Being physically active is probably the single most important thing that we can do for maintaining or improving our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Physical activity which includes an active lifestyle and routine exercise plus eating sensibly is the best way to stay healthy.
What is physical activity? It can be formal exercise which tends to be planned, structured and repetitive, and which is designed to maintain or improve physical fitness. It can be sport which is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and is often of a competitive nature. Most importantly, it is a broad term which covers all different types of movement such as active play, walking, dance, gardening or housework. Best of all, it should be fun!
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscles which causes energy expenditure greater than at rest and which is health enhancing. Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally (WHO | Physical activity: www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/en/).
All physical activity counts and more is better. By including it in every part of our daily lives, whether at home, at school, at work or at play, physical activity can help us to live longer and have a better quality of life.
How much physical activity should I be doing?
The National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland were published by the Department of Health and the HSE in 2009
Children and Young People (2-18)
All children and young people should be active, at a moderate to vigorous level, for at least 60 minutes every day. Include muscle-strengthening, flexibility and bone-strengthening exercises 3 times a week.
At least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity on 5 days a week (or 150 minutes a week). You can count shorter bouts of activity towards the guidelines. These bouts should last for at least 10 minutes.
Older People (65+)
At least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity on 5 days a week, or 150 minutes a week. Focus on aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening and balance.
Adults with Disabilities
Be as active as your ability allows. Aim to meet adult guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on 5 days a week. You can count shorter bouts of activity towards the guidelines. These bouts should last for at least 10 minutes.
The most important message about physical activity is that doing any physical activity is good for you. You can start slowly and if you are doing very little, do some. If you are doing some, try some more. Aim to build up to meet the Guidelines over time. For more information and some suggestions for you and your family, have a look at the Get Ireland Active website.
In partnership with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and other key partners, we have developed a new National Physical Activity Plan. The aim of this plan is to encourage greater participation by everybody in physical activity and to create awareness of how important it is for all of us individually and for society generally.
Where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential, and where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society and is everyone’s responsibility.