Regular physical activity is one of the key elements to both getting and staying healthy.
So says the opening section – with a little paraphrasing – of the Irish governments Be Well publication, released in 2019 and last updated in 2020 by the Department of Health/Healthy Ireland. It provides guidelines for people of all ages with an emphasis on children. You’ll find the same recommendations through the HSE and for UK readers, it’s the same advice coming out of the NHS.
In a nutshell, if you’re an adult, you should be looking to get in 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, or 150 minutes in a week. Any activity undertaken should be ‘moderate’ in exertion. This is what the HSE will tell you –
Guidelines for children and young people (aged 2 –18) All children and young people should be active, at a moderate to vigorous level, for at least 60 minutes every day. Include muscle-strengthening, flexibility and bone-strengthening exercises three times a week.
Guidelines for adults (aged 18–64) At least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity, five days a week (or 150 minutes a week).
Guidelines for older people (aged 65+) At least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity, five days a week (or 150 minutes a week). Focus on aerobic activity, muscle strengthening and balance.
Guidelines for children and adults with a disability Aim to be as active as the disability allows to meet the guideline for your age group
If you’re doing nothing, or close to nothing in terms of committing time to exercise and fitness, finding 2.5 hours in your week might sound like the maddest of ideas going. But if you want it, you’re going to have to get after it. Getting after it might not be as difficult as you think either. Making time is the most important thing, whether that means getting up earlier, going to bed a little later, or carving out some time for yourself during lunch.
For me, I’ve got a dog that needs walking. A half-hour around the block every day and the both of us are in bonus territory at the moment. I’m sure he’d love to be getting out more but physical and medical concerns mean everything is going in moderation. I could be hit-and-miss for weeks but of late I’ve been much better, something Strava can testify to anyway. What’s made the difference for me is simply making the time – I’ve put together 2-3 routes where the time variance each time they’re walked isn’t a whole
Tips for upping your exercise levels during the day
Walk, don’t drive This one’s an easy one. If you’re in work or at home and need to get to the shop, and it’s only a minute or two to drive – walk.
Make lunchtimes active If you’re in a position where your job gets you a 30-minute or longer break during the day, make it active. Bring the runners, bring the headphones and go get moving, whether it’s around the car park or on the road, you might find a brisk walk can also give you a second wind later in the day
Kitchen workouts Waiting for your dinner to cook and standing around watching Netflix or Disney in the kitchen? If you’ve got space and 10-15 minutes to add, use the kitchen counter to try some push-ups, use the floor space around you to get some squats, or try jogging on the spot to get your heart rate up and moving.
Desk workouts I heard a guest of a colleague recently outlining the virtues of exercise at your desk during the day – and I’m not talking about installing a bike or treadmill under a standing desk. Seated leg-raises are a good way to get the blood flowing, along with chair squats (squat until your bum hits the chair, then return to standing, repeat). If you didn’t think you’d look mad in the office (or you have a door you can close), chair dips are also a good option for the arms…
Smartwatch alerts Got a smartwatch or something like a Fitbit / Garmin / Polar watch that allows you to set movement alerts? Set them. I know if I’ve been sat still for too long, I’ll get a vibrating alert encouraging me to get up and move around. That’s a good cue to get up off the couch or your desk, go fix yourself a cup of something, grab a glass of water, and stretch the legs – it all adds up. No smartwatch? No problem. Set an alarm or reminder on your phone and configure it to go off every hour. I did this once to remind myself to drink water. It pays off.
Wake earlier While it might sound counter-productive to some, I’ve been setting my alarm a half hour earlier these days to give me time to potter about the house, get some stretching done or even get outside in the fresh air and start moving (hello, dog). Sure, we’d all love to spend our days in bed but there’s a lot to be said for having those few minutes in the morning to yourself to start the day on a positive note – even if you’ve a three-year-old hanging out of you looking for breakfast and story time.
Tips aside, the important thing to note is the answer to the question from the outset – what is the recommended minimum amount of exercise you should be doing? Carve out 30 minutes a day or roughly 150 minutes a week (2.5 hours in old money) and you’ll be doing very well indeed. Also worth noting that anything you read here is purely to educate and inform, if there are any concerns you should always consult your GP or a professional before engaging in exercise.