Walking isn’t sufficient exercise to keep fit and strong, say health officials.
In a report, Public Health England says too many people are neglecting to do exercises that will lead to strong muscles and bones.
It said people are not aware of the need to look after their overall strength, and advised strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
Nordic walking, dance and tennis should be taken up by adults to help strengthen muscles and bones, it said.
Exercises for balance and strength are linked with significant health benefits and a reduced risk of falling in older people, according to a review of evidence commissioned by Public Health England and the Centre for Ageing Better.
Adults should give equal weighting to aerobic and strengthening activities to improve well-being as they age and reduce the burden on health and social care services, experts said.
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Poor muscle strength increases the risk of a fall by 76% in older people, while those who have already had a fall are three times more likely to do so again, the review found.
Strengthening and balance exercises may reduce this risk, PHE said, and are also associated with improved mood, sleeping patterns, increased energy levels and lower chance of an early death in adults.
Ball games, racquet sports, dance, resistance training and nordic walking – which involves propelling the body forward using specially designed poles – are among the activities found to have the most benefit for muscle and bone strengthening.
Current UK guidance states adults should participate in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and undertake muscle strengthening activities on two or more days.
However, only one in three men and one in four women achieve the recommended targets for strengthening and aerobic activities, according to PHE.
Jess Kuehne, senior engagement manager at charity Centre for Ageing Better, said: “It’s clear that we need to give equal weighting to activities that boost muscle and bone strength and improve balance rather than simply focusing on aerobic exercise.
“There is significant potential to make savings to health and social care services if we do more to promote muscle strengthening and balance activities and recognise their role in helping to keep people healthy and independent for longer, particularly as they age.”
Dr Zoe Williams, physical activity champion for PHE, said: “Being active isn’t just about getting your heart pumping, although this is a good way to begin.
“Strength and balance activities work in conjunction with cardio activities like brisk walking, and come with a range of health benefits throughout your life – it’s never too late to start.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, head of diet, obesity and physical activity at PHE, said: “On average we’re all living longer and this mixture of physical activities will help us stay well in our youth and remain independent as we age.”