What is free, easy to take, makes you feel good and can reduce your risk of major illnesses?
I love this quote I found on the NHS website by Dr Nick Cavill a health promotion consultant “If exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented”. If we think about this the majority of us take all sorts of medication recommended by doctors, even “self-prescribed” medication (supplements, cold/flu/headache pills, etc) so why don’t we exercise?!
Whatever your age, there's strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and even happier life. There is significant research which demonstrates people who do regular activity have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression and dementia, by boosting brain power (specifically the ability to carry out tasks that require attention, organization and planning).
The target for good health and to help with weight control is to do at least 30 minutes of 'moderate-intensity' activity on at least 5 days of the week. 'Moderate-intensity' means being active enough so that your breathing and heart rate is faster than normal and you're feeling warm. Aim to be breathless but not speechless - you should still be able to talk while exercising! If not, slow down, you may be overdoing it.
You don't have to do your 30 minutes all in one go either; two lots of 15 minutes, or even three lots of 10 minute bursts of activity may be just as effective as 30 minutes of continuous activity. If you are only just starting to exercise once you get a bit fitter gradually build this up to 60 minutes if you can. Aim to be as active as possible as often as you can; any amount of physical activity is better than none at all and if you're already active your health will benefit from doing more.
There are two types of exercise:
Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise includes anything that works your heart and lungs, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling.
Resistance (weight) training includes the use of weights and machines (or your own body weight) and is good for toning muscles and building up strength.
It's good to include both types for overall fitness, strength and health.
The most important thing when it comes to exercise is to do something that you ENJOY. I love exercising but please don’t ask me to run for an hour on the treadmill or lift weights in a gym looking at myself in the mirror!
Of course choosing the type of exercise also depends on what results you want to achieve; here I am just going to focus on ways to add or increase physical activity into your day to day lifestyle, I will not be focusing on specific exercise to achieve particular results.
Why not see if a friend wants to take up a new hobby or sport with you? If you have somebody else to go with then you are more likely to keep it up (and not let the other person down!). You could also involve the whole family; make a point of doing an outdoor activity every weekend.
There a range of things to do:
· Join a local gym and take part in fitness classes. Most gyms offer a wide range of high intense cardio and lower intense (e.g. yoga) classes. Chose the right one for you and as well as great exercise you may well meet likeminded people.
· Buy a pair of trainers and take up running; challenge yourself to do a target distance run (please be aware if you are inexperienced it is advisable to seek guidance off personal trainers/ qualified instructors). If you are a little more experience there are great 5K, 10K, ½ marathon running plans and tips on the NHS website and the BUPA website.
· Involve a friend and challenge each other to tennis and/or squash matches – a great way to work up a sweat, burn calories and build up some healthy competition.
· Take up swimming – most Councils have a leisure centre with reduced fees for locals. Swimming is a great “all over” body workout and after why not reward yourself with a relaxing session in the Jacuzzi or sauna?
· Take up dancing. Dancing is incredibly fun and is probably the form of exercise where we don’t actually realise we are exercising. There are numerous styles to choose from so why not try a few different classes and decide which one you prefer. It is also an activity which you can involve friends, your partner and your children in and it will also give you the opportunity to show off your new skills the next time you’re out.
· Cycling is also a great sport (one of my favourites). You can go further than running and it’s a great family activity but also a great means of exploring new areas. Like anything you can make it as intense as you like.
If you struggle to fit in exercise into your daily routine every day, then you can make the following simple DAILY swaps to help increase your physical activity levels:
· ALWAYS take the STAIRS and not the lift/elevator/escalator
· Make a rule that if a car journey is going to be 5 minutes or less, to walk it
· Park your car further away at work or at the shops or get off 1 or 2 bus stops early
· During the weekend go for a walk in the park.
· During your lunch hour try and not spend it all at your desk, get up and go for a walk.
· If you’re meeting friends for a “coffee catch-up” change this into a “walking catch-up” – you’ll get the chit-chat benefits as well as exercise benefits.
· Take up gardening; this actually burns more calories than you think and you’ll also benefit from being outdoors.
A common excuse for not exercising is lack of time. We are all creatures of habit and routine. When you take up exercise try and go at a similar time the same days of the week; after a while it will become part of your routine just like working 9 – 5, brushing your teeth, meeting our friends at the pub and you won’t be able to do without it J
30 minutes of exercise is only 2% or your day – no excuses!
So what are you going to do this weekend? You AREN'T going to sit you are going TO GET UP and EXERCISE and GET FIT.