Benefits of being active

Being active includes:

  • everyday activities like walking to and from work, or gardening
  • things you do in your free time, like dancing at a social event, walking or cycling
  • doing a sport you enjoy

Health benefits of being active

In general, the more time spent being active, the greater the health benefits. Even a small increase in physical activity can improve your health and quality of life.

People who do regular physical activity have lower risk of:

It can also improve your:

  • general mood
  • self-confidence
  • sleep quality
  • energy levels
  • stress levels
Benefits of physical activity for children and young people up to 18 years old

Regular physical activity like play, sports and walking, wheeling or cycling to school can bring many physical and mental health benefits. It helps to:

  • develop muscles and bones
  • contribute to brain development and learning
  • build relationships and social skills
  • improve sleep
  • encourage movement and co-ordination

Regular physical activity also supports children and young people to create healthy habits. This can benefit them throughout their lives.

Benefits of physical activity for adults

Being active has many benefits for your physical, mental and social health and wellbeing. It can help you to:

  • maintain muscle, bone and joint health
  • develop and maintain physical and mental function
  • keep independence later in life
  • keep a healthy weight
  • connect with people and your community
  • be more productive at work
  • reduce your risk of many health conditions
  • improve mood
  • manage stress
Benefits of physical activity for older adults (65 and over)

As you get older, regular physical activity will:

  • help you to age well
  • keep good physical and mental function
  • create opportunities for social interaction
  • create a sense of control and responsibility over your own health and wellbeing
  • help you manage and cope with health conditions or physical limitations
Benefits of being active during pregnancy

Being active during pregnancy and beyond is beneficial for both mother and baby. During pregnancy it helps to:

  • reduce high blood pressure
  • improve mood
  • improve sleep
  • improve fitness
  • prevent pregnancy diabetes
  • control pregnancy weight gain

After childbirth (up to 1 year) activity can:

  • reduce worries and depression
  • improve stomach muscle tone and strength
  • improve mood
  • improve sleep
  • improve fitness
  • help to control weight gain and weight loss, if desired

Other benefits of being active

Being active can also help the environment. For example, active travel like walking, wheeling or cycling can reduce congestion on roads. This lowers air pollution and makes roads safer to be on.

How much activity should you do?

In the UK, there are physical activity guidelines for all age groups and abilities. These give guidance on how much physical activity we need to do to keep ourselves healthy.

The guidelines describe different types of activities, including:

  • muscle strengthening activities
  • moderate or vigorous aerobic activities

Muscle strengthening activities

Muscle strength is needed to build and maintain strong bones so that we can do everyday tasks.

Benefits of muscle strengthening activities

In your early years and childhood, muscle strengthening activities help to develop fine and gross motor skills. These are movements needed for sitting, standing, walking and any other physical functions in the body.

Muscle strengthening activities are also important for growing healthy bones.

Muscle strength declines as you get older. From the age of 40, strength, endurance, balance, bone density and flexibility all decline. Muscle power is also lost at a faster rate.

Doing muscle strengthening activities slows the natural decline in muscle strength and bone density. This can help to reduce the risk of falls and fractures as you get older. It can also improve your physical abilities and quality of life.

Find types of muscle strengthening activities

Types of muscle strengthening activities

Muscle strengthening activities include:

  • activities like sitting to standing
  • balance activities like yoga
  • weight training activities like lifting weights

Moderate or vigorous aerobic activities

Aerobic activities can be done at different intensities, including moderate and vigorous. These will make you:

  • breathe faster
  • experience an increase in heart rate
  • feel warmer

Intensity will vary from one person to the next. For example, an inactive person may only have to walk up a slope to feel this way. But, someone who is regularly active may be able to run quite fast before they notice these signs.

Benefits of moderate or vigorous aerobic activities

Moderate to vigorous aerobic activities have many health benefits. They can help:

Aerobic activities bring the most benefits to our health, but even low intensity activities are better than none.

Types of aerobic activities

Aerobic activities can include:

  • brisk walking
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • gardening

More advice on ways to keep active

To help you find the right activity for you, visit:

Last updated:
22 May 2024