We all know we should be “getting active” if we want to stay healthy, lose weight, protect our hearts, improve mental health etc but what does it actually mean and where do you start?
Being more active can help to improve your quality of life and some of the changes include
- Having more energy
- Feeling less stressed, anxious, and more relaxed
- Increased health and weight
- Better sleep
- Sense of wellbeing and achievement
- Better concentration
- Improved self – confidence
- Lower risk of certain diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure to name a few
The guidelines for adults per week are to do either:
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and 2 strength exercises that work all the major muscles (legs, hip, back, abs, chest, shoulders and arms) at least 2 days a week
- 75 mins of vigorous aerobic activity and 2 strength exercises
- a mix of moderate and vigorous activity (as a general rule 1 min of vigorous activity equates to 2 mins of moderate activity) and 2 strength exercises
So what is moderate aerobic activity? Moderate activity will lift your heart rate and make you breathe faster. You’ll feel warm but you will still be able to talk. Some examples include walking fast, aqua aerobics, cycling on a flat road, mowing the lawn, gardening, gentle games of team sports (where you’re not moving all the time) e.g. basketball, doubles tennis,
Vigorous activity will make you breathless, your heart rate will lift even more and you’ll be unable to talk much more than a few words. Examples include fast jogging or running, swimming fast, cycling on hills, skipping, more intense sports such as football or singles tennis, aerobics, martial arts.
Muscle strengthening exercise can involve sets of 8 – 12 repetitions of a specific exercise e.g. squats, so could involve lifting weights either in a gym or in a class like bodypump, but there are many other ways to strengthen muscles too. Other examples include using resistance bands, body weight exercises (e.g. pushups), heavy gardening (with lots of lifting or shoveling), moving boxes, carrying the hoover up and down the stairs etc. There are some exercises which are both vigorous aerobic exercises and strength exercises e.g. circuit training, football, rugby, some aerobic classes (legs bums and tums etc).
So that’s what you need to do but how do you do it?
Here are some top tips to help you get active:
#1 Start small
Break it down into manageable chunks of time – try ten mins to start with and build it up from there. So that could be a ten min walk, a ten min workout at home, a bike ride, some gardening.
#2 Set realistic goals
Set yourself a short term goal that will push you but that is achievable e.g. walking 20 mins a day, or taking part in an aqua aerobics class twice a week. And then set yourself a larger long term goal – like taking part in a charity event – there are loads of walking, running and cycling events you can get involved in and they make a great focus to get more active.
#3 Make it part of your daily life and Use everyday activities
If you want it to work it will have to start as something you do easily each day – so plan it in for a time that fits in with your everyday schedule. Diarise it in and then you’re more likely to do it e.g. walking to collect the children from school, or doing your home workout at a specific time each day
Look out for opportunities to increase your activity doing the things you do everyday. You can easily up your daily activity by just making small switches e.g. walk up the stairs instead of taking the escalator or lift, walk to the shops instead of driving, do a bodyweight workout while watching TV etc
#4 Get social
You don’t have to do it alone – involve friends and family to make it more fun and sociable e.g. try meeting up with friends for a walk, take the children swimming, see if you and a friend can try an exercise class together, make a deal or challenge with a friend to hit your targets each week, or just join a group exercise class where you’ll be with lots of other like minded people.
#5 Variety is the spice of life
Try to vary what activities you do – if you enjoy walking, dancing, swimming then mix it up – walk some days, go for a swim others, maybe try a dance class on another. The more varied it is the less likely you’ll get bored with it.
#6 Enjoy it!
Choose things you actually enjoy doing. There’s little point setting yourself a goal to go to the gym 5 days a week if you really hate the gym! If you love walking – walk, if you love cycling – cycle! If you’re not sure then try as much as you can and then you’ll find out what you like doing.
#7 Leave reminders for yourself
Give yourself little reminders and kicks by popping post-it notes up on the fridge, or on the kettle, put your gym kit or walking shoes somewhere obvious, hang your bike helmet on the back of the door. All the little reminders will help to prompt you to stick to your plan.
#8 Remember the positives
When you’re not feeling the love for being active think about all the positive things – about the people you’ve met, about walking in the sunshine, about how much fitter you’re feeling, about feeling more confident, fitting in to your clothes etc.
#9 Measure your progress
Find a way to measure your progress – make a chart and tick off the days that you do something active, or get a pedometer or activity monitor to see how you’re doing each day, time yourself walking a certain route and see how much faster you can do it the following week etc.
#10 Reward yourself
When you stick to your plan and reach your goals reward yourself. Think about what you can reward yourself with – maybe a new pair of trainers, or a massage, or maybe a sit down with a good book for 20 mins etc If you’re dong things with friends then make the rewards something social too – maybe an afternoon out doing something you love, or after a big event how about a spa afternoon?
So there you go – a few tips to start to get active! Most importantly don’t stop – if you miss a day, so what, just start again tomorrow – your health is worth the effort right?
See our article on heart health over here : DARLING MAGAZINE NORTH SURREY
This article is written by Dr Nancy Priston. Please remember, she isn’t a medical Dr, the information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this site.