We all know that regular physical activity is good for both our physical health and our mental wellbeing. The benefits of regular exercise include a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, some forms of cancer and dementia. It can also help to relieve stress and alleviate depression and anxiety.

Experts recommend 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Ideally, this should be made up of a combination of aerobic and resistance exercises which leave you feeling warm and out of breath with an elevated heart rate. You could reach your goal of 150 minutes by doing 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. But if it fits better with your routine, you could also break it down into several 10 minute sessions, 2-3 times a day.

However you choose to do it, the key is to make regular physical activity a habit. This isn't always easy when you're already very busy. But the benefits of exercise, including improved energy levels, lifting your mood, promoting better quality sleep and increased fitness, strength and flexibility will actually make it easier to manage all the things you need to do.

5 tips for building healthy habits

1. Know why

Remind yourself of the benefits of exercising. Reflect on how you feel when you do and don't manage to find time for it

2. Make it fun

There's a myriad ways to exercise that don't have to involve the gym. Do something you enjoy

3. Try not to miss 2 in a row

1 day off is OK, but 2 quickly spirals into 5, 10...

4. Be specific

Instead of aiming to simply get more exercise, make a plan – what activity are you going to do, where and when?

5. Find a buddy

You're more likely to stick to your plan if your friend is joining in too

8 exercises you can do at home

You might be surprised at the range of activities that can contribute to your weekly goal of 150 minutes of physical activity. Exercising regularly doesn't have to involve going to the gym or even leaving the house. If your responsibilities mean it's difficult for you to get out and about, there are plenty of ways to exercise at home. Here are a few ideas:

1. Guided home work out

Our quick home work out session, with personal trainer Neil Hussey, is designed to help improve your strength, balance and coordination. You don't need any special equipment. Just a pair of comfy trainers.

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2. Guided yoga work out

This gentle work out with yoga teacher, Anna Brook, will help relieve stress and tension and leave you feeling relaxed and recharged.

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3. Stretch

Gentle stretching exercises, which use your body's own weight as a source of resistance, have been shown to improve circulation and reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Stretching can also help to keep your joints supple and mobile. Try this simple stretching routine when you wake up in the morning to help you prepare for the day ahead.

Lie on your bed on your back

  • Stretch your toes away and squeeze them back towards you
  • Turn your feet in circles at the ankle
  • Bend your knees with your feet flat on the bed. Bring one knee in towards you and hold it for a moment
  • Repeat with the other knee
  • Bring both knees into your chest, rock from side to side, and then draw a circle with your knees in each direction

Sit on the side of your bed with your feet flat on the floor

  • Bring your arms up to shoulder level and push your palms away like a sign to 'stop'
  • Stretch your fingers apart and then make fists 5 times
  • Turn your hands in circles at the wrists
  • Get a squishy ball and squeeze it as hard as you can 3 times in each hand
  • Put a ball under your foot. Roll your foot all over it including under your toes and instep
  • Repeat with the other foot
  • Turn your head gently to one side. Hold for a breath
  • Repeat on the other side
  • Look up towards the ceiling keeping your head supported
  • Tuck your chin in and look down
  • Keeping your knees facing forward, turn from your waist in one direction, then in the other. Keep your shoulders relaxed
  • Circle each shoulder forwards, then backwards, with your arms relaxed

Stand up - Ideally without using your hands

  • Bend your knees. Circle your hips 5 times in each direction
  • Circle each arm forwards and backwards 3 times, keeping your knees a little bent
  • Put your hands on your hips, arch your back and stretch your chest forward
  • Come back to the centre. Stretch sideways to each side
  • Lift your arms up and stretch as tall as you can. If you're feeling confident in your balance, lift your heels too

4. Skipping

This simple exercise can be done anywhere anytime, indoors or outside in the garden. All you need is a skipping rope. Just a few minutes of skipping can boost your physical health by improving your heart and lung fitness, strengthening your bones, and improving your balance and flexibility.

To get started, try skipping for 20 to 30 seconds, marching on the spot for 30 seconds, and then repeat. As your fitness improves, you can increase the time you skip for.

5. Gardening

If you're green fingered and enjoy spending time out in the garden you may already be doing more physical activity then you realise. Activities such as digging, mowing the lawn and weeding require a range of movements and stretches that involve muscles all over your body.

In addition, spending time outside in the fresh air, enjoying the sights and smells of your flowers and shrubs is a wonderful way to boost your mental wellbeing.  

6. Housework

Any activity that raises your heart rate, leaving you warm and slightly out of breath contributes to your weekly goal of 150 minutes of physical activity. So the next time you're hoovering, dusting or mopping, try picking up the pace. Or why not march quickly on the spot while you're washing up? You could also wash your car by hand or clean your own windows, both of which will get you moving and stretching more.

7. Dancing

If given the opportunity you love to strut your stuff, you'll be delighted to learn that dancing not only helps keep you fit and healthy, it can also give you a more positive outlook on life. So when you have 10 minutes to yourself, put your favourite tunes on and have a quick boogie around the living room.

8. Stair climbing

Your staircase offers an effective and easy way to get some exercise at home, with no other equipment needed. In fact, stair climbing burns more calories per minute than jogging and is good for strong bones, cardiovascular fitness and weight management. See how many times you can climb up and down the stairs in 10 minutes!

For more tips, advice and ideas to help you get more exercise, visit our Your health matters website.

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