Carry heavy shopping to keep fit, official guidelines say

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The recommendations are contained within the NHS


Britons should do muscle-strengthening exercises on at least two days a week, including carrying heavy shopping or intensive gardening, official guidelines state.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies says adhering to the recommendations will slash the risk of diabetes, heart disease, mental health conditions and loneliness.

She is urging adults to incorporate strength-bearing exercises into their daily routines.

This could include carrying small children, heavy gardening, brisk vacuuming or climbing several flights of stairs.

The recommendations are contained within the NHS’s new physical activity guidelines, which have been updated for the first time since 2011.

In addition, the advice urges pregnant women and new mothers to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week – including muscle-strengthening – just like all other adults.

The recommendations are contained within the NHS’s new physical activity guidelines, which have been updated for the first time since 2011

Many women are currently uncertain over how much physical activity to do during pregnancy or after childbirth for fear of harming their unborn child or over-exerting themselves.

The guidelines also make it clear that although adults should ideally aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week, doing intensive bursts for a shorter duration of time may be just as beneficial.

This will be well-received by those with busy lifestyles who only manage to squeeze in one or two workouts on Saturdays and Sundays, who are sometimes referred to as ‘weekend warriors’.

Meanwhile, over-65s are being encouraged to take up bowls, dancing or tai chi – a Chinese martial art – which are less strenuous ways of maintaining strength and balance.

Dame Sally believes that adults who meet the new guidelines – 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, including two days of muscle-strengthening – can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by 40 per cent, heart disease by 35 per cent and depression by 30 per cent.

At the same time, parents with babies being urged to give them at least 30 minutes of ‘tummy time’ a day, which includes semi-crawling and pulling themselves along to prevent obesity later in life.

The Chief Medical Officer is particularly keen to emphasise the importance of muscle-strengthening exercises in the new guidelines, which say it is just as important for preventing ill-health as cardiovascular workouts such as running or cycling.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies says adhering to the recommendations will slash the risk of diabetes, heart disease, mental health conditions and loneliness

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies says adhering to the recommendations will slash the risk of diabetes, heart disease, mental health conditions and loneliness

Building strength and balance has been shown to reduce the risk of falls and bone-thinning in later life, which in turn preserves independence and enables people to stay active.

The latest figures show that only 62 per cent of adults are meeting the existing recommendations of doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, including just 58 per cent of women and 66 per cent of men.

Dame Sally – who will step down as Chief Medical Officer at the end of this month – stressed that there is no need to join an expensive gym to meet the new requirements.

She also urged adults to avoid sitting down for longer than two hours at a time, particularly when at work, and to go for a short walk across the office or use the stairs.

While this is not in the official recommendations, she said there was growing evidence that prolonged sedentary periods increases the risk of heart disease and early death.

She said: ‘I would hate to be recommending anyone should be joining a gym as that adds expense and time. The ideal is to build it in to your day.

‘Instead of catching the lift a floor or two walk up, carry your shopping, get off the bus a few stops early, see what you can do in your normal life so it’s not a burden.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO YOU NEED TO DO? 

To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS

‘You want to maintain the muscle strength of your lower limbs, your upper limbs and your torso.

‘As we age, strength and balance become an issue and if you don’t start putting it into your daily itinerary, it’s difficult to introduce.

‘A lot of admissions into hospital emergency rooms are because of falls and if people had stayed fit and developed their muscle strength and balance, they would have maintained their independence and stopped those falls.

‘If you could package physical activity as a tablet, it would be the magic tablet for the NHS.’

The guidelines do not specify how much time adults should spend on muscle-strengthening exercises, which may cause confusion.

They merely state that muscles should feel ‘temporarily tired out’ and ‘unable to repeat the exercise until rested for a short period’.

But this is not really relevant to carrying heavy shopping bag from the supermarket, lifting a small child or going up a flight of stairs.

Other examples of more proactive muscle strengthening exercises include yoga, pilates and press-ups on the floor or pull-ups using a bar.

The guidelines also single out the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), an increasingly popular form of exercise which involves sprinting or cycling very fast for short periods of time.

They do not specify how often adults should do this a week but state that it has ‘clinically meaningful effects’ on fitness and body weight.

Nevertheless, health officials are keen to point out that even small amounts of exercise and strength training are better than nothing – and people should not give up if they don’t belong to a gym.

Two-thirds of adults in England are currently overweight (64 per cent), including 29 per cent who are clinically obese.

More worryingly, levels of diabetes which is linked to obesity have doubled in 20 years and are at their highest on record.

A total of 4.7 million people are estimated to be living with the illness in the UK, of whom 90 per cent have type 2, which is linked to obesity.

The previous guidelines stated that adults should do 150 minutes of exercise a week, ideally in sessions of at least ten minutes on most days of the week.

But the new advice is more flexible and suggests that doing one or two longer bursts – such as at the weekend – is just as beneficial.

It also states that adults can meet the recommendations if they do 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week – a quick jog or fast cycle ride for example. 



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