Following on from last week's blog, about how and why exercise or physical activity is a miracle cure, today we are looking at how active we should be and what being that active actually looks and feel like…
Government recommendations to reap maximum benefits (keeping your heart healthy, reducing your risk of serious illness and strengthening muscles and bones) suggest that you should be moderately active for 150 minutes a week. This was previously commonly referred to as 5 x 30 mins, but now agree that being active enough for more than 10 minute bouts at a time all counts towards your 150 minutes a week.
Mention the word exercise to some and they will be ecstatic – they go stir crazy if they can’t don their trainers and pound the pavements.
For others, the thought of moving in any direction makes their stomach turn!
For me personally, I used to get mum to write me notes to get out of PE as a child. Funny then that I ended up studying sport and exercise science at university and becoming a PE teacher for over 10 years!
Don’t get me wrong, given the choice I would probably still rather snuggle up on the sofa and not move for hours on end rather than get active! But I have learned how to make being active more of a part of my everyday life and… dare I say it, I actually even enjoy it now!
So here’s some of the things I’ve realised about physical activity…
1. Everybody else is not more active than me!
My husband and best friend are the “go stir crazy” types without exercise. This simply makes me feel completely inadequate when I compare myself to them and I wonder what the point is when I will never be able to keep up.
The truth is that the latest government research states that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men are officially classed as inactive – that is, doing less than 30 minutes of activity a week!!
This just proves to me that our western culture makes it very difficult for us to be active.
It’s no wonder we suffer from ‘hyper sitting disorder’ when the working day revolves around the computer, or ‘walking deficiency syndrome’ when we have so little time the convenience of the car for the school run or get to and from the office become all too easy and normal. Added to that, all of our labour saving devices such as washing machines, dishwashers cooking appliances do exactly what they are meant to – save us labouring or working!
And although this means we don’t have to be too hard on ourselves when we find it hard to be active, it shouldn’t mean we simply settle or accept this.
To combat these lack of opportunities to be inactive we have to be intentional about including physical activity into as many other parts of our day as possible.
We can do this by not worrying about what anyone else is or isn’t doing and starting small. By simply focusing consistently on one step at a time we can create healthy habits of being active. Getting off a stop earlier or parking the car at the furthest point from the supermarket door, suggesting walking work meetings or catching up with friends whenever possible, and taking the lift instead of the stairs will all help!
So next time you find yourself sat in traffic, waiting in line at the supermarket or standing in a lift, why not think about how you could be being more active in that time instead?
2. Exercise isn’t always about sport!
If you can remember being forced to wear the smelly under or oversized PE kit from the lost property box, dropping the ball whenever it was thrust at you at high speed – and never quite getting the ball over or in the net, then your enthusiasm for sport is probably, unsurprisingly – not exactly exuberant!
But getting active doesn’t have to be all about sport - it can include anything that gets you moving moderately;
where your heart rate is increased and you become slightly out of breath – usually leaving you with just enough breath to still hold a conversation but not quite have able to have a sing-a-long.
Think about gardening, vacuum cleaning or simply going for a walk. You might have to pick up the pace a little more to make sure your heart rate is increasing, and if you haven’t been active for some time, then starting to include 10 minute of vacuum cleaning before taking a break will be a real workout.
Why not set a timer and don’t stop until it beeps to get you started!! Do this a few times a week and all that activity will be adding up, plus you’ll have spotless carpets!!
3. Being active is so much easier in community.
Don’t get me wrong, one of the benefits of sport is that you get added health and wellbeing benefits from social interactions. But there are still plenty of other opportunities to be active in community without joining the local netball team, especially when you are just starting out and growing in confidence!
One of the best things you do might be to find a friend and motivate each other!
It is much easier to drag yourself off the sofa when you’ve arranged to meet a friend on the corner to go for a walk and you know they will be waiting for you!
You could also ask a friend to join a Pilates class and benefit from strengthening activities or join a dance group with your spouse to also benefit from quality time together. Research even suggests that walking in a green space or by water is proven to be even more beneficial for our whole person health and wellbeing.
There are many ways to be more active once you’ve decided that it’s important enough and these could include; more active leisure, active transport, everyday activities, organised activities and family activities (see infographic above for ideas on these!)
The government also have many resources to help including the change for life website for kids and families and the couch to 5k app is great!
Personally for me, I’ve learned that my body is the only thing I’ve been given that is unique to me, and if I want to live life to the full I need to choose to not go with the flow and instead be intentional about looking after it.
There are probably going to be people who take being active to the extreme, which doesn’t always improve a whole person health.
However, creating a habit of moving more is one of the best ways I’ve learned to both include physical activity and actually begin to enjoy it, as well as intentionally keeping it part of my everyday lifestyle.
If you’ve found a way that helps you be more active we'd love to hear about it! – please share it by emailing here.
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