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Can shopping be good for your health?

Public Health England, in partnership with the Centre for Better Ageing, recently launched an evidence review into muscle and bone strengthening activities.

In the UK the Chief Medical Officers guidelines on physical activity for adults and older adults recommends regular muscle and bone strengthening activity at least two days a week, this is inline with the WHO recommendations.

The evidence review highlighted that across the adult life course muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities (MBSMA) have benefits:

  • Between 18 to 24 years MBSMA maximise bone and muscle gains, laying down some of the foundations for a healthy adult life.

  • Between 40 to 50 years MBSMA maintain strength and slow the natural decline, helping to defer some of the common signs and impacts of ageing.
  • Over-65 years MBSMA preserve strength and maintain independence for longer, as well as reducing the risk of falls.

This is especially important for working age adults because musculoskeletal issues remain one of the largest causes of sickness absence, accounting for 23% of all sickness absence days and affecting 1 in 8 working adults.

The review also found evidence that there were specific benefits at various life transition points where our body can be going through significant change and there can be a tendency to becoming more sedentary, these included pregnancy, menopause, developing a chronic disease, as well as life events such as retirement, becoming a carer or following hospitalisation.


Image source: Pexels

The review also stresses the importance of MBSMA activities like Thai Chi and Yoga for older adults who are at risk of falls, and the evidence that supervised resistance exercise can be beneficial for the very frail elderly – but also highlighted that physical activity providers need to do more to create environments that welcome and engage older adults, particularly those with health issues and concerns about being the oldest person in the gym.

The report also called on healthcare professionals to do more to promote physical activity and particularly MBSMA across the life course. We know that too few doctors are aware of the recommended levels of physical activity, and even fewer routinely give advice on activity in the way that they do for smoking cessation, yet the impact for patients could be immense.

So what are muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities (MBSMA)?

In essence there are three groups of activities:

  1. High intensity resistance based activity – i.e. where you are lifting weights or pulling against a resistance band type activity but are involving major muscle groups.
  2. Impact activity – i.e. where you are running, jumping, or skipping to have an impact on bones and joints
  3. Balance activity – i.e. where the focus is on maintaining balance during movement, e.g. yoga or thai chi

The aim of these types of activities is to increase bone and muscle density, mass and strength and improve balance.

So where does shopping fit into this?

Often when we real out the list of types of MBSMA activities there is an effort to include at least one activity that can be easily integrated into every day life and hence carrying moderately heavy shopping bags.

Carrying shopping bags might not sound like a form of exercise, and that’s the joy of it, if you think about the average shopping bag full of groceries it’s pretty heavy. A reusable plastic shopping bag can hold up to 28-38lbs / 12-17kg . So if you’re carrying a couple of bags full of shopping in each arm you can easily be lifting 20-30kg on each side.

So that covers the resistance based activity, what about the other two aspects?

Well, shopping invariably involves walking, and although walking isn’t a particularly high form of impact activity it does involve a level of impact on muscles, bones and joints  and has been shown to have a positive impact, and if you are moving briskly (>3 mph) then it is also a great form of aerobic activity.

Finally balance, anyone who’s been lugging the weekly family shop home will know that there is a lot of balancing involved in carrying heavy shopping bags….not least to alleviate the handle burn on your palms!!!

There are also some fun exercises you can do when you get home and unpack, such as using cans of soup to tone the muscles in your upper arms!

So the good news is that carrying heavy shopping can be good for your health, but the devil is in the detail – heavy shopping bags – so I guess that just means more excuses to shop!





1 thought on “Can shopping be good for your health?

  1. […] Physical activity, particularly muscle and bone strengthening activities like running and carrying heavy shopping bags can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and the risk of […]


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