How can I become more active?

Weight Concern’s Three Step Plan

The thought of exercise can be very daunting, especially if your level of fitness is not particularly high. In terms of lifestyle change, it's important not to over-reach yourself. Weight Concern suggests a three step plan for becoming more active.

'Sedentary' means 'sitting down'. In our society, we spend a lot of time doing activities such as:

  • Watching television
  • Playing video games
  • Sitting in front of a desk (e.g. at work)
  • Reading
  • Napping

Sitting for long periods of time burns very little calories and is a significant cause for weight gain. Aim to break up the amount of time you spend sitting down with some light activity:

  • Don't use the remote control, get up and turn the channel over using the TV set
  • Don't ask someone else to fetch something for you, go and get it yourself
  • Stand up during the advert breaks, walk around the house a little and/or do some stretching exercises
  • If you are at work and need to contact someone who works in another part of the office. Instead of emailing/phoning, walk over and speak to them face-to-face
  • Learn to juggle, it's a great form of light exercise and can be done whilst watching television, etc
  • Do housework at a fast pace
Being active doesn't have to mean doing organised exercise, like going to the gym or doing an exercise video.

We can all become more active in our daily lives, by making simple changes to our lifestyle, like walking instead of using transport.

Lifestyle activity is a great way of achieving your 60-90 minutes of daily exercise. Later on, when you become fitter and more confident you can start doing more strenuous activities.

Walk as much as possible in your daily routine

Use the stairs instead of the lift
  • Remember, start gently and gradually increase the difficulty level.
  • If you work on the 6th floor then why not start off by taking the lift to the 5th floor and walking up the last flight? When you've mastered that, start a flight earlier, and so on.
Get off the bus a couple of stops early.
  • Being out in the fresh air can be more enjoyable than being stuck on crowded public transport.
  • As before, when this becomes a habit you can aim to increase the distance you walk.

If you drive into a supermarket car-park, find a parking space in a distant corner and walk. Better still, walk to your local shops and leave the car behind if you can.

If you work in a large building, go to the toilets on a different floor. This will increase the amount of time you spend on your feet and burn more calories.

Get out at lunch time and go for a walk in the park or a walk to the shops

Instead of taking a coffee break, take a five-minute walk around the block

Gardening is good exercise and helps you keep fit

If you have a dog, make sure you take it out for regular walks. This will keep you active as well

When seeing friends, why not do something active such as a walk in the park

Another great way to become fitter is to take up a sport.

Pick a sport that you think you might enjoy and play it regularly with some friends. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner, you'll improve.

There are literally hundreds of different sports and games that you can choose from, including:

  • Football
  • Tennis
  • Badminton
  • Tae-Kwon-Do

Playing sports is an excellent way to introduce more energetic activity into your life. Many people find sports more fun to do than jogging and gym workouts. They can be a great excuse to socialise, and they may also help to improve your balance and co-ordination.

Contact your local leisure centre to find out about what is available in your local area.

What if you're new to exercise or have limited mobility?

Physical activity has a range of health benefits which include:

  • managing your weight
  • reducing the risk of developing certain illnesses (such as cancer and diabetes)
  • helping existing health problems
  • increasing energy levels and reducing tiredness

But what if you are new to exercise, have limited mobility or would prefer to exercise at home?

Being Overweight and Active

Many of us find it difficult to do enough activity and having limited mobility or being very overweight can make it extra challenging. We have put together some links that you might find useful in becoming more active, without having to buy any special equipment. Some of the information will be suitable for different groups of people.

Top tips for becoming more active


Your daily activity can be broken down into more manageable chunks.

For example three 10 minutes sessions throughout the day will burn as many calories as one 30 minute session.

Whatever your size or level of activity, remember that the body takes a while to adjust to new things so it important to be consistent with your efforts and build up slowly.

Setting a small and achievable goal can be a great first step towards increasing activity.

For example, if you currently spend most of your day seated, you might want to start by aiming to do 10 minutes of a light activity (of your choice) 2 days a week for one month. We've included a goal sheet below that you can use to plan what you are going to do.


Muscle fitness exercises can be even more important if you find more vigorous cardiovascular exercise difficult because of limited mobility. Muscles burn energy so if we have less muscle on our body it means that we burn less energy. This doesn't mean you need to become a body builder though! There some examples for you to try on the web links below.


