Tackling inactivity – why are we becoming less active?

The UK population is 20% less active than it was in the 1960s

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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03 February 2021

Are we doing less exercise?

In some recent studies, it has been highlighted that people are doing less activity now than they were in previous UK-wide lockdowns.1 It would seem the novelty of doing Zoom workouts and going for walks round the local area has well and truly worn off. Still, inactivity is not a new problem. In fact, government figures from 2019 highlighted that 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women were not active enough for good health.2

Why are people less physically active nowadays?

So, what's the reason for rising levels of inactivity? I am sure some of the reasons listed here will not be a surprise to hear.

Occupations – Sophisticated technology means that many of us can now do our jobs through the screen of a computer. The result? Less overall movement, of course! What's more, many office workers are increasingly working from home which, it has been noted, can reduce activity levels further. This is because the likes of physical meetings and the daily commute offer opportunities to get up and move.

Sedentary hobbies – Television watching, computer games, internet shopping, crafts, art, reading... The number of hobbies we can do sitting down are almost endless. It's easy to see why we may choose these relaxing activities over a quick jog to round off the end of the working day. That's all very well if you've been moving around on your feet all day but, if your job is more sedentary, you'll end up spending most of the day seated.

Ill health – Aches and pains and other health conditions are likely to reduce overall activity levels. This is a shame as, no matter what the movement is, we can gain benefits for mood, pain levels and more!

Lockdown! As time goes on, research shows that we are becoming less active in lockdown. Reasons for this include the fact we are doing less volunteering, less overall exercise, reduced engagement in hobbies like DIY and gardening, plus more television and film watching.3

Lack of guidance – Sometimes people are discouraged from exercise, simply because it can be a bit of a challenge to know where to start! What kind of activity would suit you best? What level should you start at? How can you squeeze it into your schedule? What is available in your local area? These are all things to consider. To help you out, I provide answers to a few of these questions below.

My Self-Care Tip: Exercises to break up sedentary activities

Watch my video for a little bit of advice on how to add a little more movement to your day.

How do you increase your activity levels?

Couch to 5k – Ever fancied running? This plan eases you into the activity over several weeks so that you will eventually be able to run 5k without stopping. With running, fitness gains can be seen relatively quickly, which is quite motivating. So, try it out and see what your body can accomplish!

Daily 10 – Are you looking for something that isn't so high impact? No worries! This simple plan is about adding 10 active minutes to your day. You can do star jumps in the garden, take a fast-paced walk outdoors or try out something a little bit different such as Boxercise. Just remember that the key thing is to get your heart rate and breathing up. If you're struggling, keep in mind that you only have to do it for 10 minutes and then you can get on with the rest of your day!

Exercise videos – Squeeze in a ten-minute video at the end of your working day or when you get up in the morning. Check what we have to offer here!

Walking for health – Get socialising and improve your activity levels with the nation-wide 'walking for health' scheme. This organisation provides information on local clubs and is great if you are suffering from a health condition, or have been through a period of ill health, as it offers walking advice tailored to these groups.

Seek help – If you're still struggling to be more active, your GP should be able to point you in the direction of schemes, clubs and classes in your area. Alternatively, local magazines, internet searches and just asking around, in general, may open up a few more opportunities.

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Tips for keeping up regular exercise

Now that you've looked at the kind of activities you can try, here are some general tips for keeping up some regular movement.

Set aside time – Incorporate exercise into your routine by setting aside a specific time slot to do it in each day or week.

Exercise with family – Be social or keep the kids entertained by making exercise a family affair. Rounders, tag, Swingball, rollerblading – these are but a few family-friendly activities!

Do it your way – If it's easier, spread your activity throughout the day. Aim for short bursts of movement around all your other affairs.

Don't forget about strength work – Yoga or working with a resistance band count towards this, as do some less official forms of movement such as shifting the furniture around the house and lifting unopened tins.


2 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/physical-activity-applying-all-our-health/physical-activity-applying-all-our-health 

3 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55843666 

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