Keeping active

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Recommendations

Keeping active is an essential part of living well. This includes limiting time spent sitting down. How does your level of activity compare to the government recommendations below?

Infants under five years old (not walking)

Plenty of floor-based and water-based play

Children under five years old and walking

Three hours of activity spread across the day, such as walking, skipping, running, cycling, chasing games and climbing frame play

Children and young people 5-18 years old

  • At least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day
    • Moderate activity increases your heart and breathing rates but you can still hold a conversation
    • Running, swimming and football can be vigorous activities
  • Vigorous activities, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, at least three days a week
  • Muscles and bones are strengthened by activities that involve using body weight or working against a resistance, such as swinging on playground equipment, hopping, skipping, gymnastics and tennis 

Adults 19-64 years old

  • Two and a half hours of moderate activity a week in chunks of 10 minutes of more
  • Alternatively, one and a quarter hours of vigorous activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity
  • Activities that strengthen muscles at least two days a week, such as using weights and carrying groceries

Older adults

  • Daily activity adding up to at least two and a half hours of moderate activity a week in chunks of 10 minutes or more
  • If you are already managing activity at a moderate level, you could consider doing one and a quarter hours of vigorous activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity
  • Activities that strengthen muscles at least two days a week, such as dancing, carrying groceries and chair aerobics
  • Activities that improve balance and coordination at least two days a week, such as tai chi and yoga

Getting active

If you are thinking about getting active, here are some things to consider:

  • What do you enjoy?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Could you get active with friends and family?
  • Set a small goal to get you started, and plan a reward for reaching it
  • Think about how you could monitor your activity, such as a diary or a pedometer

Plant power

Vegan diets can provide all the nutrients you need to fuel an active lifestyle. The aim of your activity will influence your food choices. For instance, if you want to increase your level of activity whilst maintaining your weight, you will need more energy in your diet. You can boost your calories by increasing some servings of food and/or eating extra snacks. In contrast, if you want to lose weight and maintain your weight loss, you will need to focus on making permanent dietary changes that reduce calories whilst maintaining a balanced and varied diet.

Athletic vegans

If you are an athletic vegan striving for optimum performance, good nutrition and effective training will help you to get there. As a starting point, look at our general advice about plant-based nutrition. Know that there are many vegans making amazing leaps forward in sports and athletics - here are just a few of them.

Fuel

If your daily routine is demanding, include energy-dense options in your diet, such as cereal, sandwiches, pasta, homemade flapjacks and muffins, smoothies, rich sauces, avocado, dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Eat regularly throughout the day to maximise your calorie intake.

Building blocks

Athletic vegans need extra protein to maintain and develop their muscles. Endurance athletes may need around 50% extra protein, and strength athletes may need up to double the amount recommended for the general population. It is best to obtain extra protein from food rather than protein powders, because of the beneficial fibre, vitamins and minerals that come with it.

Timing

If you’ve only got about an hour before exercise, stick to something containing plenty of carbohydrate, a little fat and a moderate amount of protein, such as porridge made with fortified soya milk.

People who train more than once a day should pay particular attention to how they refuel between sessions. Aim to eat within an hour of finishing your first session. An option rich in carbohydrate and protein would be ideal. Here are some ideas:

  • Porridge made with fortified soya milk and topped with dried fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Fruit smoothie made with fortified soya milk, oats, nut butter and seeds
  • Houmous sandwich and fruit

Hydration

Drinking plenty of fluid is also important. Water is the best option unless you are going to be training for more than an hour. In this situation, you may benefit from a drink containing carbohydrate and electrolytes. This will help you to refuel and replenish electrolytes lost in sweat. You can make your own sports drink using this recipe:

800ml water + 200ml full-sugar squash + pinch of salt.

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