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M&S Health & Nutrition

Get Active

Get Active


Many of us lead inactive lifestyles- using the car, spending our days sitting at a desk and evenings in front of the TV- all of which mean we are using less energy - and may be a contributing factor in the rise of obesity.

We know that being active is an important part of our lifestyles. But with so much information out there it's easy to become confused about how much activity we should we be doing and how often we should do it.

Exercise Benefits

Exercise can help the body maintain energy balance by increasing the amount of energy that you use. This can also help weight loss and improve body shape.

As well as weight management, exercise helps to build strong muscles and bones and has been linked with improvements in overall health. Exercise can help to control blood pressure and can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

Even a little bit of exercise can enhance your overall feeling of wellbeing as it can help to improve sleep and mood as well as helping to relieve stress, increasing stamina and making you feel more energised! This means we should all be trying to think about ways to include activity into our lifestyle.

How Much?

We should aim to be active each day, throughout our lives minimising the amount of time we are sedentary. Being active doesn't have to mean joining a gym, being physcially active inclues all forms of activity such as walking, cycling, gardening, house work and even dancing.

Children and Young People (5-18 years):

  • Aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate - vigorous phsyical activty each day.
  • Activities that help to stengthen muscles and bone should be incorporated at least 3 days a week, examples include playing on playground equipment, skipping, tennis and gymnastics.


  • Aim to be active each day building up at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate intensity activity over a week. This doesn't have to be done all at once - you can break it down into 10 minute bouts of activity. Examples include brisk walking, cleaning the car, cycling.
  • This is also equivalent to 75 minutes of vigorous intentisy activity over the week, such as running or swimming.
  • Try to include acitivity twice a week that helps to build muscle strength, such as moving heavier plants in the garden, carrying shopping bags or exercising with weights.
  • For older adults (over 65 years) who might be more at risk of injury from falls or slips, including activities that help to improve balance and co-ordination twice a week is recommended. This could include yoga, body balance or pilates

Types of Exercise

All activity is important and small changes you can make to your lifestyle will benefit you heath - so whatever activity you choose, you'll soon reap the benefits!

Some types of physical activity are especially beneficial:

Aerobic/cardiovascular activities - speeds heart rate and breathing and improves heart and lung fitness. This type of exercise helps improve the hearts pumping efficiency, circulation and also promotes muscle health. If you are trying to lose weight then this type of exercise will help you to burn fat.

Examples include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling or racket sports such as squash, tennis or badminton

Resistance, strength building, and weight-bearing activities - helps strengthen, build and maintain bones, joints and muscles by working them against gravity or resistance machines. This type of exercise is also important if you want lose weight as building muscle increases your fat burning potential.


Examples include water aerobics, rock climbing, using a fit ball, carrying a child, lifting weights and walking.

Balance and stretching activities - enhances physical stability and improves coordination and flexibility which reduces risk of injuries.

Examples are gentle stretching, dancing, yoga, martial arts and t'ai chi.

Regular exercise of any type is beneficial for your health—so try to do a mixture of aerobic, strength and stretching exercises throughout the week as each type can enhance your body in different ways.

The table below shows how many calories are used doing different activities for 30 minutes by an average person weighing 60kg (132.3 lbs)

Activity Energy Expenditure (Kcal) per 30 Minutes
Light intensity
Ironing 69
Cleaning and dusting75
Walking - strolling 2mph75
Moderate intensity
Walking - 3mph99
Hoovering 105
Golfing 129
Badminton 135
Tennis - doubles 150
Walking - brisk 4mph 150
Mowing lawn 165
Cycling - 10 -12mph 180
Vigorous intensity
Aerobic dancing 195
Cycling - 12-14mph 240
Swimming - slow crawl 195
Tennis - singles 240
Running - 6mph 300
Running - 7mph 345
Running - 8mph 405

Getting Started

There are various reasons which can hold people back from exercising, such as feeling self conscious about their ability or body or generally not knowing what activity they want to get involved with. There are a number of factors which need to be considered when thinking about which activity is best of you!

Time - this is an issue for many people in becoming more active. You don't have to join the gym to exercise- more activity can be incorporated into your day with simple activities such as:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
  • Walking or cycling to work or the shops instead of using the car
  • Getting off the bus or tube a stop early
  • Speeding up your usual walking pace
  • Parking your car in a space furthest away from the entrance
  • Taking a lunch time or after dinner walk
  • Raking up leaves instead of using a machine
  • At work, walk and speak to a colleague rather than email or phone
  • Doing the housework to your favourite music- dancing while doing your chores will help burn off calories!
  • Plan social activities around activity such as ice skating, bowling or walking in the park
  • Lifting weights for 30 minutes while you're watching TV in the evening- this will help build muscle without interrupting your viewing!

Getting motivated - one simple way to get motivated is to set yourself goals. Think about the activity you want to do and why. Are you becoming active to lose weight, to tone up or for general health? Start off gradually by incorporating a bit more exercise into your day e.g. taking a walk at lunchtime and slowly build up, to longer periods of activity such as walk around the park at the weekend- it won't be long until your confidence and fitness improves!

Make it a hobby - having a hobby which incorporates physical activity is a great way to remain active. There are a great range of physical activities available including sports such as snowboarding, skiing, rock climbing, horse riding, mountain biking, surfing or suba diving.

Active Fashion Guide

Check out our Sportswear Range and Active Fashion Guide here.

Once you start doing a bit more exercise it is easy to make it a regular part of your daily life - so what are you waiting for!

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