Keeping Fit and Mobile: The Merits of a more Relaxed Approach

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We’ve grown up on the idea that keeping fit must involve strenuous workouts to be of merit but recent studies show the advantages of light physical activity.  A leisurely stroll, cycle, or any activity that takes your fancy for at least five minutes as frequently as possible has great value for your overall health. Household or work-related tasks involving walking, bending, stretching, reaching or lifting that are engaged in over a sustained period of time can be really good for you. 

Light physical activity is walking at a comfortable pace of around 3km per hour, a rate that is more akin to a leisurely stroll than a brisk walk. Such activity is often undervalued by those who believe exercise must be intense to be beneficial. However, a recent study praised the advantages of relaxed exercise, such as gardening, walking the dog or general housework.

This kind of activity offers many opportunities to enhance physical activity and movement through daily routines. The research doesn’t propose replacing regular workouts with household chores; it outlines the benefits of adding this type of movement to your daily routine. Exercise that takes you beyond your comfort zone remains vital for reducing the risk of chronic diseases. However, the average European spends less than two per cent of their day exercising, with most of their waking hours spent in sedentary behaviour. 

Woman keeping active by gardening

The benefits of engaging in light physical activity daily include:

  • Improved cardiovascular health: Regular light physical activity, such as walking or gardening, can enhance heart health by increasing circulation, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Weight management: Incorporating light physical activity into daily routines helps burn calories, maintain a healthy weight and prevent obesity-related health issues.
  • Enhanced mood and mental wellbeing: Engaging in light physical activity releases endorphins, which can elevate mood, reduce stress, anxiety and depression and promote overall mental wellbeing.
  • Increased longevity: Studies have shown that even modest amounts of daily light physical activity can contribute to a longer lifespan by reducing the risk of chronic diseases and improving overall health outcomes.

Committing to move more often throughout the day is worth the effort. Data from multiple studies reveal a 20% decrease in cardiovascular mortality for every 20-minute increment in light physical activity. Additionally, substituting 30 minutes of sedentary time with light physical activity reduces the risk of cancer mortality by nine per cent. Incorporating an extra 30 minutes of light physical activity daily yields benefits comparable to more vigorous exercise in reducing cancer mortality.

People of all ages benefit from being more active. Each additional minute spent in light physical activity, away from screens and desks, improves our likelihood of maintaining a healthy weight. Many people today struggle to maintain any exercise routine; the notion that health benefits can be attained without vigorous exercise or gym memberships may encourage reluctant exercisers to become more active.

The message that health benefits can be achieved without structured, planned moderate to vigorous physical activity offers attainable options for all adults, accommodating individual preferences and empowering those seeking alternatives to mitigate lifestyle-based diseases. Aim to incorporate several short (up to ten or fifteen minutes long) activity breaks into your day rather than one long session at the beginning or end.

Avoid defining this time as exercise to eliminate unnecessary barriers. You don’t need to change into workout attire or set specific goals. Instead, look at these short bursts of leisurely activity as more than reminders on your phone to stand for a minute every hour. The objective is to keep your body moving and mobile.

man hoovering carpet keeping active


Potential positive results include the following:

  • Improved mobility and flexibility: Regularly engaging in light physical activity helps maintain joint flexibility, muscle strength and overall mobility, reducing the risk of falls and injuries, especially in older adults.
  • Better sleep quality: Light physical activity during the day can promote better sleep quality at night by regulating sleep-wake cycles, reducing insomnia and improving overall sleep patterns.
  • Enhanced cognitive function: Regular light physical activity has been linked to improved cognitive function, including better memory, concentration and decision-making skills, as well as a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia with ageing.
  • Social interaction and community engagement: Activities such as walking with friends, participating in group fitness classes or engaging in outdoor hobbies promote social interaction, foster a sense of belonging and strengthen community ties, contributing to overall wellbeing.

Get moving as much as you can during your day; all the movement adds up and helps you maintain greater fitness which, in turn, will help you if you wish to put yourself that bit further on more rigorous and challenging activities.

Listen: Feel Better Live More Bitesize is a weekly podcast for your mind, body and heart.  Today’s clip is from episode 97 of the podcast with clinical-academic physiotherapist, Brendon Stubbs. His work is helping to provide much needed evidence of what we know instinctively – physical activity makes us feel good. In this clip he explains why movement is not just good for our body, but also for our mind and why you don’t need to exercise for hours to feel the benefits. Just 10 minutes of light exercise a day can result in meaningful changes happening within your brain. 

Read: Just 30 minutes of light exercise each day can benefit health – a new study from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, suggests that replacing time spent sitting with light-intensity physical activity may benefit health more than previously thought.


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