Walking 10,000 steps a day is not enough exercise and adults also need to do activities which make them stronger and improve their balance, health officials warn.
Men and women are being advised to take up strength-bearing exercises particularly during pregnancy, the menopause or retirement.
Examples include Nordic walking with poles, tai chi, tennis, cricket, weights training in the gym or ballroom dancing. And carrying heavy shopping bags can help, too.
The advice has been issued by Public Health England (PHE) over concerns that the majority of adults do not do enough strength work.
Government guidelines state that men and women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week as well as two sessions of strength training.
But only a quarter of women and a third of men claim they achieve this – and this is probably an overestimation.
Public Health England says adults of all ages should do more strength training – such as walking with poles – to reduce their risk of falls in old age
PHE is urging adults to pay particular attention to exercises to improve strength and balance in light of new evidence into its benefits in old age.
The Government agency carried out a joint review of existing research alongside the charity the Centre for Ageing Better.
This found that muscle and bone strength – and having good balance – greatly reduce the risk of falls, fractures, back pain and early death.
One study found that having a poor muscle strength increases the risk of a fall by as much as 76 per cent.
‘All adults should do strengthening activities twice a week’
Dr Alison Tedstone, head of diet, obesity and physical activity at PHE, said: ‘Alongside aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, all adults should be aiming to do strengthening and balancing activities twice per week.
‘On average we’re all living longer and this mixture of physical activities will help us stay well in our youth and remain independent as we age.’
10 MINUTE LEGS, BUMS AND TUMS WORKOUT YOU CAN DO AT HOME
As part of the NHS’s advice on healthy living – it recommends adults do 150 minutes of exercise per week – the health service suggests short workouts to stay in shape. Here is a starter for working the legs, buttocks and core muscles with no equipment needed:
Squats: Two sets of 15 to 24 repetitions.
Forward lunges: One set of 15 to 24 repetitions for each leg.
Calf raises: Push onto your tiptoes then lower your heels slowly back to the ground. Two sets of 15 repetitions.
Bridges: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, then push you pelvis into the air, before lowering it again. Two sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Stomach crunches: Lie on your back in a sit up position then lift your shoulders three inches off the floor, keeping your back flat. Two sets of 15 to 24 repetitions.
Back raises: Lie face down with your hands touching your head, then lift your head and feet off the floor before slowly lowering back down. Two sets of 15 to 24 repetitions.
For more of the NHS’s quick home workouts visit its website.
Source: NHS Choices
The review also suggested taking up these exercises during ‘transition points’ in life when sedentary behaviour might otherwise increase.
This could include during pregnancy, the menopause, retirement or following a bereavement.
Nordic walking , racquet sports and dancing are best
It found that the best exercises for improving muscle and bone strength and balance were Nordic walking, racquet sports, ball games and dancing.
But PHE’s advice is likely to be regarded as yet further nannying following recent recommendations to cut calories and avoid snacks.
In March, its chief executive Duncan Selbie urged the nation to go on a diet and dramatically slash their calorie intake.
Two months earlier PHE had issued recommendations for parents to allow children just two snacks a day.
Jess Kuehne, senior engagement manager at the Centre for Ageing Better said: ‘It’s clear that we need to give equal weighting to activities that boost muscle and bone strength and improve balance rather than simply focusing on aerobic exercise.
‘Strength keeps people healthy and independent for longer’
‘There is significant potential to make savings to health and social care services if we do more to promote muscle strengthening and balance activities and recognise their role in helping to keep people healthy and independent for longer, particularly as they age.’
Moderate activity counts as any exercise that significantly raises the heart rate including brisk walking, cycling or swimming laps.
Strength training is anything that works the main muscle groups such as weights training or heavy gardening.
The review also found that strength and balance exercises could greatly reduce musculoskeletal health conditions – including back pain – which account for 30.8 million sick days in the UK a year.