Activity for Beginners

A lot of people tell me they feel they want to be more active but do not know where to start.

A good target for activity levels that I give to everyone is 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week or 150 minutes of “easy” exercise a week. This is in line with the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for physical and mental health improvements or maintenance (CMO, 2019). This can all feel quite overwhelming to begin with, so it is worth noting that any exercise is better than none.

Two to three sessions of weight training a week are optimal for health too, especially as we age and can contribute to this 75/150 minutes per week.

This advice is generally the same across the board depending on age, pregnancy and gender but may slightly differ depending on a few select situations.

What counts?
Anything. Movement counts. The best generic advice any physiotherapist can give anyone is to reduce sedentary behaviour by breaking up sitting little and often, and being active.
Gardening, Running, Cycling, Weights, Sport, Brisk walking, Dancing, Yoga & Pilates can all contribute to activity levels. Aim for an increase in the heart rate which I will touch on below.

What is “easy” exercise?
An activity which requires reasonable effort but not in a way which makes holding a conversation difficult.

What is vigorous?
When it requires a little bit more effort and concentration to maintain a conversation due to the effort levels required for the activity.

The difference is intensity – or heart rate.

Heart rates:
Age is the biggest influence on what sort of heart rate would dictate intensity. In the day of technology some will find it helpful to see exactly what kind of heart rates are suitable, so I have put together this table. Many of our phones and watches now tell us our heart rate while we are on the move and it can be really helpful.

Heart rate aim

Age “easy” “vigorous”
20 100-140 140-170
30 95-133 133-162
40 90-126 126-153
50 85-119 119-145
60 80-112 112-136
70 75-105 105-128
80 70-98 98-119


Benefits of activity;

  1. Reduces Type 2 diabetes by 40%
  2. Reduces risks of cardiovascular disease by 35%
  3. Reduces risks of falls by 30%
  4. Reduces symptoms of depression by 30%+
  5. Reduces joint and back pain 25%
  6. Reduces the risks of breast and colon cancer by 20%