The Public Health Agency (PHA) is marking World Physical Activity Day (April 6) by highlighting why it is important for everyone – from toddlers to older people – to get active.
Colette Brolly, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager, PHA, said: “Moderate activity is anything that increases your heart rate, makes you breathe faster and feel warmer. Evidence about the benefits of physical activity is now overwhelming, one could say ‘titanic’ and it doesn’t just mean sports - the good news is that any activity is good for you. The recommended level of physical activity is a minimum of 30 minutes per day for adults.
“Some activity is better than none and people who have not been very active should try to build up gradually to these recommended levels. Adults, including older people, do not need to take 30 minutes of activity all at once as it can be taken in 10 minute bouts throughout the day. It’s never too late to start and World Physical Activity Day is the perfect opportunity to start making positive changes. Start with small changes to your daily routine.
“The Easter holidays provide the perfect opportunity to get into the ‘great outdoors’ and enjoy exercise as a family - and there are plenty of free activities on hand.’’
- The recommended physical activity guidelines for age groups are:-Early years (under 5s) – children who are capable of walking should be physically active daily for at least 3 hours spread throughout the day.
- Children and young people (5-18 years) need at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
- Adults (19+ years) should aim to be active daily. Over a week, moderate activity should add up to at least 2 ½ hours, for example do 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
“Children naturally play and this should be encouraged by providing equipment such as soft balls and skittles (they need not be expensive – empty plastic drinks bottles with the tops removed make excellent skittles). You can let children make up their own games but giving them some ideas can sometimes help. Young children often have boundless energy and by being more active they will often enjoy their food more and they’ll sleep better too,” explained Colette.
“With the school children off on their Easter holidays, you and your family will have different opportunities to fit in more physical activity. For example, go for a walk in the park, get out in the garden and play sports, go for swim in the local leisure centre, walk to the shops, and try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down watching TV or playing computer games.”
Adults, including older people, who take part in any amount of physical activity, will gain health benefits too. Muscle strengthening and balance activities are particularly beneficial for older people and these should be performed at least two days a week. These include using the stairs more frequently, Tai Chi or dance, heavy housework, gardening or exercises with weights.
Colette added: “By taking more physical activity you will also reduce you and your family’s risk of a wide range of health conditions, both now and in the future, including coronary heart disease or stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), osteoporosis, some types of cancer, depression and anxiety. Physical activity also improves mood and promotes wellbeing. Older adults will also benefit from more activity as it helps maintain the ability to carry out daily living activities, as well as reducing the risk of falls and dementia.”
Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, said: “Only 38% of people in Northern Ireland are meeting the recommended weekly levels of physical activity. That’s more than 3 in 5 people not getting enough physical activity. Being physically active is a vital part of maintaining and promoting good personal health, for example being active is as important as having a nutritious diet when it comes to helping maintain a healthy weight. In addition, participating in physical activity, either for sport or a leisure activity, such as walking or gardening, can also help promote good physical and mental health and wellbeing. It can help improve our sleeping patterns, have a positive impact on our self-esteem and concentration, and just as importantly it can be a great opportunity to be more social, to meet people and to take a break from the stresses of everyday life.
“I know that 2012 is the year of the Olympics, but it is not my ambition for everyone to become an athlete, it’s about doing more of the activities you enjoy. Any amount of physical activity is better than none, and if you are already physically active how about just going that little bit further. This is one area where little steps can really make a big difference.”
For further information on getting active as a family visit www.getalifegetactive.com
Contact the PHA press office on 028 9055 3663