Healthy lives for young people
Wellbeing

Physical health

It is important for your general wellness to look after your physical health. This involves doing regular exercise, eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water. Read our tips on maintaining your physical health. 

Doing regular exercise and eating a healthy diet is very important for your physical health. It can help prevent long term or chronic illness, such as diabetes or cancer, and can make you feel better in your body. It is also good for your mental wellbeing, both in the short and long term.  

Exercise  

Doing regular exercise is great for your body and mind. It has many health benefits, including improving your breathing, your strength, your immune system, preventing disease, and your general energy levels.  

It is also good for your mental wellbeing.  

  • Moving your body can take your mind off things, and help you relax and de-stress.  
  • Exercising releases endorphins, which are naturally occurring chemicals that make you feel good.  
  • It can feel good to improve at something and feel capable.  
  • Certain forms of exercise can be really fun, such as something challenging like climbing, or exciting like dancing.  
  • Some forms of exercise can help you meet people and make friends, such as a team sport. 

How much should I be exercising? 

The NHS guidelines on exercise say that anyone aged 5-18 should do two different types of activity each week: 

  • aerobic exercise (which is also known as cardio, and means anything which raises your heart rate) 
  • exercises to strengthen your muscles and bones 

You should aim to do at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a day across the week. 

Moderate intensity activity 

The NHS defines this as any activity that raises your heart rate, and makes you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you are exercising at a moderate level is if you can still talk but can’t sing.  

Examples of moderate intensity activities include walking, cycling on level ground and dancing. 

For people over 18, the NHS recommends adults should 

  • aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still 
  • do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week 
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week 
  • reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity 

Vigorous intensity activity  

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you’re working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. 

In general, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity. Most moderate activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort. 

Vigorous activity includes jogging or running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills and team sports like football and hockey. 

It is also a good idea to do some strengthening exercise each week. There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether you’re at home or in a gym or class. 

Muscle-strengthening activities include carrying heavy shopping bags, yoga, lifting weights and doing exercises that use your own body weight such as push-ups.  

Finding what exercise is right for you 

The best way to do exercise is to do something you find fun! If you enjoy the activity, you are more likely to continue doing it than if you see it as a chore.  

  • If you like spending time with people, maybe consider doing something with a friend like climbing, or joining a sport team.  
  • If you like being outdoors, you could try something like running, kayaking or swimming in a lido. 
  • If you like dancing, you could find a class near where you live and try a new type of dance.  

Fitting in daily exercise 

Remember: exercise doesn’t have to be separate from other parts of your life – there are lots of ways you can sneak some extra physical activity into your day. Think about is how you could combine movement with other things: 

  • Walk or cycle to school/work. If walking the whole way isn’t an option, get off the bus a stop early or park the car a bit further away and walk the last bit.  
  • Ordering a take away? If it’s not too far away, opt for collection rather than delivery to get some more steps in. 
  • Walk around when you’re on the phone instead of sitting still. 
  • Do some stretches during the credits for your favourite TV show. 
  • Grab some tin cans and do a few bicep curls whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. 
  • Put on some music and dance whilst you tidy your room. 

The ‘one-minute movement’ challenge

Challenge yourself to take a ‘one-minute movement’ break every hour and trying doing a different activity each time. For example, break one is star jumps, break two is push ups, break three is lunges etc. 

This can be fun to do with others and is especially good if you spend a lot of time working at a screen as it gives your eyes a break, too. 

Each week, add 10 more seconds to the movement time. See if you can get up to 3 minutes! 


Balanced diet 

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best. 

This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions to give you the energy you need.  

The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to: 

  • Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta.
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks).
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein.
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day).  

Read more about healthy diet on the NHS website. 

A balanced diet is all about moderation. Unless advised otherwise by a medical professional, it’s OK to eat foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar occasionally and in small amounts. These foods aren’t ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’, they just don’t benefit our bodies in the same way as other foods so shouldn’t make up the majority of our diet.

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