Moving makes you feel good!

In this module we describe why it is important for us humans to be physically active. After that you get scientifically based tips on how you can become more physically active in your day to day life.

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physical activity

Studying at the university can sometimes be stressful and challenging. Spending time on physical activity on a regular basis can reduce stress, decrease the risk of being tired and exhausted, and improve cognitive function, which makes it easier for you to manage your studies! It doesn't need to be long sessions of physical activity, each activity, regardless of length and intensity, is better than no activity. Choose an activity that you enjoy and dare to try different activities. There are many ways to be active - dancing, walking, swimming, weight training, walking upstairs, biking. Finding what is best for you is the path to more physical activity.


The importance of physical activity

Introduction: physical activity

Physical activity is defined as any body movement that increases energy consumption beyond what we consume when we rest (Mattson et al. 2021). Physical activity can be carried out at home, at work, during transportation, in your free time or as organised workouts or sports. When the physical activity is carried out with moderate or higher intensity it has the most beneficial effect on your health (Jansson et al. 2021). Moderate intensity noticeably increases your heart rate and breathing, in other words it doesn't need to involve becoming sweaty (Mattsson et al. 2021).

Physical activity can give positive effects in the short term, such as decreased anxiety, improved sleep and cognitive function as well as a reduced blood pressure and blood sugar levels. If you are able to engage in regular physical activity it will also improve sleep, health-related life quality, cognitive function (such as attentiveness and concentration), improved cardio fitness and strength while it will also reduce anxiety and depression in the long run (Jansson et al. 2021). In addition, it will reduce the likelihood that you become sick with a number of the most common widespread diseases. The physiological mechanisms behind, for example, the effect on stress is related to a decrease in the secretion of the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol (Henriksson & Sundberg 2021; Jonsdottir & Lindegård Andersson, 2021).

The recommended dose of physical activity per week (Jansson et al. 2021) to promote health is:

  • Physical activity at moderate intensity (increase in heart rate and breathing while still being able to talk) for 150-300 minutes, or
  • Physical activity at high intensity (significant increase in heart rate and breathing, difficult to talk) for 75-150 minutes, or a combination of moderate and high intensity, and
  • Strength training (8-10 exercises, 8-12 repetitions) twice

These recommendations are good to have as a goal but any movement counts and a little is better than nothing at all. See if you can introduce some form of physical activity into your day to day life on a regular basis and evaluate how it makes you feel! The benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks, however you should allow your body to get used to the activity to avoid injuries. You should therefore start carefully and gradually increase the intensity. In order for your body to respond to the exercise it is also important to allow it sufficient time to recover between sessions.

Physical activity can also lead to sustainable behaviours for the individual's health as well the health of our planet (Nigg & Nigg, 2021; WHO, 2019). By choosing activities that have a small impact on the environment, are culturally and economically accepted and accessible, you are helping to contribute to the majority of the 17 global sustainable development goals (WHO, 2019).


Getting started on physical activity

Tips: How you can get started on physical activity

If you want to become more physically active you can use these steps to help yourself get started.

Advantages and disadvantages. Think about advantages of becoming more physically active as well as disadvantages that come with being inactive. What are the pros and cons of the two options for you? Feel free to discuss this with a friend or family member.

What motivates you? Reflect on your motivation - what motivates you to be physically active or to exercise? Can you increase your motivation by getting support from others, new knowledge about what to do or the feeling of making your own decisions when it comes to your exercise?

What interests you and what do you need to exercise? Feel free to visit the exercise locations that you are interested in. What do you need in terms of clothing or equipment, how do you get there and is the exercise suitable for all seasons?

Set a particular time for your activity. A strategy that has proved to be successful when you get started on physical activity is to set a specific time goal for your exercise, for example by scheduling a brisk walk or run for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday, immediately after your studies. Remember to set a lower goal in the beginning so that you really feel that you can do it. Success breeds success!

Monitor your actions. A lot of people find that self-monitoring with the use of a step-counter, activity watch, apps or a fitness journal are good ways to help get started. It is recommended that you make the monitoring into a fun experience, for example by rewarding yourself after a certain number of sessions.

Get help! A workout buddy can also be a good support, or having a friend encourage you and ask how it's going.


Tips: How can you maintain physical activity over time

If you have been more physically active before but have gotten out of the habit, these steps may help you maintain the activity over time.

Why did you quit before? Think about what made you stop before (if you have). Was it because of weather, financial issues, motivation, lack of company, monotony, injury/pain or something similar? Learn from your previous experiences and create a plan for how these obstacles can be overcome or avoided. Maybe you need some variation in your activities, come up with different solutions for different seasons, use active transportation (for example walk, run or bike where you are going) instead of a workout when you don't have that much time, or acquire more knowledge about the body and the risk of injury. Feel free to visit Health Promotion at KI to get help and tips.

Choose something fun! Try to find joyful activities that you yourself choose. Feel free to learn about different forms of exercise.

Find the right context. Some people prefer to exercise with like-minded individuals in terms of age, gender, possible disabilities, or illness. Be brave enough to ask for specific exercise groups or look at the variety of exercises available at different health and fitness companies or patient associations.


Movement, active break and ergonomics

Tips: Videos that can help you to be physically active

Here are links to four videos on physical exercise and what to keep in mind in terms of your work position when you study from home. The videos are included in KI’s Health Promotion's efforts to inspire, support and promote activity and a healthy lifestyle for employees and students at KI. More information about Health Promotions can be found at

Aktive break (10 min)

Anywhere movement

Ergonomics at home

Work out (10 min)


Tips: Find contexts for physical activity

Here are more examples of contexts for physical activity:

KI Sports Committee – IdrU

Stockholms studenters if – SSIF (Stockholm's students sport association) (information in Swedish)

References: Physical activity

Henriksson J, Sundberg CJ. Biologiska effekter av fysisk aktivitet. Rekommendationer om fysisk aktivitet för vuxna. I Yrkesföreningar för Fysisk Aktivitet (YFA). Dohrn IM, Jansson E, Börjesson M, Hagstromer M, red. Fysisk aktivitet i sjukdomsprevention och sjukdomsbehandling, FYSS 2021. Stockholm: Läkartidningens Förlag AB; 2021. ISBN: 978-91-985098-2-3.

Jansson E, Wennberg P, Andersson S, Ekelund U, Hagströmer M. I FYSS 2021, se ovan.

Jonsdottir I-B, Lindegård Andersson A. Stress och fysisk aktivitet.  I FYSS 2021, se ovan.

Mattsson M, Lundberg T, Jansson E, Hagströmer M. Fysisk aktivitet – begrepp och principer. I FYSS 2021, se ovan.

Nigg C, Nigg CR. It’s more than climate change and active transport—physical activity’s role in sustainable behavior. Translational behavioural Medicine. 2021;4:945-53.

World Health Organisation (WHO). Physical activity: fact sheet on Sustainable Development Goals (‎SDGs)‎: health targets.  WHO. Regional Office for Europe. 2019.

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