6 ways to move more without realising

A couple walk into a lake

The NHS, the Chief Medical Officer, and the World Health Organization all say most of us should be much more active. Here’s how to start moving more without even thinking (much) about it.

Moving is so good for us. Walking, running, dancing, jumping and any other activity that gets us moving is what our bodies were designed for. It lowers our risk of colon, breast and womb cancer, heart disease and stroke. It boosts our mental wellbeing, and helps to keep our heart, lungs and muscles working efficiently.

Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? So why don’t most of us do it enough? Let’s face it, exercise isn’t easy. As well as getting all the right kit ready, booking a class or a gym slot, and finding time in a busy day to get active, some people feel self-conscious being active around others, or not always having the chance to shower straight after exercise, especially in a quick lunch break.

The UK government recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week (increased breathing and able to talk) or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week (breathing fast and difficulty talking), or a combination of the two.

> See all the benefits of physical activity (infographic, pdf)

So if you’re thinking about being more active but aren’t quite ready to sign up for gym membership, read our 6 ways to increase your activity without realising it. The more you do, the better you’ll feel!

A woman walks up a flight of stairs

Carry the shopping

Your average carrier bag can hold at least 10kg – that’s 5 bags of sugar. But can you? As we get older (yes that’s anyone over 30!), we actually start to lose a small amount of muscle each year. The rate of decline greatly increases after we hit 60 – so there’s even more need to strengthen our muscles with activity after this age. Doing strengthening activities can slow down this rate of loss, and, with balance exercises, help prevent falls later in life. So if you shop at a supermarket – carry the bags to the car or bus. If you get home delivery, lift the bags a few times before putting them away.


Walking is a wonderful way to exercise. It doesn’t require any special kit, it can be done at any time and is suitable for almost all abilities – although it’s good to walk at a fast enough pace that you can hold a conversation but not sing (which is probably preferable for passersby). If you’re planning to meet up with a friend for a drink or meal, why not suggest meeting 20 minutes earlier and going for a walk first? If you commute to work, get off 1 stop earlier or park further away. Remember: with getting more active, something is ALWAYS better than nothing.

Take a frisbee, kite or ball to the park

It’s easy when you head to the park at the weekend to take a book or phone, and look for the first empty bench. Instead, why not take a frisbee, kite or ball, especially if you’re heading out with younger family or friends. Just a few minutes of playing catch or dribbling a ball will start working muscles that may have been out of use for some time. And if you find you’ve got an eye for goal, why not see if there’s a walking football club in your area?


OK so this one requires more effort. But it doesn’t feel strenuous in the way that running does because the water supports the weight of your body and provides resistance as you move, so you can strengthen your muscles in a gentle way while still burning calories. How incredible is that!

Swimming is kinder on your joints, with minimal risk of injury. And it’s also great for giving your whole body a workout, rather than, say, running, which is focused on your lower body – Sarah Kefyalew, Senior Research Interpretation Officer at World Cancer Research Fund

Lots of leisure centres offer single-sex swims but don’t just stop at swimming pools. If you’re a confident swimmer, why not try river, lake or sea swimming? Check out wild swimming for information on groups, events and venues near you.

Take the stairs

You don’t need to head to the steps machine in the gym to work those leg muscles. There are stairs just waiting to be walked up (and down) in offices, stations, department stores and more. It can be tempting to hop on to the escalator or head for the lifts. But walking on steps can strengthen your calves, ankles and hips as well as improving your cardiovascular fitness.

Start movie night with … mover night

It’s Friday, it’s time for the next episode of that Netflix series you’re gripped by and you just want to zonk on the sofa. But before you do … move. You may only think about sitting down (known as being sedentary) when you’re comfortably curled up at home. But actually us Brits spend around 9 hours a day sat down – at a desk, in a vehicle, on the phone, in front of a screen. Evidence from our Diet and Cancer Report shows that screen time is a cause of weight gain.

Sitting too much is not good for us. Exercising in front of the TV is a great way to forget about what you’re doing, as you’re engrossed in the action on screen. Whether it’s simple stretches for a few minutes, or jogging on the spot (behind the sofa, so you don’t get in anyone else’s line of vision …) why not dedicate the first 10 minutes of any programme you watch to your health?

Next steps

> Get your free guide on Living an active life

> Sign up to Activ8, our 8-week plan for a healthier you

About World Cancer Research Fund

We’re a UK charity looking at how diet, weight and physical activity affect the risk of developing and surviving cancer.