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Exercise

Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64

Adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Any type of activity is good for you. The more you do the better.

Adults should:

  • aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still
  • do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week
  • reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.

You can also achieve your weekly activity target with:

  • several short sessions of very vigorous intensity activity
  • a mix of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity

Make sure the type and intensity of your activity is appropriate for your level of fitness.

You can do your weekly target of physical activity on a single day or over 2 or more days. Whatever suits you.

These guidelines are also suitable for:

  • disabled adults
  • pregnant women and new mothers

When you start exercising after pregnancy, make sure your physical activity choices reflect your activity levels before pregnancy. You should include strength training.

After your 6 to 8 week postnatal check, you can start to do more intense activities if you feel you're able to. Vigorous activity is not recommended if you were inactive before pregnancy.

What counts as moderate aerobic activity?

Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing.

Examples of moderate intensity activities:

  • brisk walking
  • water aerobics
  • riding a bike
  • dancing
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking
  • rollerblading

Try the aerobic workout videos in the NHS Fitness Studio.

What counts as vigorous activity?

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

In general, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity.

Most moderate activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort.

Examples of vigorous activities:

  • jogging or running
  • swimming fast
  • riding a bike fast or on hills
  • walking up the stairs
  • sports, like football, rugby, netball and hockey
  • skipping rope
  • aerobics
  • gymnastics
  • martial arts

Try the aerobic workout videos in the NHS Fitness Studio.

For a moderate to vigorous workout, try Couch to 5K, a 9-week running plan for beginners.

What counts as very vigorous activity?

Very vigorous activities are exercises performed in short bursts of maximum effort broken up with rest.

This type of exercise is also known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Examples of very vigorous activities:

  • lifting heavy weights
  • circuit training
  • sprinting up hills
  • interval running
  • running up stairs
  • spinning classes

What activities strengthen muscles?

To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you need a short rest before repeating the activity.

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether you're at home or in a gym.

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities:

  • carrying heavy shopping bags
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • tai chi
  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • wheeling a wheelchair
  • lifting and carrying children

Try these exercise routines:

You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same or different days as your aerobic activity – whatever's best for you.

Muscle-strengthening exercises are not always an aerobic activity, so you'll need to do them in addition to your 150 minutes of aerobic activity.

Physical activity recommendations for other age groups:

GOV.UK also has a number of physical activity infographics.


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