If exercise were a pill, it would be regarded as a wonder drug - but many of us have neglected to take our recommended dose for too long.
Building activity into your day, along with a balanced diet, helps you look after your heart, maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of serious illness and strengthen muscles and bones. It can also reduce stress levels and lift your mood.
Case study - the Couch to 5k challenge
The free Couch to 5k app aims to make running for 30 minutes achievable for all of us, however unfit we feel to start with. It works for me, says one reader.
A voice in her ear telling her that she can do it and to keep going was exactly what Sophie Leney needed when she started running.
She used the free NHS Couch to 5k app to motivate herself to get fit, and says it definitely works.
“It’s very cleverly worked out, just when you think you really can’t do this - in comes the voice, saying ‘keep going’ and it really works, you keep going,” says Sophie.
Having not run for about 30 years, she tried the Couch to 5k app last year as she approached her 50th birthday and felt she wanted to get fit.
She’d heard about the new Trowse 10k, set that as her target and a friend recommended she downloaded the Couch to 5k app onto her iPod.
“It’s brilliant. I have a lady’s voice, Laura, and it builds up over nine weeks, starting with running for one minute intervals.
“I was so out of breath and thought I was never going to get to 5k, but it fixes you into a routine of three runs a week and you get there,” says Laura.
She followed it with another app to train from 5k to 10k and achieved her goal of finishing the Norwich 10k.
“I ran all the way, slowly, but I did it,” she says, putting her success down to the apps. “I don’t think I could have run 5k and then 10k without them,” she says.
Sophie, 51, runs to work as head of Trading Standards at Norfolk County Council. A mum to two teenage boys, she finds the early morning runs fit in with her life.
“I definitely feel fitter and better for running,” she says.
After breaking her leg last December, she started the couch to 5k app programme again once she had recovered, and hopes to complete the Norwich 10k next October.
“Couch to 5k definitely works, it’s 30 minutes of exercise three times a week and you just fit it into your diary,” she says.
NHS Couch to 5k app website