Exercise & Fitness

Staying healthy means staying active. Whatever your current level of fitness, there are certain things you can do to feel better and fitter – here are some suggestions:

According to the Department of Health, you should be getting a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least five times a week.

This might sound like a big undertaking, but it needn't be. Day-to-day tasks like walking, household chores and gardening can increase heart rate, breathing rate and body warmth and can soon add up. No one expects a beginner to become a fitness fanatic overnight, so start at a pace that suits you and seek medical advice before starting a regime if you're unsure about what's suitable.

What are the benefits of regular exercise?

  • Improves your physical and mental health: it is regarded by health professionals as one of the most important factors in maintaining a good quality of life
  • Promotes sleep: can help you to fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep1
  • Improves your bone health: any exercise that applies force to bone i.e. running, dancing and weight lifting, helps to build and maintain bone density. This fights the bone loss that naturally occurs as we age2
  • Fortifies against colds and flu: people who take regular exercise are less likely to come down with a cold4
  • May help prevent cancer: research suggests that people who are physically active can halve their bowel cancer risk5
  • Helps to maintain a healthy heart: your heart is a muscle and, like any muscle, if you work it harder, it'll get stronger. Regular exercise helps to boost ‘good' cholesterol while reducing LDL – and can also lower blood pressure1
  • Helps you manage your weight: as a nation, we eat less than we did ten years ago, but we weigh more due to our level of daily activity decreasing. Exercise helps you build muscle and increase your metabolism1
  • Lifts your mood: exercise stimulates the release of feel-good hormones6

Tips on staying more active

  • Start the day with some gentle stretches
  • Walk briskly for ten minutes at least three times a day
  • Find an activity you enjoy such as salsa classes, climbing, hiking or a game of football with friends
  • Put more ‘oomph' into daily tasks like housework and gardening. Take the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus two stops early and walk
  • Exercise with a friend – it's easier to stay motivated and a lot more fun

Track your progress

It is now easier than ever to track your fitness. There are all kinds of phone apps out there to help you reach your fitness goals and track your progress. If jogging, walking, hiking or cycling is your thing use the Runkeeper app to track your pace, time, distance and estimated calories lost. You can even share your progress with friends and follow a workout schedule tailored to you. Many apps are free, so why not take a look and see if there's one out there to suit you?

Keeping motivated

To get the best results, treat your plans to exercise as an appointment that you can't miss for the sake of your health, like you would going to the doctors' or dentist. Add them to your calendar and arrange all other non-urgent plans around them.

On days when you're struggling to find the motivation to work out focus on the benefits. Remember that exercise releases feel-good hormones so you'll likely find your mood is boosted afterwards.  

References:

1. Shelley S. Tworoger, PhD1,2; Yutaka Yasui, PhD1; et. al. "Effects of a year-long moderate-Intensity exercise and a stretching intervention on sleep quality in postmenopausal women." Sleep. 2003. Vol. 26, Issue 7, pages 830-836.
2.The British Nutrition Foundation
4. Moderate-intensity exercise reduces the incidence of colds in postmenopausal women," by Ulrich et al, The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 119/Issue 11.
5. Lee, I.M., R.S. Paffenbarger, Jr., and C. Hsieh, Physical activity and risk of developing colorectal cancer among college alumni. J Natl Cancer Inst, 1991. 83(18): p. 1324-9.
6. Hassmen, P, Koivula, N, & Uutela A. (2000). Physical exercise and psychological well-being: a population study in Finland. Prev Med, 30 (1), 17-25