NHS Shetland and its partners are working together to help people in Shetland enjoy the benefits of a physically active lifestyle. Being physically active can improve your physical and mental health whatever your age. You are never too old or too unfit to start being more active. Something is better than nothing, and the biggest health benefits are gained by inactive people who start to do regular exercise.

What is physical activity?

Physical activity is moving your body, which makes your muscles work and uses energy.

Anything that uses more energy than resting or staying still counts.

There are lots of different ways to do physical activity - you are probably doing some already! The cheapest and easiest is walking. Walking is so good for you we've covered it in detail in this separate page.

Who should do it?

Everyone should be physically active – from new babies to older adults.

Why should you do it?

Doing regular physical activity has lots of benefits, exercise:

  • Strengthens bones and muscles and keeps joints healthy
  • Improves your mood
  • Boosts your energy levels
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Helps you reach or stay at a healthy weight
  • Helps build your confidence and self esteem
  • Improves your fitness
  • Helps protect you against many diseases and conditions – heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers, osteoarthritis.

How much should you do?

How much activity you should do depends on your age.

Don’t worry if you can’t meet your target at first - as you get moving you will get fitter and manage more.

These targets are the minimum you should aim for – more is even better!

Remember your activity doesn’t have to be all at once, but chunks of 10 minutes or more are best.


How much


Under 5 (not walking)

As active as possible all through the day

Reaching, grasping, pushing, pulling, crawling, rolling, tummy time, water play

Under 5 (walking)

180+ mins (3 hours) per DAY

Playing, running, jumping, climbing, skipping, chasing, ball games

5-18 years

60+ mins per DAY (mix of “moderate” and “vigorous”)

3 times a week do something to strengthen bones and muscles (climbing/jumping/skipping)

19-64 years

150 mins “moderate” per WEEK


75 mins “vigorous” per week

2 days a week do exercises to strengthen muscles



150 mins “moderate” per WEEK


75 mins “vigorous” per WEEK

2 days a week do exercises to improve balance and coordination – dancing/yoga/tai chi

How hard should I be exercising?

The guidelines above mention "moderate" and "vigorous" exercise - these levels are different for everyone. How you feel when you are exercising is the best way to judge what is right for you - for one person a fast walk will be vigorous, for someone else a jog will be moderate!

Moderate  =   heart beats a little faster, you feel a little warmer, you breathe a little harder so you can talk normally but can’t sing.

e.g. fast walking, cycling on level ground, dancing, throwing.

Vigorous  =     heart beats faster, you breathe hard and fast, you can only say a few words at a time.

e.g. jogging, running, sports, energetic dancing, cycling fast or up hills, playing chase.

You can use this scale to measure how hard you are working - as you get fitter you should find things get easier.

It is important not to spend long periods sitting, or "being sedentary". This is bad for your health, even if you meet the activity targets – try to get up and move around as often as you can.