Importance of being active

Being regularly active is an important part of maintaining your health and wellbeing. It can improve your physical health, quality of life and reduce your risk of many diseases and health difficulties. Because of this, physical activity is often called a ‘panacea’, meaning a cure for all for health.

If you're taking up exercise for the first time or increasing the amount of physical activity you're doing, it is important to make sure you are doing so safely, as outlined on our 'physical activity and cancer' page.

Current UK physical activity guidelines

Currently, 50% of young adults (16-34) in the UK are reaching the recommended physical activity targets. Regardless of whether you have experienced cancer, all young adults should aim to be active daily and minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (i.e. sitting down).

Throughout one week:

  • Your physical activity should include a combination of moderate/vigorous activity and strengthening exercises.
  • Your total activity should add up to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. An easy approach to reaching this target is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days of the week.
  • Alternatively you can achieve comparable health benefits through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity spread across the week.
  • You should also include strengthening exercises at least two days of the week (free weights, body weight or machines).

Moderate vs. vigorous physical activity

The intensity of an exercise relates to the amount of effort required to perform an activity.

moderately intense activity is classified as an activity that will raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. If you are exercising at a moderate intensity, you will be able to talk but not sing words to a song.

vigorously intense activity is classified as an activity that will significantly increase your heart rate and make you breathe hard and fast. If you are exercising at a vigorous intensity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.