Fitness Basics FAQs

There is a lot of exercise advice online. Here's the basics in a few hundred words.
There’s so much information on the internet where do I even begin?

Right here of course.

What is the minimum I can do to make a difference?

It's easier than all those sites online might suggest. A report from your favourite scientific journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that the 20% with the lowest physical fitness levels were twice as likely to die over the next nine years as the 20% with the next-lowest fitness levels.

That sounds scary but lets turn it on its head. In other words, if you can get yourself out of the least fit 20% of the population, you can double your survival chances.

How much exercise should I do?

According to the Department of Heath all adults should;

  • Be active daily.
  • At least do 2 and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise over a week

That sounds like a lot but break it down and it isn’t. Just half an hour for five days a week and all of a sudden it doesn’t look too hard to accomplish. Let’s say you swapped the car for cycling into work or even just parked a little further away and got your bike out the boot. You would only have to cycle 15 minutes each way to meet what the Department of Health recommend.

What do they mean by moderate intensity?

Good question. Moderate intensity means getting out of breath and your heart rate increasing. A good practical measure is when you can’t speak in complete sentences like you would if you’re sitting down yet you can still get your point across. Examples include;

  • Cycling
  • Brisk walking

Sometimes you will hear the term vigorous intensity. This is a step above moderate and can be very good for your health. You’ll be breathing a lot harder, get a lot warmer and be able to speak only in three or four word sentences only. Examples of this include:

  • Running
  • Sports such as swimming or football
What about walking?

Always good. A few years ago for Harvard Men's Health Watch (HMHW), two scientists sifted through 4,295 articles published on walking. They found that walking reduced the risk of heart problems by 31% and cut the risk of dying during the study period (on average about 11 years) by 32%. The greatest benefits went to people who walked longer distances, walked at a faster pace, or both. But even walking just 5.5 miles per week and at a pace as casual as about 2 miles per hour cut the risk.

You don't need to get breathless. Exercise is about intensity, duration and frequency. So you may have to walk for longer than you'd need to jog but you'll still benefit. 

You won't get injured walking and you won't have to warm-up, warm-down or change clothes.

Unlike most forms of exercise, no special arrangements, skills, training or clothes are needed for walking. It is part of everyday life. Walk to work, walk to the shops, walk the dog, walk to the tube. Park your car some way away from where you're going and walk to and from that. Best of all, walk up the stairs. As an activity this betters even weight-lifting.

I like doing weights. Is that not useful at all?

It is useful. Weights form an important part of any exercise regime. The all-knowing Department of Health recommend that we should aim to do two sessions a week that will improve our strength. That isn’t limited to doing weights but can include sit-ups or just carrying a heavy load of groceries home.

Why should I bother?

There are so many reasons to do exercise. We couldn’t possibly list them all but here are a selection:

  • You’re likely to live longer - as we said earlier
  • Exercise reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes
  • It helps you to perform daily tasks with ease
  • It improves your sex life
  • It improves self esteem
  • It reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety
I've had a serious illness, can I jump straight into exercising?

Anyone starting a new exercise regime should start slow and build up. If you've had a heart attack or have long term health conditions, you need to ask your GP for advice. They will be able to let you know what is an appropriate level to start at.

A general rule of thumb for any new fitness regime is don't do something today that you won't be able to repeat tomorrow.

Can I eat whatever I want if I exercise this much?

I wish I could say yes but exercise doesn't give you a free pass to the buffet. A healthy diet forms an essential part of any fitness regime. Read more on our page on eating.

Want to know something we’ve haven’t covered?

Let us know.

Who else can help?

There's more on this site and on the NHS Exercise and Fitness pages. 


We don't currently post comments online but are always keen to hear your feedback.

MAIN IMAGE: Walk Away by DieselDemon licensed under CC BY 2.0

Date published 07/04/14
Date of last review 19/11/19
Date of next review 19/11/23


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