Benefits of being physically active

Keeping physically active is key to leading an independent life. It doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym three times a week; it means being more active in your day-to-day life, every day. Doing a little bit of activity regularly can make a real difference to your health.

Why should I be more active?

Research suggests that amongst the over 50s, only 17% of women and 25% of men are sufficiently active to benefit their health. Regular physical activity, together with a healthy diet, can provide you with a number of health benefits.

It’s a good idea for older adults to do two types of physical activity each week: aerobic (such as cycling and walking) and strength exercises that work all the major muscles.

You should also try to break up long periods of sitting with light activity, as research has suggested that remaining seated for too long is bad for your health, regardless of how much exercise you do.

If you have had a fall or are unsteady on your feet due to weak legs, poor balance or a medical condition, you should do exercise to improve balance and co-ordination such as yogatai chi or dancing.  You may find that the GP will put you in touch with a social prescribing team.

Being active will help you to:

  • ensure that your heart and lungs stay in their best condition
  • reduce and control your blood pressure
  • be relaxed, sleep better and cope with feelings of stress
  • increase your energy levels
  • strengthen your bones and muscles
  • reduce the risk of cancer
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • improve your flexibility, balance and co-ordination
  • improve your posture
  • increase your ability to remain independent in later life
  • delay the signs of ageing
  • get out and meet people

If you haven’t been very active for a while, it is best to check with your GP or practice nurse before becoming more active, particularly if you have any problems with your blood pressure or have a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease or breathing problems.

How can I be more active?

You might like to incorporate more activities into your day.  Walking around the house, cleaning, cooking, climbing the stairs rather than sitting on your sofa is a good start.  You could try gardening each day, dusting and stretching – don’t forget you can do chair-based stretches too. Some hobbies may also get you moving around each day.

It’s a good idea to start exercising gently and then to build up what you are doing. Your body will then get used to being more active, and you are far less likely to strain your muscles.

If you are going to exercise – always stretch and warm up thoroughly by gradually easing your body into activity for the first few minutes. If you experience pain or discomfort, you must stop straightaway.

See the CMO guidance on being active.

See our section on Fitness for specific exercise and read more about GP social prescribing.

Local Help

Ways to Wellness and Healthworks Social prescribing team help you manage your long-term health conditions through getting active together:

  • local groups and activities
  • specialist services and support
  • healthy eating and living information
  • welfare support and signposting

WinG Outdoor Club is an outdoor education activity club that offers outdoor activities to a range of client groups from the Tyne and Wear area.

The Comfrey Project works with refugees and asylum seekers on allotment sites across Newcastle and Gateshead with the aim of improving their conditions of life and general wellbeing.

Age UK Gateshead offer the ActivAge activities in Newcastle.

Healthworks offer a range of fitness classes, gym facilities and healthy living advice and support.

Other useful information

Last updated: October 14, 2022