How physically active are you at present? Let's face it if we want to reach a state of "better" health, being as physically active as possible is a very big factor. However, it's true that not everyone enjoys slogging away at the gym! Thankfully though, exercise can be fun if we just choose our activities well.
Regardless of our age, exercising has been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits, including:
- Reduced stress levels
- More energy
- Improved sleep
- Improvements in mental health
- Lower blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels
- Strengthened muscles and bones
- Weight loss and maintenance
- Reduced risk of developing heart disease and stroke
Therefore, it's pretty clear how important being more active is. No matter what our current state of fitness or health, any increase in activity levels will most certainly benefit overall health and well being long-term.
Being physically active can involve anything from swimming, to joining an exercise class, to playing sports with friends. The good news is that it also includes everyday activities like walking, gardening and climbing the stairs.
How intense should this activity be?
Activity should be of moderately intense, lasting for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. You'll know if the intensity of your exercise is adequate if your breathing is slightly harder than normal and you feel slightly warmer. However, remember you should still be able to talk if necessary.
If you've been inactive for some time, you may want to start with shorter 10 minute bursts, three times each day, gradually building up to an appropriate level. Longer term, your goal should be 30-60 minutes most days of the week.
It is important that you choose a variety of activities which you enjoy, as this will help to keep you interested. Here are a few additional thoughts:
- Maybe you could bike to work, rather than driving the car or taking the bus?
- If you do drive to work, what about parking at the far end of the parking lot and walking the rest?
- Try not to e-mail colleagues in the same office. Instead, get up and talk to them personally.
- Take the stairs rather than taking the elevator or escalator
- Walk around the park at lunchtime, rather than eating at your desk
- Take the dog for a brisk walk after dinner each evening
- Walk to the corner shop, or your friend's house, instead of driving
- Get friends and family out of the house for a game of football or Frisbee
Do you plan ahead?
A very important part of being more physically active is planning ahead. Most of us lead busy lives and exercise is usually one of the first things to be dropped when they get too hectic. However, a little planning ahead can help you overcome this problem.
If you enjoy the morning time, would you consider exercising when you wake up? This is usually a good time to avoid interruptions, which often distract us later in the day. Or perhaps you can exercise immediately after work? If at all possible, try to workout at the same time each day, as most people find a constant time helps with their ‘stick ability.'