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What is exercise?

Training to improve fitness and mood, reduce body fat, emphasise parts of the body, or build muscle.

It's also known as Cardio.

What does exercise do?

Why might I want to exercise?

You may consider exercise to improve physical fitness but also to improve mental health and fitness. You may also be interested in changing body shape by developing muscle.

It is now widely recognised that there is good evidence that regular exercise has beneficial effects on mental health 1. (You can read more about this from the NHS).

How much should I exercise?

The Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Wales and NI have recommended that adults (19-64 years old) should perform either:

  • 150 minutes of “moderate” intensity activity each week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more
  • 75 minutes of “vigorous” intensity activity spread across the week or combinations of moderate and vigorous intensity activity

One way to do this is brisk walking or cycling for 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week. For example, a 15 minute walk to work or education in the morning and a 15 minute walk back each weekday.

Accessing gendered activities

Many sport and fitness activities can be segregated based on gender, which can be intimidating to many people. However, the situation is improving!

Many swimming pools and gyms now have cubicle based changing rooms and showers which may be more comfortable for you. You may want to research your local fitness facilities to find out if there are any with these kinds of facilities.

Swimming can be particularly difficult for many people as it can involve very tight clothing that can make the shape of your chest or crotch visible. If you find your chest shape distresses you, most pools will be happy for you to wear a rash vest, which can help to hide your chest shape or conceal a binder. Many binders can be worn while swimming - check with your binder manufacturer to be sure. If your crotch causes you distress, you may be able to find “swim skirt” swimwear that hides your crotch shape, or wear loose “board shorts” style swimming trunks.

In some areas of the country there are organisations specifically for expanding access to sport and fitness for people regardless of their gender history. Some run regular sessions at swimming pools where transgender, nonbinary or gender variant people can attend as a group. You can find a map with LGBT+ friendly sports clubs and exercise clubs on the Pride Sports website - many of these clubs are welcoming of trans people, and you can also use their database to search for trans-only clubs.

You may also want to consider other ways of getting physical exercise that may be less gendered, for example:

  • skateboarding
  • rock climbing
  • martial arts
  • circus skills
  • freerunning
  • rollerblading
  • watersports

Muscle building

You may also want to use exercise as part of a strategy to change your body shape by increasing muscle mass in certain areas of your body (shoulders, arms, chest, thighs, or buttocks). Doing this requires exercising specific muscle groups.

You will find that which sex hormones you have in your body will significantly affect your upper body strength and how easy it is for you to increase muscle mass. Testosterone therapy increases the ability to increase muscle mass, while reduction of testosterone can cause significant loss of strength.

Remember that you can have a considerable amount of muscle without it being clearly visible if you have high body fat. One way of making muscles more clearly defined is dieting.

Personal training

A personal trainer can help you to safely and effectively reach your goals for your body by providing support and recommending activities. Some personal trainers run services specifically catering to transgender clients, and you can find more information about these services:

UK organisations

  1. Logo of TAGS* Swimming

    TAGS* Swimming

    We are starting a swimming group in London for trans and gender non-conforming peeps, first in Lewisham and in other areas if need and interest exists.


  2. Logo of Trans & Non-binary Football Supporters Group

    Trans & Non-binary Football Supporters Group

    Transgender and Non-binary fans campaigning against Transphobia in the world of football.


  3. Logo of Trans Active

    Trans Active

    Trans Active aims to help the trans community in and around Sheffield socialise and improve their fitness and mental wellbeing through sport in a safe, relaxed environment.

    Website Instagram Facebook 

  4. Logo of Trans Active Glasgow

    Trans Active Glasgow

    Trans Active is sociable multi-sport group for trans, N-B and GNC people aged 18+ in Glasgow. Get in touch for info and opportunities!

    Organised by @LEAPsports

    Website Instagram Facebook Twitter 

  5. Logo of Trans Can Sport

    Trans Can Sport

    Providing safe and friendly fitness and leisure activities for Trans folk in Brighton & Hove.

    Website Instagram Facebook Twitter 

  6. Logo of Trans Fitness

    Trans Fitness

    Online directory run by transgender fit-pro to help Trans/Non-Binary people find sports/activities that are welcoming and encourage ALL to be fitter/healthier.

    Website Instagram Twitter 

  7. Logo of Trans Girls Can

    Trans Girls Can

    Celebrating trans women who embrace health and fitness #TransGirlsCan Inspired by awesome #ThisGirlCan campaign. All tweets @sophiegreen @megs_key.

    Website Instagram Facebook Twitter 

There is also advice for sports and fitness clubs and venues about how to support diverse genders available on this website.

Where can I learn more?

You can read more about the benefits of regular exercise and get advice on what you can do next on the NHS website.

There is also specific information for people with disabilities on the NHS website.


  1. 1.
    Stathopoulou, Georgia, Powers, Mark B, Berry, Angela C, Smits, Jasper AJ and Otto, Michael W (2006) “Exercise interventions for mental health: a quantitative and qualitative review.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13(2), pp. 179–193. Link

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