People are less active nowadays, partly because technology has made our lives easier. We drive cars or take the tube. Groceries are delivered to our front door. Takeaways are just a click away. Fewer people are doing manual work, and most of us have jobs that involve a lot of stress but little physical effort. Work, household chores, shopping and other necessary activities are far less demanding than for previous generations.
We move around less and burn off less energy than people used to. Research suggests that many adults spend more than 7 hours a day sitting down, at work, on transport or in their leisure time. Not ideal...
The good news is that health and wellbeing appears to have two way relationship, good health improves wellbeing and good wellbeing improves health¹. And there is strong evidence that increased physical activity (movement) improves the wellbeing of people in general and older people in particular. Physical activity has also been shown to reduce depression risk and raise levels of cognitive functioning in adults of all ages².
Physical Health Benefits
It's medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have lower risk of:
- coronary heart disease and stroke
- type 2 diabetes
- bowel cancer
- breast cancer in women
- early death
- hip fracture
- falls (among older adults)
Mental Health Benefits
There are many studies which have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health. For example, it can help with:
- better sleep – by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
- happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
- managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times³
¹ De Neve, Diener, Tay and Xuereb (2013)The objective benefits of subjective wellbeing
² Public Health England. Mental health and wellbeing: evidence reviews. Forthcoming
³ Mind. https://www.mind.org.uk/