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Benefits of exercise

The benefits of exercise

It's no secret that exercise is good for you. Whilst many of us shrink away from the idea of going out for a 5-mile power-run each day, we can still make significant improvements to our overall physical and mental health simply by being slightly more active throughout our normal, day-to-day activities.

Modern Lifestyles

One of the main contributors to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle is the relentless, progressive march of technology. Compared to previous generations, we're far less active than we used to be; many of us now have automatic washing machines, dishwashers and cars so there's little incentive to do these tasks by hand any more. If we don't have a car, we often rely on public transport to get us around and when do eventually get back home, we slink into the sofa to watch TV or play computer games.

There's no denying that technology has made our lives easier but our bodies are paying the price as a result. We're even less active in the workplace these days too with many of us sitting in a chair all day staring at a computer screen or answering customer enquiries. In fact, the Department of Health and Social Care even refers to our lack of activity in the workplace as the "silent killer". As well as being bad for our health, it's bad for business too, with poor employee health costing UK businesses more than £100 billion a year.

How exercise can help

According to the NHS, exercise can help reduce your risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and even cancer by up to 50% and also reduce your risk of an early death by up to 30%. Notably, the article goes on to say that regular physical activity can help boost your self-esteem, improve your mood and your sleep quality as well as helping you feel more energetic. It can also help reduce your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

What you can do

You don't need to be a marathon runner to enjoy the benefits that moderate exercise can bring. Adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes of general physical activity per week. Considering that's less than 3 hours, this can easily be achieved with simple day-to-tasks such as hoovering, gardening, cleaning or other general housework. Even if these don't appeal to you, there are still plenty of other things you can do to incorporate exercise into your everyday routine such as walking to the shops, walking the dog (if you have one) or cycling to work.

What's the difference between moderate and vigorous exercise?

As a general guide, moderate exercise involves moving quickly enough to raise your heart rate, speeding up your breathing and feeling warmer. You should still be able to talk reasonably well although singing won't be as easy and you'll only be able to squeeze out a few notes at best.

With vigorous exercise, forget singing because you won't be able to. Your heart rate will be raised by quite a bit and you'll be breathing hard and fast. You may be able to talk, but stringing together more than a word or two will be difficult. If you're in reasonably good overall health and can manage vigorous exercise and have the time to do it, that's great. If not, then any moderate exercise that gently increases your heart rate should improve cardiovascular health and is better than no exercise at all.

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