The Importance of Exercise

We are always being told that exercise is good for us, but how important is it really?

The positive effects of physical activity on physical and mental health as well as quality of life have been well documented and is more well known than ever.

But unfortunately, insufficient activity is a major public health problem. A study done by Public Health showed that the UK had the worst inactivity rates’ compared to the USA, Australia, Finland, France, Germany and Netherlands. 


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Public health England (2014) Everybody Active, Every Day (2014) based of WHO Observatory date

What are the benefits of exercise? #

Exercise has significant health benefits and some you may not even realise. 

These include reducing risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lower back pain, depression, anxiety and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness). 

When experiencing chronic conditions such as these, Exercise Physiologists can advise and guide you through training programmes so you’re able to maintain an effective level of exercise. 

The table below shows how much physical activity can help reduce the risk of long-term conditions and mortality. For example, doing physical activity can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer by 20%!


Risk reduction


20 – 35%

CHD and Stroke

20 – 35%

Type 2 Diabetes

35 – 40%

Colon Cancer

30 – 50%

Breast Cancer


Hip Fracture

36 – 68%


20 – 30%



Alzheimer’s Disease

20 – 30%

Functional limitation, elderly


Prevention of falls


Osteoarthritis disability

22 – 80%

Start Active, Stay Active (2011) based on US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report (2008)

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On top of these long-term conditions, physical activity can help with:

Sleep #

Exercise helps you drift off more quickly and into a deeper sleep, allowing a better night’s rest. A good night’s sleep is essential for overall health.

Boost energy levels #

The surge of blood around the body transports oxygen to the brain to make you feel mentally alert. It also increases blood flow to the tissue as well as your lungs and heart. Better conditioned muscles and cardiovascular system require less effort to perform physical tasks and over time as the body becomes stronger so too does the immune system reducing the risk of illness.

Memory #

Regular exercise has also been shown to improve memory and learning functions, both of which are impaired by chronic stress. Scientists have also discovered that exercise helps in preventing dementia and cognitive impairment in older adults. 

Depression #

Exercise helps chronic depression by increasing serotonin, which helps your brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Immune system chemicals that can worsen depression are also reduced.

Mood #

Exercising also releases a chemical called endorphins in the brain, which help to improve your mood.

Reduces inflammation and visceral (abdominal) fat #

Increasing physical activity increases muscle activity, which then increases a substance called anti-inflammatory myokines. This in turn reduces systemic inflammation and also reduces the fat around your organs knows as visceral fat. Visceral fat itself can be dangerous and causes an increased risk of dementia, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, breast and colon cancer. 

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So how much exercise should we be doing? #

The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend:

  1. 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week OR 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week OR A combination of both
  2. Muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 day per week 
  3. Limit time spent sitting for extended periods (recommend getting up for 2 mins every 20 mins)
  4. For older adults (65+) — Balance and co-ordination activities at least 2 days per week
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This doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym every day and lift heavy weights, the most important factor is to pick something that you enjoy doing, make it achievable and build it into part of your daily routine. 

For example, getting off one tube stop earlier and walking, take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, run or cycle into work as part of your normal daily commute, head out for a walk in your lunch break, try a new hobby with some friends — the list is endless and you can get creative with it!

Remember, more is better, and some is better than none.

Are you looking to increase the activity in your day but not sure where to start? Why not get in touch today to see how we can help. 

Speak to a member of the team
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Exercise for Health

Dr Mike Burdon explains the importance of exercise to reduces our risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, depression, osteoporosis and much more.

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Which Exercise is Best?

Often it feels that types of sport or exercise are competing to be the best’, but there isn’t a one size fits all. Sport and exercise have so many benefits and people get lots of different benefits from them all. So which one is — not best — but right for you?

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Behavioural Change towards Exercise

We have all heard of the benefits of exercise (fat loss, improved mental health, reduced co-morbidities, improved wellbeing) but while some may find it easy, why is it usually challenging to make meaningful and lasting change towards exercises goals?

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A workout at work: 5 office exercises

Get practical advice for staying active in the office.

In 2020 we created a series of 15 minute work outs for all abilities and ages. Why not give these a go today?