It is widely accepted that to be healthy we need to exercise. By exercising we reduce the chance of suffering from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and other illnesses.
Exercise can boost the body's own systems that maintain itself. Your body is then better at coping with strains and illnesses.
If you are not used to exercising, then you should discuss your plans with your GP or practice nurse. They will probably recommend that you start with very light exercise and gradually increase the amount you do. Many people think they need to do lots of strenuous exercise to get healthy. This is not the case. Very moderate exercise can have a huge benefit.
Exactly how much exercise we need to do, and for how long, varies between us. As a general rule, it is thought that 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days per week is enough. But remember, this exercise can be very simple - just walking for 30mins everyday is enough. You do not have to be jogging for 30mins or playing a 90mins game of football.
Some people choose to do this exercise as an additional activity - maybe going for a run after work. Other people try to incorporate the exercise in their daily routine. So, they may walk to the train station, or get off the bus a couple of stops early. In these simple ways, we get good exercise without really trying.
There are plenty of other steps we can take to increase our exercise. We can use the stairs rather than the lift, park further away from the office or shops, walk part of the way to school, do basic exercises (sit-ups, push-ups) before going to bed, etc.
In some parts of the country GPs are now able to prescribe exercise. So, in just the same way as a patient may be prescribed paracetomol, they might be prescribed a swimming session every week. This can often be far more effective than medication and has lots of positive knock-on effects.
There is also a growing recognition that exercise has an important part to play in our mental health. The chemicals released by the body when we exercise can lift our mood. There may also be benefits from the social aspects of exercise and an increased sense of self-worth. Research for the charity Mind revealed that many patients with experience of poor mental health found physical exercise a great help. The research suggested that exercise should be routinely considered a treatment option by professionals.
You can also go beyond healthy exercise. By doing more intensive exercise, the body becomes fitter, muscle tone increases, etc. This is true for many organised sports, and exercise at sports centres.
Remember that some exercise is better than none.
patient.co.uk - information on healthy exercise
bbc.co.uk - simple advice on what exercise we need
'Start Fitness' is a workout DVD in BSL. More details.