Physical activity is a normal part of life and essential for maintaining and improving health and wellbeing. Whatever your age, you can gain benefits from becoming more active, even if you have previously been inactive until middle age or beyond. Shorter spells of physical activity and low exertion are an easier starting point if you have been inactive for some time, as it is important to increase activity levels gradually and allow your body time to adapt.
The health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks. However, to make sure your first steps into being active are enjoyable; they need to be safe too. Top tips to stay safe include:
- Don’t do physical activity if you feel unwell or have a high temperature
- Stop if you’re in pain, feel dizzy, become tired or feel unwell
- Ensure you are well hydrated. Hydration is important before, during and after the activity - don’t wait until you’re thirsty
- If you have a pre-existing medical / surgical condition e.g. High blood pressure or heart disease, check out which physical activities would suit you and which you should avoid or seek advice from a Health Care Professional
- Ensure that any activity you chose to do, is within your capability and that you have considered your own abilities and limitations, medical history including medications and the risks associated with them
- Everyone, irrespective of health, fitness or activity level, should increase activity levels gradually. People with low levels of physical activity, who are unfit or who have existing disease, should pay particular attention to this
- The risks associated with taking part in physical activity at levels that promote health are low and inactive people who increase their activity gradually are unlikely to encounter significant risks
- Higher risks occur predominantly among those exercising at vigorous levels, those taking part in contact sports and high-volume fitness training, those with pre-existing musculoskeletal disease, those with pre-existing and underlying health conditions and those who progress too rapidly from one level of activity to a higher level
- Extremely rarely, inactive and unfit individuals who start vigorous physical activity may face increased cardiovascular risks
For more tips on ways to build physical activity into your everyday life, read the British Health Foundation, Get active, stay active report
Sources: BHF 2014 (Get active, stay active), DH 2011 (Start Active, Stay Active), DH 2004 (At least five a week)Tips to consider before you start your activity
If you intend to undertake a physical activity that is different to your usual routine, or in a place that you do not usually undertake a physical activity, then you should consider the associated risks to yourself and others. Top tips include:
- Look at your surroundings; are there any risks to your personal safety or to others from your activity? If yes, take measures to negate such risks
- Be aware of the environment in which you are being physically active and of any associated risks e.g. in a building, in the countryside, near water, on / near a road. Take the necessary precautions to mitigate / avoid any identified risks.