So much is said about the importance of being “active” as part of a healthy lifestyle but it’s often difficult to know exactly what that means. The Government’s recommendation is for adults to do 150 minutes of exercise per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. If you do less than 30 mins per week you are officially “inactive”.
Just what “exercise” consists of is a little fuzzy – words like “moderate” and “vigorous” appear so we take this to mean that any activity where your heart rate is raised and your breathing quickens for a reasonable amount of time (over 10 mins) qualifies.
In our view, many “inactive” people just don’t have time to do the exercise – you try telling a busy commuter or mum with two young children that they should be doing three hours of vigorous activity a week and eyes will roll. Many other people just hate the idea of exercise because they perceive you have to go and get sweaty in a gym.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The key is to work out how you can incorporate more activity into your daily life…note that this does NOT mean spend a couple of hours doing a sport or going to the gym.
Here are some simple ways to start:
Never stay sitting in one go for longer than an hour: Whether you are in front of the TV or at a desk, get up, stretch and walk around as much as possible for five minutes. If you are computer monitor-bound, then keep looking at the screen but do some slow squats, raising your hands as you come up. It may look strange, but it will be doing you the world of good.
Whenever you can, walk, and walk briskly:Recent research has shown that constant walking is an excellent way to get healthy in the long term. So next time you are going to take the car, or you’re on the bus or train, work out how you can substitute that journey, or part of that journey, with walking.
Never just “stand around”: If you are standing (or even worse, sitting) around, then make the most of your time…you could be waiting for the kids to come out of school or waiting for the train. Whatever it is, DO SOMETHING! Even if it’s only doing posture exercises (stand tall, shoulders back, head high and tummy in) for 30 second periods, make the most of the time. Better still judge how far you can walk in the time and then walk there and back as fast as you can.
Stretch as often as possible:Keeping your joints supple and ligaments/muscles stretched is vital, particularly as you grow older. Try and get in the habit of doing simple leg and back stretches before you go to bed and after any sort of activity.
Devise a short exercise routine:Don’t make it too long – five to ten minutes is a good start. Combine some squats with box press ups, tummy tighteners and stepping (on a stair or firm platform) and try and repeat it a couple of times per day. Start off slowly and build up the number of repetitions and their intensity. The great thing is that you’ll start noticing an improvement really quickly as the body reacts to the work. You will be able to do this anywhere and at anytime and you don’t need any special equipment.
Clean your teeth for two minutes, twice a day: What do you do when you clean your teeth? Most people will say “I just stand in front of the bathroom mirror”! Well, next time, just bend your knees slightly and, keeping your back straight, do a gentle squat. That’ll be four minutes of squats per day. Fantastic! Soon you will be able to lean against the wall in a sitting position which is a great exercise for your legs.
Never take the lift:Always use the stairs and try and go up as quickly as possible…even if you are several floors up. Likewise, never stand on an escalator…always walk. There can never really be an excuse for not doing these things. If you literally have no time, try and plan it for the future, or use some time later in the day to actually walk up and down. Rarely though, does someone in a lift go up faster than someone walking!
Identify something you do regularly, like opening the fridge or going into the bathroom: Whenever you do this during the day, stop and pull your tummy in with your shoulders back for a slow count of twenty. Like anything you do repetitively, your body will start to do it automatically and this is a great step forward. Making your tummy, or core, muscles stronger will take a lot of pressure off the back and can often go a long way to relieving back pain, as well as helping you obtain a firmer stomach!
Make sure you do any physical chore as quickly as you can:By doing this, not only do you gain more benefit, but the chores are over quicker, freeing up more time!
Finally, use an activity to counter the feelings of being hungry or ward off a regular snack time:Rather than reach for a biscuit or open a packet of crisps, go for a walk or do one of the other activities mentioned above. By taking your mind off the hunger pang or disrupting the routine, you will quickly learn to avoid those trouble spots all together.