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Exercise & Physical Activity - Heartbeat Trust

Exercise and Physical Activity

The World Health Organisation 2015 describes physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by muscles that requires energy expenditure”. Simply put, this means moving your body in a way that uses up energy.

If you are new to exercise and are overweight, obese with an underlying medical condition, please talk to your healthcare professional or GP before starting.

Exercise is sometimes described as physical activity that increases your heart rate and breathing and that is brisk or intense enough to make you sweat. It is internationally recognised that adults up to the age of 65, should get a minimum of 30 minutes exercise, at least five days a week. If you prefer, this can be broken up into more frequent sessions of 10-15 minutes and gradually increased over time. There are three levels of intensity, light, moderate, and high.

Any activity is good for you but a mix of aerobic (strengthen your heart, lungs and muscles), strength (for your bones and muscles), and stretching (for flexibility) is best.

If you experience any pain, stop and get some advice. Picking an activity you have previously done and enjoyed is a great place to start. Also, trying something new, especially if it involves sharing with other people, can be a great way to stay motivated.

Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, will help you feel better, lower your blood pressure and help to control your weight. It will also improve your energy levels and may help to relieve any stress that you might be feeling.

Another good thing about exercise is that the fitter your heart is the better it will pump,but please talk to your doctor before starting any strenuous activity.

Following the F.I.T.T principle can help you plan and organise your exercise weekly:

Try to get aerobic exercise 3-4 days a week. Strengthening work should be completed 2 days a week.
Take it easy at the beginning and gradually increase what you are doing. Always be aware of not pushing yourself too hard - as long as you can speak while you're exercising you're managing the intensity of the activity. Remember to warm up before and cool down after any activity and if you experience chest pain, dizziness or nausea you should stop exercising at once. If these symptoms continue, contact your doctor or nurse.
Your exercise should start gradually; this may be 5 to 10 minute bouts. Your aim as you improve is to exercise for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
Aerobic exercise includes walking, swimming, cycling, jogging etc. Walking is an easy way to get moving, get active and get happy. Get Ireland Walking - http://www.getirelandwalking.ie - is a great website to help you get started. There are tips and advice for anybody who wants to start walking and socialise with their friends. Strengthening work includes gentle weight training.

Tips & Advice

There are tips and advice for anybody who wants to start walking and socialise with their friends.

Strengthening work includes gentle weight training.


Tips for successful exercise
  1. Keeping a diary of your daily activities will allow you to track your progress, and see the positive changes you are achieving.
  2. Find activities you like and share the activity with others to keep your motivation
  3. In order to keep healthy and well you should aim to do a brisk half hour exercise (e.g. walk/cycle/swim) 5-6 times per week.
  4. If you need to lose weight, combining regular exercise with diet changes is needed. You may also need to exercise for up to an hour 5-6 days per week.
  5. If you have a problem with your back or joints, walking in a swimming pool or using stationary pedals can be an option.

The chart below gives you an idea about the intensity of physical activity at home, at work and during exercise. It can also give you other ideas about how to stay physically active during your daily routine at home or at work.

Intensity Of Common Physical Activity
Light Moderate High
Home Housework: Dusting, washing the dishes.

Walk to the shops slowly.
Gardening: Tend to the flower beds, sow seeds/plants.

Housework: Sweeping, hovering, moping the floor.
Walk to the shops briskly.
Gardening: Mow the lawn, sweep the leaves, & prune the shrubs.
Housework: Clean the windows, paint the walls.
Walk to the shops quickly.
Gardening: Increase the intensity & speed of previous jobs.
Work Get off the bus one stop early & walk.

Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift one floor.
Drop documents & notes to colleagues instead of phoning/emailing.
Stand & stretch for 5 minutes once an hour

Get off the bus two stops early & walk.

Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift for half floors.
Try to run an errand on you lunch break instead of sitting at your desk/canteen.
Use an exercise ball instead of a chair.

Try to walk or cycle walk part/whole way to work.
Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift at a fast pace/jog.
Take a walk with colleagues or join a local class on lunch breaks.
Do a few reps for 5 minutes each hour.
Exercise Walking in the pool, peddling slowly on the bike. Swim counting the lengths, increase the speed of your peddling/try small inclines. Swim count & time the lengths, try a spin class or increase your resistance on the bike.

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