5 easy tips to get active and improve your fitness

Not getting as much exercise as you’d like? Whether you’re still working from home, or you’ve become less active since the pandemic, Professor Ben Kelly, Head of Clinical Research has five tips to help get you moving and improve your health.

According to our Healthier Nation Index, a survey of 8,000 adults in the UK spoke about their health in the last year, 15% admitted to having done no exercise. Three quarters are not meeting the NHS recommended 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity, with the average Brit completing just 40 minutes per week.

Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible exercises you can do. These tips show you how you can easily fit more activity into your daily routine and stay motivated no matter your age or ability.

1. Use the 90-minute rule

We all know that a lack of movement is bad for us – it's directly linked to cardiovascular disease – but it can be difficult to remember to keep active if you're having a busy day, or working from home – or both.

An easy rule to follow is to get up every 90 minutes and stretch your legs. That means, every hour and a half, head to the kitchen to make a cup of tea or nip outside to get some fresh air. Your body will thank you.

There are several apps available that allow you to set reminders for yourself, helping you turn this into a healthy habit.

2. Walk a little (and then a lot)

It's recommended that you take 10,000 steps per day. If you’ve been living a sedentary life, or working from home, it can be tough to imagine where you’d get the time (let alone the energy) to walk this much.

Start with 2,000 steps per day in your first week, and gradually build on that every week until you find yourself at 10,000 steps. You don't have to do your steps all in one go – it takes the average person 1 hour to walk 10,000 steps, so you could split this up into a few smaller strolls throughout the day.

Walking this amount without a purpose can seem daunting, so make sure you mix things up. Perhaps you go on longer walks at the weekend to explore different areas where you live that you haven't been to before, or take up running to get those steps in quicker. Pop on a good podcast and the time will fly.

If you're unsure how to track your steps, many smartphones or smart watches have built-in step counters, and old-fashioned pedometers have never been cheaper.

3. Take the stairs

Find yourself using the lift or escalator all the time? Take the stairs instead. It might not feel like enough effort to really make a change, but over time, these small swaps can have a big impact.

Keep track of how many times you make the switch. Or better yet use a pedometer to see the impact it has on your step count.

4. Get off the bus or train early

This is a very simple personal challenge. Get off the bus or train one stop early once a week and walk the remainder of the journey.

Once this has become part of your routine, try two days a week and before you know it you’ll be doing it all the time. This can go a long way to helping you hit your 10,000 steps.

5. Take part in social sports

The most ambitious of these tips, but the most rewarding, is to try teaming up with a friend or family member to take part in a sport.

Whether you find a walking buddy or tackle a beginners' game of doubles tennis, it'll help you de-stress as you socialise, and you won’t even realise you're exercising after a while. Try keeping a regular date in your diary to make this a habit.

Find what works for you

Once you've tried each of these tips, you may find that some things work better for you than others, and that's fine. Whether you prefer the social aspect of physical activity, or the chance to discover new places, it's all about finding what suits you and your lifestyle – you're much more likely to stick to something if you enjoy it.

If you’re looking for more ways to get active, why not challenge yourself with our 30-day exercise plan? It includes recommended daily activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and classes like yoga and pilates.

Try this workout:

Last updated Tuesday 10 January 2023

First published on Wednesday 30 March 2016