Often the thought of exercising can be overwhelming because it can mean change. It can be helpful to reframe your thoughts from focussing on how difficult exercise can be, to focussing on the many positive benefits of feeling fitter.
If you are looking for an excuse not to exercise, you will always find it; “I don’t have time,” “the membership is too expensive,” “I’d rather spend time with my family”. Of course, these are all valid points, however, despite any obstacles, it is possible to have an active lifestyle. You may just have to be creative!
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 outdoor exercise, protects us against depression. There’s nothing like medium-impact exercise and 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.
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—your body will love you for it as it loves to move!
Five easy calls to level up your fitness:
- Set goals: Start small and work your way up to achieving an ultimately healthier lifestyle. Everything begins with a thought—where focus goes energy flows! Consciously think of what you would like to achieve from stepping up your fitness program. Write it down and set a realistic, achievable timeframe. Hold yourself accountable.
- Walk as often as you can: to the shops, to work, to a friend’s house. Cardio increases your fitness level immensely and is the most efficient way of getting your body into fat-burning mode. If you are not comfortable with jogging or running, then focus on going for regular walks. If it is possible, walk to buy milk or bread, or some other staple that you need regularly, as this will be enforced regular exercise and you will be surprised how quickly your exercise time can add up.
- Spend time with your family outside: Get out to the park or the beach whenever you can. Not only will the exercise make you feel fitter—immersing yourself in nature and taking in more oxygen—generally lowers your stress hormone levels and boosts your “feel good” hormones such as serotonin and endorphins. Take a ball and run around or go for a swim. Wash the dog outside, wash the windows or wash the car, together as a family. This way you can trick yourself into thinking you’re not exercising, but instead just hanging out with the important people in your life.
- Make enforced exercise routine: Avoid sitting down for more than 20 minutes at a time. If you are watching TV or at your desk; get up to go to the bathroom or have a conversation with someone in another room. 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 email. 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 usually email. Drink more, water and herbal tea are good healthy choices. The more you drink the more you will be hydrated and the more you’ll have to get up frequently to go to the bathroom—take a long way there!
- Catch public transport: the opportunity to walk to and from the bus stop, train station, for example is gold!
Taking your fitness to the next level is an incredible opportunity to try something you have never done before such as play a team sport, take a Zumba class or mow the lawn. Make the most of the changes and focus on activities that you love to do, while increasing your fitness and energy levels.
When committing to your new routine be realistic—commit to consistency. For example: if you are time-poor, keep it local. You are more likely to stick with it if it fits into your schedule, without any dramatic changes. Be patient and give yourself time to experience the benefits that exercise will bring. It can be at least 8 weeks before you feel any tangible results, however, stay with the program. You are making long term lifestyle changes that at not a fad—but instead new ways of being on a foundation of healthy habits—that have the potential to underpin lifelong health and happiness.