence

If you’re a parent and you’re getting active regularly, your children are more likely to be active.

Being active as a family helps to:

  • reinforce family bonds
  • provide extra motivation for everyone
  • encourage a sense of wellbeing

Teaching your children to be active

Being active if you have a disability or health condition

Regular physical activity is very important in managing many chronic diseases. These include cancer, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if:

  • you are worried about exercising with a health condition, disability or illness

Page last reviewed: 23 January 2023
Next review due: 23 January 2026