Set small, achievable goals and monitor your progress.

Use the goal sheet below to plan what you're going to do and keep a record of how you're doing.

Download SMART goal sheet as a Word document
Download SMART goal sheet as a PDF to print out
Please note

t is advisable to consult you doctor or health professional before starting a new physical activity programme, particularly if you have any health conditions.

If you have any suggestions for other links or would like to share with us your own experiences that may help to encourage other people to get more active please contact

It is important to be active at a level that is safe and comfortable for you.

Seated Total Body Strength
How to exercise in the office

The British Heart Foundation offers a range of general information and tips for becoming more active including booklets you can download for free:

Get Active for Your Heart

Information if you'd like to start jogging when very overweight:

Jogging when very overweight

To find out what may be available for you locally you could try a disability forum, your local council website, or:

Inclusive Fitness

There are also a number of books, DVD's and videos available which you may find helpful which you can find on by searching for 'gentle exercise', 'seated exercise' or 'integrated exercise'.

And finally, you may feel like becoming more active is just going to be too hard. Whatever you do, even just small steps can help you on the way to achieving your goals. We were recently contacted by Pat who explained how she increased her physical activity:

"My name is Patricia (Pat). For many years I was diagnosed as morbidly obese, which at over 29 stone I was. I have to date lost 12st 13lb and obviously I still have about 7 stones to go, but find exercise so much easier than when I first started to change my life.

It was not always like that though, some day's it was as much as I could do to be hauled from my bed, but I persisted. Not knowing if this was going to be yet 'another' flash in the pan I did not want my husband to buy me any special equipment to start with, so I started with a small exercise bike machine (the sort where you sit in your own armchair) and started at 30 seconds twice a day while lifting a tin of baked beans in each hand. I progressed up to 10 minutes on the bike machine and a carrier bag with 2lb spuds and two tins of beans in each hand. From this I plucked up the courage to go to the gym, oh the embarrassment but I persevered. I now go to the gym 3 times a week, swim and attend water aerobics once a week and play badminton once a week. Not bad from 2 tins of beans!!!

It proves it can be done but it has to be done and guided by your own resilience. I always have a giggle when I get a tin of beans out now."

1. Aerobic exercise

In terms of both weight loss and increasing fitness, this is definitely the best type of exercise to take. Aerobic exercise refers to activities that raise your heart rate, make you breathe harder and sweat a little. This type of exercise tends to use the larger muscles such as the legs and arms, and it is rhythmic and continuous in nature.

Examples: fast walking, jogging, skipping, swimming, cycling, dancing, rowing, badminton, tennis, step-aerobics.

2. Resistance Exercise

Resistance exercise is chiefly concerned with improving the strength and tone of your muscles. However, it can also help you lose weight. Increasing the amount of muscle in your body will boost your metabolic rate. This means that you will burn a fair amount of calories even when you aren't exercising (and even when you sleep). Ideally, you should aim to do resistance exercises twice a week.

Examples: Lifting free weights, weights machine, callisthenics (e.g. push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups), carrying shopping.

3. Flexibility and Stretching Exercise

This type of exercise is much gentler. It concentrates on stretching your muscles and improving joint flexibility. It is relatively ineffective with regard to weight loss; but it will improve posture and freedom of movement. It is also good as a warm up if you want to avoid injury before doing more strenuous activities. Ideally, you should try to do some form of stretching exercise on 3-7 days per week, and many of these can quite easily be done in front of the television or whilst relaxing.

Examples: Yoga, Tai-Chi, Pilates, stretching exercises.

A combination of all three types of exercise is ideal, but the most important for controlling your weight is definitely aerobic exercise.

Enjoy exercise

Active exercise doesn't have to be a chore, again we want to encourage practical ways in which people can increase their fitness.

  • Combine activities. For example, watch TV whilst walking on a treadmill. Read a book or magazine whilst peddling on an exercise bike.
  • Games and sports are generally more fun than jogging and gym workouts. They are more sociable and can also improve your balance and co-ordination. Pick a sport that you think you might enjoy and play it regularly with some friends. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner, you'll improve.