The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If a medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or ‘miracle cure’ (Chief Medical Officer (2009) Annual Report 2009, Department of Health)
Lack of physical activity is one of the ‘big four’ causes of preventable ill health along with smoking, poor nutrition and excess alcohol. However, inactivity affects the largest proportion of the population and is the least well known. Low levels of increased activity can make a huge difference and bring about dramatic benefits, improving physical and mental health and quality of life. Daily tasks are made easier and independence is increased.
As well as improving fitness and strengthening muscles and bones, it also contributes to brain development, improves concentration and learning, encourages movement and develops coordination. Being active can help maintain a healthy weight, reducing the likelihood of severe weight loss or obesity. Further, physical activity reduces the risk of developing several long-term health conditions (LTHCs) by up to 40% including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, falls, depression, joint and back pain, colon cancer and breast cancer.
Social and community development is advanced through the building of relationships, confidence and social skills. Physical activity creates opportunities to meet new people and feel part of the community.
Physical activity reduces worries and depression, helps the management of stress and improves mood; time for yourself. Being active also improves sleep and helps you feel good through this improved mental health.
We at Living Sport would encourage finding a way of integrating physical activity into daily life, throughout the day to suit individual lifestyles. This could be formal sport if that’s what you like doing. But it could also be anything from cycling with the children to school, to gardening, to having a walking meeting at work. The most important message is to not stay still as much during the day – and that’s the same message for us all whether you are younger or older, disabled or with a LTHC, pregnant or after childbirth. Full details can be read on the physical activity guidelines infographics explaining the physical activity needed for general health benefits for these groups.