According to our Healthier Nation Index – a survey of more than 7,000 Britons about their health in the last year – 1 in 5 people didn't exercise at all last year. That's almost 20% of us that aren't doing physical exercise.
The survey also revealed that those who did as little as up to 15 minutes of exercise a week reported better mental health, and almost half plan to be physically active in the next 12 months to help their physical and mental health.
These tips show you how you can easily fit more activity into your daily routine – and stay motivated no matter your age or ability. The focus is on the ways you can walk more, as it’s one of the simplest and most accessible exercises you can do. You can then use this a starting point for exploring other ways of staying active.
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 cuppa or nip outside to get some fresh air. Your body will thank you.
Apps like Alarmed allow you to set reminders for yourself, helping you turn this into a 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 for the majoirty of the past 18 months, it can be tough to imagine where you’d get the time (let alone the energy) to walk this much.
Why not 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? And 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 far 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 parts of your area 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 not sure how to track your steps, many smartphones 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 might 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 definitely the most rewarding, is to try teaming up with a friend or family member to take part in a sport. Exercise suddenly feels a lot less like a chore.
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.
Last updated Tuesday 26 April 2022
First published on Wednesday 30 March 2016