Physical activity to keep you healthy

No matter how old you are, introducing regular physical activity into your daily life can improve your overall health, ease stress, and improve sleep!

The NHS recommends adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Exercising just once or twice a week can reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Speak to your GP first if you have not exercised for some time, or if you have medical conditions or concerns. Make sure your activity and its intensity are appropriate for your fitness.

Adults should aim to:

  • do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity spread evenly over 4 to 5 days a week, or every day

Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer.  One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk but not sing.

Examples of moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a bike, dancing, pushing a lawn mower, and hiking.

You should also:

  • reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity
  • do strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) at least 2 days a week

To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you need to rest before repeating the activity.  Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include:

  • carrying heavy shopping bags
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • tai chi
  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your own body weight such as push-ups and sit ups
  • heavy gardening
  • lifting and carrying children
  • wheeling a wheelchair

If you are new to exercising, the NHS choices website has a digital fitness studio with some helpful instructor-led videos, covering aerobics, strength and resistance, pilates, and yoga.

The NHS website also has a BMI (body mass index) calculator which can help you find out if you're a healthy weight.  You can also use it to check your child's BMI.

Don't forget to always consult your GP or healthcare professional before beginning any exercise or diet programme.

There are lots of activities in the borough to help you get moving more,  have a look on the JoyApp website to search for activities near you.

Physical activity to keep you healthy

Street Tag

You could also participate in Street Tag which allows residents to record their distance walked, ran or cycled by scanning virtual tags with their smartphone at various locations. 

Work as a team or on your own to cover the miles and miles across the borough walking to school and work or going to the park as a family, gaining points along the way, climbing up the leaderboard to win prizes.

You can also receive bonus points by borrowing a book from one of the boroughs libraries, or by visiting installations during different arts festivals throughout the year.

Play Street Tag


By choosing to cycle some of your local journeys to school, work, or the shops, you can easily integrate gentle exercise into your daily routine.

The council offers free cycling training to anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough.

Cycling in the borough

Young at Heart - physical activity and social sessions for people age 60+


Young at Heart

Our Young at Heart programme is for Barking and Dagenham residents over the age of 60 who want to meet new people, take part in activities and improve their mental and physical well-being.

Sessions are available at a variety of times in community settings and include:

  • Zumba gold
  • bingo
  • line dancing
  • tai chi
  • arts and craft
  • yoga


Barking Learning Centre

Chadwell Heath Community Centre

Park Centre

May and Bakers Sports Club

Valence Library

Wantz Community Centre

For more information see the programme:

Sign up for our programme

For £57 per year, residents can access the leisure centres Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm and all weekend.

Health walks

Walking is a great first step for people of all ages who do little or no exercise and who want to be more physically active. It is low cost and doesn’t require any special clothes or equipment. 

Regular walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. Additionally, it strengthens your bones and muscles, helps you to burn calories and can help to reduce stress.

Walking in a group is a great way to start walking, make new friends and to stay motivated. Our programmes will be designed to help you to gradually walk faster and to go further over time. We will help you to keep track of your progress with a walking journal; recording the date, time, and distance to help you get the maximum health benefits.

Walking Programme 2023 (PDF, 169KB)