Getting physically active
Increasing your physical activity is another positive change you can make. It helps you to burn off energy from food and lose weight, as well as making you feel healthier.
You might be a bit nervous about this if you haven’t been active for a while. If you’re not used to exercise, get advice before you start. Your GP or cancer specialist can talk to you about the type and amount of exercise that’s safe for you to do.
Physical activity varies from day-to-day activities such as walking or gardening to the exercise programmes you might find in a gym. Any increase in physical activity will help you burn more energy.
If you have problems with walking or balance, ask your doctor about a referral to a physiotherapist. They can assess you and show you how to exercise safely. Some doctors may be able to refer you to an exercise scheme run by fitness trainers.
Your fitness level may have reduced over many months, so it’s important to take time to build it back up. Try to be physically active for 30 minutes, five times each week. This could be made up of three 10-minute periods of activity each day.
If you start gently, you can try to do a little more each week. For example, you could walk a bit further or a bit faster each time. You’ll gradually find you can do more.
You can use our planner to record and plan your activities.
Don’t push yourself too hard. At the end of an activity, you should feel warm and slightly out of breath, but not exhausted. With practice, you’ll soon find you’re able to do more.
Here are some tips for getting started:
Walking is good exercise. Start off with short walks at a comfortable pace, then gradually build up the speed and distance. Walking to the shops, taking children to the park and walking the dog all count.
Take stairs instead of lifts. Climbing stairs uses up twice the energy that walking on flat surfaces does.
Housework can be a form of exercise. Listening to fast-paced music while you clean and tidy can help you do it faster and burn more energy.
Gardening is a good way to get active and enjoy the fresh air. If you don’t have a garden, you could volunteer to help out at a community garden. Your local volunteer centre can provide details – find yours in the phone book or on do-it.org.uk
Bowling and dancing can be ways to get fitter while socialising.
As you get fitter, you’ll be able to increase the amount of physical activity you do. Start with exercise that you enjoy. When you get stronger, you may want to increase your target to 45–60 minutes a day, a few days a week.
Being part of a group can make exercise more enjoyable. Here are some ideas for when you feel able to do more:
Swimming is good all-round exercise and it doesn’t put much strain on your joints. Aqua aerobics classes can be a good way to get fit in the pool.
Joining an exercise class or club can be a good way to get more active and socialise. You could try aerobics, yoga, pilates or tai chi. Beginners classes are usually available. Joining a club or gym doesn’t always have to be expensive – have a look around.
Try cycling outdoors or indoors on an exercise bike. There is a National Cycle Network, which offers safe cycling routes throughout the UK that minimise encounters with busy roads. Visit sustrans.org.uk for details.
Join a walking group, or build up the distances that you walk. There are free guided health walks across the UK. Contact details for walking groups are below.
Get more information and watch videos about the benefits of being physically active.
Walking for Health (England)
020 7339 8541
Paths for All (Scotland)
01259 218 855
Let’s Walk (Wales)
02920 338 357
Walk Northern Ireland
028 9030 393