Why get active?
Regular physical activity is good for us. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of activity five days a week helps prevent obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and certain cancers. For example, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, like a brisk walk, can reduce your risk of a heart attack by up to 50%. And you do not have to do it all in one go! It is just as effective to exercise a few times a day in 10, 15 or 20-minute sessions. You can’t however, do less than 10 minutes at a time as it will not have the same effect.
Doing exercise goes beyond weight loss/ weight maintenance. Research has shown that exercise also:
- Tones and firms muscles
- Increases feeling of well being
- Decreases stress
- Builds up self confidence
- Increases energy levels
- Increases rate at which energy is burnt
- Decreases risk of heart attack
- Helps decrease blood pressure
- Decrease risk of diabetes
- Helps keep blood sugars within normal limits
- Strengthens bones and joints
- Improves posture and balance
- Improves sleep
- May be associated with changes in eating patterns
A general guideline is to aim for 30mins of moderate intensity activity at least 5 days a week. Moderate intensity means that your heartbeat and your breathing are slightly faster than normal. For example if you are walking and are able to sing or chat easily to a friend, you are walking too slow, if you out of breath and need to stop to catch your breath, you walking too fast – its somewhere in between, like walking if you’re late for an appointment!
Getting active can be quite daunting. You may feel like you don’t have enough time to fit it in, you may feel embarrassed or don’t know where to start because you have never been ‘sporty’. Like any behaviour change, it’s important to think through your reasons for wanting to be more active, and plan ahead for obstacles that might get in the way of your goal to be fitter. Maybe some of these examples apply to you:
Think about the benefits for YOU of being more active i.e.
- Feel better about myself
- Feel less stressed
- Lose weight
Now think about the downside of being more active. If you’re not leading an active life now, think about what’s stopping you i.e.
- I don’t have the time
- It’s too much effort
- I’m too embarrassed
Make it a habit
When you make the activity a regular and enjoyable part of your day, soon it will become a way of life, for good.
Here are a few examples of how to include activity into your everyday life:
- Always take the stairs and avoid lifts and escalators – if you have to go up a few floors, only take the lift half way and walk the rest, there’s always a compromise!
- Park the car a little further away from work or shops.
- When watching the TV, try to do something active like jogging or skipping on one spot, doing stretches and leg extensions.
- Go out and walk, cycle or even night socialising on your feet. Anything active! (If you are socialising watch out for any extra drinking of alcohol!)
- Have a “walking break” instead of coffee break at work. This will get your body moving during the day, wake you up and help with concentration.
- If possible, walk or cycle to work once or twice a week, or if that’s not practical, try driving most of the way, park somewhere safe and walk or cycle the rest.
- Doing activities with the children and grandchildren is great fun and it sets them up for a lifetime of being on the move too!
- Walk your dog – owning a dog can add ten years to your life (but only if you actually get active with it).
- Do some gardening – cut the grass and do some weeding.
- Wash your car inside and out, instead of taking it to the car wash
Exercising with other people is also enjoyable and getting more active can be part of your social life. You may also be more likely to stick to your plan if you’re doing it with someone else.
Here are a few examples of various sports which may interest you:
- Join a Park Run in your area. You can register on their website parkrun.co.za It’s free and every Saturday at 8am
- Dancing – ballroom, line dancing, belly dancing, zumba dancing, salsa dancing, adult ballet dancing
- Exercise or aerobic classes, pilates or yoga classes
- Walking around your block or complex; in the park or along the beach
A fitness device such as a FitBit or a pedometer will measure the amount of activity you do through the day/ count the number of steps you take. Many people have found these devices keep them motivated to walk more each day. See how many steps you normally do in a day then aim to slowly increase it. Gradually build it up so that you are doing more and more steps each week. Work towards a goal of 10,000 steps a day.