How hard should I be exercising?

When starting a new programme of physical activity it is vital you do not do too much exercise too soon. You should build up the amount and level of activity at a gradual pace.  Doing some activity is better than none and even at a ‘light’ level eg) a gentle stroll, you will gain many social and mental health benefits.

Your aim however, is to work at a ‘moderate’ level, one which causes you to get warmer and breathe harder and your heart beat faster, but you should still be able to carry out a conversation. Examples include: Brisk walking, ballroom dancing and cycling. This is recommended to ensure good heart health.

If you’re used to exercising then you may prefer to work at a vigorous’ level. This will cause you to get warmer and breathe much harder. Your heart will beat rapidly and it will be much more difficult to carry on a conversation. Examples include: Running or sports such as football.

General recommendations for physical activity 

Adults should aim to be active daily.  Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of ‘moderate’ intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more.  One way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days of the week.

Alternatively, comparable benefits can be achieved through 75 minutes of ‘vigorous’ intensity activity spread across the week or combinations of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.

Adults should also undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days of the week.

Individual physical and mental capabilities should be considered when interpreting the guidelines. Not everyone will be capable of achieving these recommendations and that’s fine. Just do as much as you are able. The main aim is to minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.