Taking steps to move more: A guide to staying active
To keep your body healthy you need to keep physically active, but these days, the prevalence of sedentary jobs means that few of us can avoid sitting down. However, even small adjustments can reduce the negative impact on our wellbeing.
The equation is simple: for better health, move more. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity per week1. According to the European Commission, however, almost half (49.8%) of the population aged 18 or over in the European Union (EU) did not do any sport in 2014, and only 29.9% spent at least 2.5 hours per week of leisure time doing physical activities2.
Alongside desk-based jobs, the reasons for our rising immobility include longer commutes, screen-based entertainment and technological innovations like lifts and escalators. Workplace stress can also be a factor: heavy workloads and deadline pressures might mean longer hours at your desk, and stress in itself makes healthy lifestyle habits harder to maintain.
Why moving more matters
Making time to stand up and exercise has a range of health benefits – including lowering our risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke3. Your mood could improve, too. Regular activity helps boost endorphins4, the feel-good brain chemicals that have a powerful effect on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
According to WHO, an active lifestyle reduces your susceptibility to stress, anxiety and depression, and could delay the effects of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia5. You might also notice that you sleep better and have more energy.
Tracking and adjusting your habits
For many people, a ‘daily dose’ of movement comes with exercise. However, while a spinning class or a jog might increase your fitness, small adjustments to your movement levels over the rest of the day are just as important.
“It’s not that the exercise isn't helpful,” says physiotherapist David Hall. “It’s just that it won’t remove a factor that is shortening your life, in the same way that exercise won’t cancel out the health impact of smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.”