Get Active!

We all know we should, but it can be really challenging to make time for exercise or being active. Especially with the new year around the corner, making a new resolution or a desire to make healthier choices may be on your mind right now. If you are thinking about getting healthier, then this blog post is for you!

There are endless benefits for being more active and exercising. The NHS recommend that adults between the ages of 19-64 should try to be active each day, do strengthening activities on major muscles groups at least twice a week, do 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, and reduce the duration they are sedentary or lying down (NHS, 2019).

If you immediately think of a big burley body building lifting heavy weights while covered in sweat – then think again. Being active, which is what NHS encourages and is associated with improved health benefits (Caspersen, Powell and Christenson, 1985), and exercise are separate. The authors state that:

The term “exercise” has been used interchangeably with “physical activity”, and, in fact, both have a number of common elements. For example, both physical activity and exercise involve any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that expends energy, are measured by kilocalories ranging continuously from low to high, and are positively correlated with physical fitness as the intensity, duration, and frequency of movements increase. Exercise, however, is not synonymous with physical activity: it is a subcategory of physical activity. Exercise is physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposive in the sense that improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is an objective.”

This means: Physical activity is any movement of the body that requires energy, and the more you do, the harder it is and the more often you do it the better! Exercise is planned, structured, repeated and it has a purpose/goal. Both are associated with health benefits.

NHS recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, and this can include taking a brisk walk, riding a bike, dancing, doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, water aerobics, and rollerblading. Most of these activities are free, don’t require you travelling anywhere or changing into/owning clothing or special equipment. Alternatively you can do 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activities, which include jogging/running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills, walking up stairs, team sports (i.e., football, rugby, netball, hockey, etc.), skipping rope, aerobics, gymnastics and/or martial arts (NHS, 2019). Also, there are plenty of free YouTube routines you can try if you prefer to follow someone.

The benefits of physical activity and exercise are enormous! There are physical and mental health benefits. Physical activity and exercise improves physical health as it helps build muscle and make bones and joints stronger. It helps improve the cardiovascular and circulation systems. It helps to manage weight and reduces the risk of heart attack, risk of developing type 2 diabetes, reduces the risk of osteoporosis and some cancers (Warburton et al, 2006). The authors state, “There is incontrovertible evidence that regular physical activity contributes to the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic diseases and is associated with a reduced risk of premature death”. Physical activity ensures you can perform daily tasks with ease.

There are also many mental health benefits. Researchers found that a community wide study that there was a relationship between inactivity and mental health (Harris, 2018). Additionally, there was a significant difference between the least and most active participants involved in this study. Further research has supported the benefits of physical activity in relation to mental health and symptoms of depression and anxiety (Peluso and de Andrade, 2005; Stanton et al, 2014). In regards to professionals in Behaviour Analysts, Plantiveau et al (2018) found a high degree of moderate to high levels of burnout (two in every three). Taking care of our mental health is important, although burnout is contributed by factors including job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion. It may feel counterintuitive to make time for exercise if you’re feeling overwhelmed by work. For any one reading this blog, whether you’re behaviour analyst or not, then I implore you to make your mental health a priority. If you are struggling, it can feel overwhelming and difficult to make or find the time, but it can help (please see below references and additional resources for more support regarding mental health).

Thinking about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) having an active lifestyle can support many values and help you to take committed action towards these. [Want to learn more about ACT? Click here] If your value is health, then the benefits are clear; there is a direct relationship to health benefits and regular activity and/or exercise. If your values are family, then regular exercise or activity can improve your fitness which helps you 1) be healthier to make the most of all those memorable moments, 2) to be involved in play with children or grandchildren, 3) and to help extend your life to share more and more of those valuable moments. If your value is your career and progressing in that then considering a role within behaviour analysis, we often work with children or adults with special educational needs. This job can be physically demanding, either because of being involved in play and having to engage in variety of physical activities that your clients enjoy, and also if you have to manage any challenging behaviours. You definitely want a foundation of fitness when your clients is learning to mand and their strong motivating activity is the trampoline – we’ve all been there! Exercise and activity can help your body perform tasks with increased ease. Muscles are better at working together, become fatigued slower and are more accurate at performing everyday tasks. Exercise or being active is a great way to be present. Also, you may find you are sedentary for large portions of your day, if you’re sat at a table or on the floor, or in you car between clients. Mindfulness involves bringing your attention to your body and environment and pulling your attention from negative thoughts. Physical activity and/or exercise is good for being present. [Here are some more ideas for activities to stay present]. There can be an aspect of acceptance in regular activity, and particularly exercise. There can be a lot of discomfort and negative thoughts when you are exercising, you may want to give up or are finding hard. But the challenge is part of process and will lead to progress (but please listen to your body – a mild level of discomfort and challenge is expected (i.e., feeling puffed and tired) but do not push beyond your capabilities, otherwise this may cause injuries).

I’d love to hear from you if you are setting goals and are trying to be more active! My goals are to improve my running pace and I also would like to learn to do a pull up – the baseline was not very successful! As Behaviour Analysts we have the know how to do behaviour change, but it is definitely different when applying it to yourself! I wish you all the best of luck, if a fitness goal or any goals you set for the new year! Happy New Year!! Take care and be safe.

An interesting talk about the brain functioning and exercise – Another great reason to be active! Taken from: TED


Caspersen, C. J., Powell, K. E., & Christenson, G. M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise and physical fitness: definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Reports, 100(2), 126-131

Harris, M. A. (2018). The relationship between physical inactivity and mental wellbeing: Findings from a gamification-based community-wide physical activity intervention. Health Psychology Open, 1-8.

NHS, 2019 October 8, Exercise, Retrieved from:

Peluso, M. A. M., & de Andrade, L. H. S. G. (2005). Physical activity and mental health: the association between exercise and mood, Clinics, 60(1), 61-70.

Plantiveau, C., Dounavi, K., & Virues-Ortega. (2018). High levels of burnout among early-career board-certified behavior analysts with low collegial support in the work environment. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 19(2), 195-207

Stanton, R. Happell, B., & Reaburn, P. (2014). The mental health benefits of regular physical activity and its role in preventing future depressive illness. Nursing: research and reviews, 4, 45-53


Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence, CMAJ, 174(6):801-9.

Related Articles:

Busy Analytical Bee: Getting my ‘ACT’ Together

Busy Analytical Bee: 10 mindful activities

Busy Analytical Bee: Living your best healthy life with ACT

Busy Analytical Bee: What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?

Busy Analytical Bee: November 2016

Mental Health Support:

Please feel free to use one of these resources below, or email me

Mumsnet: Special Needs Chat

Time to Change

Mind Charity

Heads Together

CALM: Campaign Against Living Miserably

Mental Health Foundation

Busy Analytical Bee: World Mental Health Day 10/10/2017

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