It is never too late in life or in the week to reap the health benefits.
If you already follow the guidelines1 for being active: 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity OR 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity OR a 50/50 mix of each for 30 minutes a week AND strength exercises on two or more days that work all the major muscles, well done. You are already making a minimum deposit into your Health Bank. You can look forward to a longer and happier life and you can skip on to the next article.
For everyone else, here are the basics – being active pays huge dividends:
• 35% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease,
• 20% reduction in risk of breast cancer,
• 50% lower risk of Type 2 diabetes,
• 30% reduced risks of dementia and
• 30% reduction in risk of depression.
But if you are at your desk from 8AM to 6PM, drive door-to-door to work because of train and tube strikes, are raising children (future tax payers), looking after ageing parents (past tax payers) and for many of us “All of the above” and in the Rush-Hour of Life, we can find that we are working longer hours and for more years than our Grandparents. We are probably a lot wealthier financially, but suffer from time poverty. We will live a lot longer too, but may live out many of these years in poor health with the onset of incurable and long-term health conditions.
But here is some welcome good news from the latest research study of 64,000 adults aged over 40 in England and Scotland that shows the health benefits of being active are NOT lost if you can only manage your exercise at the on a couple of days over the weekend.
The researchers found that no matter when people exercised in a week, the health benefits were mostly retained – as long as they met the activity guideline minimums.
So celebrate the dedication displayed by the pelotons of MAMALs (middle-aged men in Lycra) as they push themselves by cycling around the countryside at the weekends. Applaud the determination of the Park Runners turning out in the cold and rain on a Saturday morning and the women running together in clubs to raise money for their local cancer Charites like at our local Huntingdon 3-10K fun runs.
We greatly admire the many who steadfastly keep track of their exercise throughout the week with their activity trackers, adding a 10 minute walk here and there throughout the day and revere those making the effort to get out for a walk around the block during their lunch break rather than eat sitting their desk. These are the heros investing in their health, contributing financially and socially, while conserving our finite healthcare services – especially during the toughest period in the NHS’ history.
Key message from this latest research on being active: It all helps.
It doesn’t matter when you do it – just find ways to do it. It is never too late in the week or in life to be active.
 WHO, September, 2016
 NHS Choices website http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/whybeactive.aspx Accessed 11 January, 2017.
 Gary O’Donovan et al. Association of “Weekend Warrior” and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns With Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 9, 2017.