The biggest opportunity we have for living a long, healthy, active life is… being active! We know that if we don’t want to gain weight, our energy intake—what we eat—should be in line with our level of physical activity. We’ve learned that exercise, particularly exercise outdoors, protects us against depression. There’s nothing like medium-impact exercise and a resistance or weight-training program, for maintaining bone density. A program of regular walking can cut your risk of heart disease and restore you after a heart attack.
Regular exercise is protective against cancer and dementia. The list of exercise positives goes on and on, but the latest twist is the revelation that adults who sit for more than 11 hours a day have a 40% increased risk of dying in the next three years, compared with those who sit for fewer than four hours a day. (Researched by Hidde van der Ploeg, University of Sydney)
It’s a wake-up call for all of us who spend a lot of time at our desks, behind the wheel, on the computer and on the sofa at the end of the day. Thankfully there’s an easy solution: our scheduled daily exercise is vital, but we also need to take every opportunity to move throughout the day. The idea is to stand up and walk around every half hour or so, to get your biggest muscles, in your buttocks and thighs, pumping. Here are eight easy calls to action:
- Drink more: water and tea are good, low-kilojoule choices. The more you drink, the more you’ll have to get up frequently to go to the bathroom—take the long way there.
- Sprinkle upstanding activities: throughout your day’s to-do list. If you’re at home, put on a load of washing, change the sheets, water the garden, get the mail. If you’re at work, make a call on your mobile while walking the corridors, walk up and down a flight of stairs, go to a distant office to talk to someone you’d normally email.
- Wash the dog: Wash the windows. Wash the car.
- Make it a habit to always walk: to buy milk (or bread, or some other staple that you need regularly).
- Eat out: but walk there and back.
- Catch public transport: the opportunity to walk to and from the bus stop, train station, etc. is gold!
- Cook your meals: as it involves steps, arm movements, bending and stretching, more than driving to buy takeaway, or waiting for the microwave to ping!
- Do a stretch routine: such as practicing gentle yoga for 10 to 20 minutes daily.