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Health and wellbeing: be active to keep well this winter

Get tips on how to increase your physical activity and join the HSE Operation Transformation leaders on the OT virtual 5K walk.

Published: 10 February 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped many of our usual activities in their tracks but it has helped many of us to start a healthy walking habit.

And as the leaders on RTÉ’s Operation Transformation, which includes the HSE’s own Hazel Hartigan and Sharon Gaffney, gear up to tackle the famed OT 5k Walk, you have the opportunity to join them virtually and check your own progress.

Due to social distancing constraints, this year’s event is taking place virtually. The annual ‘Love Life Love Walking’ event isn’t being held this year so Health and Wellbeing are instead encouraging HSE staff to sign up for the OT 5k, and encourage a friend or colleague to do the same.

Sign up for the OT 5K  

 Tips to keep yourself active

Regular physical activity, such as walking, helps boost your mood and your immune system.  It is also a positive way to manage stress and get better sleep. Most of us are not active enough every day, so use these top tips to help you be more active at work and at home.

  • Anything that gets you moving is good for you. Everyday activity, such as walking or cycling to the shops or work, even housework, can count just as much as joining an exercise class. Do it at a pace that makes your heart beat faster, makes you breathe deeper and feel warmer but you are still be able to talk.
  • Walk to work - If you are working from home, rather than going straight from kitchen to your workspace, walk out your front door. Walk in one direction for 10 minutes, turn and walk back. Do the same at lunchtime. Or if you enjoy cycling, why not bike to work?
  • Take every opportunity to move - Take the stairs instead of the lift. Park further away from the shop.  Get off the bus or LUAS one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. If your job is desk-based, stand up and move around at least once every hour
  • Build a time for physical activity into your daily routine. We all have busy lives, juggling work, family and other commitments. Try to be active on most days of the week by setting aside a specific time each day. On the night shift, try to take walks or do stretches on your breaks.  
  • Take advantage of the great outdoors with family. Take a trip to your local park or beach, or plan a walk in one of the many Coillte forests or Waterways Ireland multi-activity recreational trails along our lakes, rivers and canals. Find information on where to get walking here.
  • Choose an activity you enjoy - There are lots of different sports and activities you can try. Find an activity you enjoy and make it more fun by listening to music while you do it. While gyms and classes are closed many have moved online so why not check out an online yoga or exercise class with friends or family.
  • Set realistic goals - Many people who are new to an activity or exercise try to do too much, too soon and become discouraged. Most beginners can build up to running 5km in eight to nine weeks or to cycling 50km in 12 to 18 weeks. Check out the app store on your phone and download on of the many free couch to 5k or cycling apps. Don’t forget to start your activity slowly, build up gradually and cool down at the end of your routine.
  • To support the Keep Well campaign, Sport Ireland have produced a series of exercise at home videos.
  • Local Sports Partnerships have information on the range of community sports and activities in your area. As part of the Keep Well campaign many are running online programmes, find out more about the programmes available.
  • Find more tips on getting fit here.

Get support to stay motivated

While the opportunity to take part in group or team activities is limited at the moment, there are still many ways to get support to keep you motivated.

A WhatsApp group with like-minded friends or work colleagues is a good way to stay connected, cheer on and support each other. 

Use the free Get Ireland Walking app to keep a record of your walking every day. By tracking how long or how far you walk, you'll see proof of your improvements and receive tips and encouragements.

Steps to Health 2021 takes place in April – almost 7,000 people across 900+ teams in all areas of health service took part in 2020.  The majority say they will do it again, why not join them.


National Physical Activity Guidelines for Ireland

  • Physical activity is for everyone and any level of activity is better for your health than none, and more is better than some
  • All adults should aim for at least 30 minutes moderate activity on five days a week (or 150 minutes a week)
  • You can count shorter bouts of activity, these should last at least 10 minutes
  • Add activities that increase muscular strength and flexibility 2-3 times a week