Today’s blog post is a gentle reminder that being physically active is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle. However, before you start thinking of gyms, lycra and other ‘fitness-fanatic’ related terms, let’s point out a few benefits of physical activity.
Physical activity can:
- Reduce your risk of chronic (life-long) health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
- Help maintain a healthy weight as well as prevent being overweight.
- Improve your sleep pattern and help combat stress.
- Keep you mentally alert and improve your mood.
So how can you maximise these benefits of being physically active, especially given that the statistics tell us that we are more sedentary than ever before? Most people equate being physically active with going to the gym or taking part in some form of structured activity. But did you know that you can be just as active by not using either of these approaches? Both the gym and structured exercise programmes are only one option and really are a matter of preference. People who regularly use the gym enjoy the structure, accountability and social aspects it provides but bear in mind that having gym membership and actually using the gym are two very distinct things!
The bottom-line is: find what works for you.
If gyms or structured activity programmes are not for you for whatever reason, then active living can provide similar benefits. The key is finding an activity you enjoy and consciously incorporating it into your everyday life or routine. Walking is one of the easiest ways of increasing your activity levels and its free. Park your car further away from your destination or get off public transport a stop earlier. Other everyday activities such as gardening, vigorous housework and dancing also count. Even carrying shopping regularly can improve your muscle strength.
What to aim for? Adults between the ages of 18 and 65 should exercise at a moderate physical intensity for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, or vigorous intensity endurance exercise for at least 20 minutes three days a week. The exercise programme should involve all the major muscle groups, in order to increase muscle strength and endurance. At least 30mins of activity that gets your heart rate up, makes you feel warm and slightly sweaty on at least 5 days of the week. If you can get more in that’s great; you can even break it into smaller bouts (e.g. three 10min slots) and accumulate your activity over the day. Start small and build up gradually. Consistency is what’s important, so get moving and keep moving!
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