Physical activity. Don’t just watch it – do it!

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Sunday, 24 July 2011.
Tagged: energy, exercise, healthy lifestyle, weight loss, wellness

Physical activity. Don’t just watch it – do it!

Exercise. We know it's good for us. We know we need to do it regularly. We know we'll feel good after we've done it. But still we have to force ourselves to get up and get moving. Here's how I motivate myself to keep active and how I fit in things that keep me moving instead of being sedentary.

What exercise can do for you

In case your brain shuts down when I say the word ‘exercise’, here’s a reminder of how much benefit you can get from even a little bit of exercise. It:

  • burns off fat so helps you lose weight
  • stops that gradual weight creep over the years so you maintain a healthy weight
  • raises the 'good' HDL-cholesterol which prevents heart disease
  • helps prevent stroke and high blood pressure
  • reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and some cancers
  • keeps your bones strong (if it's weight bearing like walking)
  • clears the mind and leaves you feeling good
  • improves your sleep

If you sit in front of a computer screen all day (like me) or have your head buried in books for study, you’ll find exercise will clear your mind and improve your mood. It’s impossible to feel bad when you’re out walking! In fact walking is often recommended in the treatment of mild depression just for this reason.

Find an activity that fits your lifestyle

The trick is to find some form of exercise that you like and that you can fit into your life a couple of times a week. I aim to walk whenever I can, swim in the summer, along with my usual Pilates and yoga for flexibility. We like to bushwalk and I belong to an inexpensive gym which is great when the weather turns bad.

Aim for 30 minutes of more vigorous exercise a couple of times a week – vigorous enough that you are a little out of breath but not exhausted.

If you haven’t exercised in a quite a while then head to your doctor for a check up before you get stuck into vigorous exercise. And remember the old saying – you don’t have to take it seriously, just regularly!

No time? Then use your daily activities to give you the exercise you need.

Can’t get the closest spot in the car park? I used to try and park as close as possible. Now I like to view the extra walk as something healthy that can invigorate me.

We need to get physical activity into our daily routine.It’s called “incidental exercise” as it’s the exercise that happens without thinking while we’re busy doing our job, those chores around the house or hobbies. Other ideas:

  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator
  • Walk to work or the shops
  • Stretch as you wait for your emails to download
  • If you have to wait somewhere, stand instead of sitting
  • Mow the lawn yourself or clean the house instead of paying someone else to do it
  • Hire an exercise bike or treadmill and pedal away while you watch TV.

Work out with a friend

Doing a work out at the gym or going for a walk with a friend is a much more enjoyable way to exercise. You are committed to meeting up so you won’t cancel. And you get to keep in touch while keeping fit. Find a friend or neighbour and make them your ‘walking buddy’. Just one walk or swim a week with your buddy can make such a difference – it takes away the boring aspect of exercising on your own. What’s more it can add that edge of friendly competition which is great motivator.

Enlist your canine pal

Archie on leadYour dog is a great incentive to get outdoors and walk. I have Archie the cattle dog as the perfect reminder device. He knows when it's time for his daily walk time slot of 5pm. If you’re thinking of skipping the walk, that begging look will have you reaching for the leash asap. Another reason to love your pet (apart from the warm welcome when you arrive home!).

Ref: Kushnew RF, Blatner DJ, Jewell DE, Rudloff K. The PPET Study: people and pets exercising together. Obesity, 2006;14:1762-1770.