The gloomy atmosphere caused by the global political and social state of affairs has brought a droop to our shoulders and a crease to our brows. What can we do to lift our spirits? A nice long walk perhaps? Relaxing yoga stretches, a peppy dance move, a refreshing bike ride? We feel better already!

In addition to being an energising mood booster, physical activity offers a host of physiological and mental benefits. We also have strong evidence that physical activity can play a preventative role in both breast and colon cancer (Lee et al., 2012). The Lancet reported that the global burden of physical inactivity amounts to a staggering $53·8 billion. We are still facing the challenge of increasing activity levels, and attaining the vision of a more active Scotland.

The Chief Medical Officers guidelines recommend that in addition to more physical activity, it’s important that we also sit less. (See below)


This has triggered a burst of novel ideas to break up sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity. At SPARC, a recent physical activity conference in Scotland, we took active stretching breaks. Classroom lectures now incorporate more movement; and at the work place, we see more standing desks. On that note, if you’ve ever wondered “what can I do while the kettle boils?”, here are three simple exercises.

Exercise 1 is a variation of the “triangle pose”, Exercise 2 stretches the quadriceps, and also works on balance, and Exercise 3 stretches the shoulders and hamstrings. The ‘kettle exercises’ are demonstrated by Divya Sivaramakrishnan and Tessa Strain who are PhD students at the University of Edinburgh and seem to spend a lot of time round that kettle!. Divya is also a qualified yoga teacher.

We are going to leave you with another suggestion that is certain to increase physical activity levels – take your dog for a walk [even if you do not have one!].

Divya Sivaramakrishnan and Nanette Mutrie

Physical Activity for Health Research Centre [PAHRC], University of Edinburgh


Andersen, Lars Bo, Mota, Jorge, & Di Pietro, Loretta. (2016). Update on the global pandemic of physical inactivity. The Lancet, 388(10051), 1255-1256. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30960-6

Lee, I. M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Lancet Physical Activity Series Working, Group. (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet, 380(9838), 219-229. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61031-9