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Physical activity and your mental health

Keeping active helps protect your physical and mental health. Physical activity will help you sleep, relax and feel better.

Physical activity helps reduce stress and boosts your energy levels. It can also be a good way to meet people and get more involved in your community.

Physical activity can help improve your mood. Exercise is especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.

Your routine

Any physical activity or exercise is useful. Find something you enjoy. This will help keep you motivated to do it every day.

Moderate activities

Moderate activities (average energy) will feel like your heart is beating faster than normal and your breathing is harder than normal.

An example of a moderate activity is brisk walking.

Vigorous activities

Vigorous activities (full of energy) will feel like your heart is beating much faster than normal and breathing is much harder than normal.

An example of a vigorous activity is jogging.

Children and young people (aged 2 to 18)

Children and young people should be active for at least 60 minutes every day. This should be at a moderate to vigorous level.

Adults (aged 18 to 64)

Adults should do at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity, five days a week (or 150 minutes a week).

Older people

Older people aged 65 and older should be active for at least 30 minutes every day. This should be at a moderate intensity on 5 days a week (or 150 minutes a week). The focus should be on aerobic activity, muscle strengthening and balance.

Indoor exercises for older people

Adults with disabilities

People with disabilities should be as active as they can for their level of ability. Aim to meet adult guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on 5 days a week.

How to get started

Find an activity you can do every day. Take part in a team sport, attend classes at a leisure centre, or be more active in your daily routine. Try walking or cycling instead of travelling by car or public transport.

Build up your fitness

Start at your own pace and aim to build up to 30 minutes of activity 5 days per week. Improve your motivation by trying group activities or ask a friend to join you.

If you prefer to exercise alone, you can also track your activity and set yourself challenges.

Getting help

Talk with your GP if you have not exercised for a long time. You can also talk to them if you're worried about the effects of exercise on your health. Your GP can help you decide what type of activity will suit you, especially if you are taking any medicine.

Healthy eating, active living

Exercise videos that can help you get active

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025