If your physical exercise routine never gets beyond weeding the garden every few days, you might still be doing enough to keep healthy.
In the past, official guidelines suggested adults should do 30 minutes of physical activity, five or more days a week.
However, this somewhat daunting quota has now been updated by the Department of Health.
While still suggesting adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, experts says these can now be broken up into sessions of 10 minutes or more.
And that means easy everyday activities – such as walking the children to school, or even some energetic housework – all count towards your recommended target.
During these sessions, it’s suggested people exercise to a manageable level that increases their heart rate and breathing, in order to improve their fitness.
For those who are more energetic, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, such as using a mower or lane swimming, will fulfil their quota.
It’s hoped the more flexible guidelines will encourage the 60 per cent of adults who aren’t active enough to take more exercise.
The guidelines are being promoted by the government’s public health programme Change4Life, which also recommends people reduce the time spent watching TV or playing computer games.
Dr Len Almond, director of the British Heart Foundation’s national centre for physical activity and health, helped draw up the new activity quota.
He says there was confusion over how rigidly people needed to stick to the old ‘30 minutes, five days a week’ message, and the new advice makes it clearer.
‘What we’re trying to do is build flexibility in, so people can tot up their 150 minutes in different ways suitable to their lifestyle.
‘It means physical activity can slot into everyday routines more easily.’
He points out that 30 minutes represents a very tiny portion of the day: ‘When people say they don’t have time, they need to remember half an hour equates to two per cent of a 24 hour period.
‘And on average, people spend 19.3 per cent of their day in front of a screen,’ he adds.
‘The value of physical activity has got to become a priority.’
Walking is one of the best and easiest ways to get some exercise – and it’s free.
Change4Life is supporting this year’s Walk4Life day on Sunday which will see people striding out to get fit.
Exercise expert Dr John Buckley, spokesman for the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences, adds: ‘If an adult doesn’t have enough fitness to walk one mile in less than 17 minutes, it’s as bad for their health as smoking 20 per day, being obese, having high cholesterol or high blood pressure.’
Here’s what the new guidelines say...
· Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week in sessions of at least 10 minutes.
· Under-fives should get 180 minutes of physical activity each day.
· For children over five years and young people, moderate to vigorous physical activity, such as a dance routine, is recommended for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.
For more information on Walk4Life, visit walk4life.info