Physical Activity – what’s the big deal?

 We all know that physical activity is important but the majority of us don’t understand  exactly 18083975_swhy. Does the thought of going to a gym leave you in a cold sweat? Does finding the time to exercise seem unachievable? Where do you start and how much should you aim to do? Read on for EVIDENCE BASED recommendations and information.

So what’s the big deal? Being active can benefit so many health conditions and make us feel better, here are a few:

  • Reduce risk of life threatening diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes
  • Help weight management and reduces fat around organs
  • Improve diabetes control and improves insulin action
  • Improve self esteem and confidence
  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve bone structure
  • Help maintain ability to perform everyday tasks with ease
  • Keep your joints subtle and increases stamina
  • Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety

Your heart is a muscle and by doing physical activity, we strengthen our muscles therefore, we strengthen our heart.

There are two different types of physical activity:

  1. Aerobic (cardiovascular) – this trains the heart to become fitter therefore reducing blood pressure and burns calories. Examples are walking, jogging, swimming, dancing and cycling.
  2. Resistance training – this builds and strengthens your muscles. Muscle burns more calories than fat therefore by having more muscle in the body you burn more calories. Examples are weight lifting and using elastic training bands.

The great thing is, for several hours after you’ve exercised, your muscles continue to use glucose -you’re still burning calories although you’re not exercising!

How much should you do? For adults aged 19-64 years, it’s recommended that:

  1. You should be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to 150 minutes – or around 30 min 5 days a week. The duration need to be in bouts of 10 min or more therefore, if it’s more manageable you could do 3 x 10min sessions a day.
  2. Alternatively, comparable benefits can be achieved through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week.
  3. Use resistance training to improve muscle strength at least twice a week.
  4. Minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (siting) for extended periods – anything is better than nothing.

What’s your intensity?

  • Moderate intensity activities will cause you to get warmer, breathe harder and your heart will beat faster but you should still be able to hold a conversation. Examples are brisk walking and cycling.
  • Vigorous activity will cause you to get warmer, breathe much harder and your heart to beat rapidly making it more difficult to carry on a conversation. Examples include running, swimming and football.
  • Muscle strengthening exercise involve using weights or working against resistance. Examples include weights and carrying heavy loads.

Sitting too much is a health hazard:

It’s becoming more apparent that sedentary behaviour (siting) plays a major part of developing health problems. We live in a society that develops labour-saving devices for nearly every purpose – it certainly isn’t helping our health. As a population, most of us spend a large portion of the day sitting down. Even if people can’t exercise it is a PRIORITY TO DECREASE SEDENTRY BEHAVIOUR. Sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Death
  • Depression and mental wellbeing

Sedentary behaviour may include:

  • Watching TV, using a computer or playing video games
  • Having an office/desk based job
  • Transport – sitting on the bus, train or car
  • Sitting whilst socialising

What can we do to reduce sedentary behaviour?

  1. Take regular breaks at work, make a drink, walk up a flight of stairs or talk to a colleague11989471_s
  2. Use a TV / computer / games quota and remove these items from bedrooms
  3. Parents to be a good role model
  4. Instead of watching TV after dinner go for a family walk or kick a ball together in the garden
  5. Get a pedometer and start tracking your steps – progress up to 10,000 steps a day
  6. Have a walk with your colleagues during lunchtime
  7. Make it a family tradition to go for a Sunday walk
  8. Try a new activity – cycling, walking clubs, swimming
  9. Dance to a CD or get an exercise DVD to jump around

Personally, I think that the key to exercising is doing something that you enjoy. When I started exercising I tried so many different classes, gyms, clubs until I found the one that I fell in love with – kickboxing. I never thought that I would enjoy a martial art, but saw a poster that offered your first session free, so I thought I’d give it a go! Nothing to lose! I really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and being in a group environment – other people really encourage you. I also found it useful to have the goals of achieving belts – I’m a goal driven person therefore found the gym and other classes repetitive. You also learn so much through martial arts, I enjoyed learning about the background and how kickboxing developed. I personally didn’t enter competitions but enjoyed supporting members of my club that did!

I would advise people who do not currently exercise to start slowly and build up gradually. Individual physical and mental capabilities should be considered when interpreting the guidelines. If you have any medical conditions, it’s worth having a chat with your G.P. before starting exercise. They can inform you if there is an ‘exercise on prescription scheme’ available in your area. This is a scheme in which you’re G.P. or dietitian can refer you for guidance on exercise via a medically trained personal trainer. The schemes are subsidised by the council therefore the exercise you chose to do – swimming, gym or a class is subsidised, the scheme in my local area is 12 weeks.

It’s never too late to start feeling great, so what are you waiting for – get active! Sit less and move more!