As we know, there are a huge number of benefits to getting regular exercise:
- it improves energy levels
- it reduces symptoms of depression on a par with medication and talking therapies
- it helps us live longer (for a whole variety of reasons)
However, for many people actually getting regular exercise is a problem.
Amongst all of the other demands on our time, it can be hard to find the 30 minutes five times a week we’re encouraged to take. And for those of us who are feeling out of shape or lacking in confidence, the idea of going out and exercising can be utterly daunting. (Where do you go? Will you feel stupid when you get there? Do you have to wear Lycra?)
If the above sounds familiar and you like the idea of exercising regularly but find that you don’t actually do it, you might find this encouraging…
A study published earlier this year found that the total amount of exercise is what counts, regardless of how long each period of exercise lasts. So if you walk briskly for 150 minutes each week (even if you only do it for a minute or two at a time), the effect on your health is the same as if you do five 30-minute exercise classes. What matters is that you are doing some kind of moderate / vigorous activity regularly.
I used to have a rather all or nothing approach to exercise and would think it was only worth doing if I had the time, energy and self-confidence to go out and take part in a class or go to the gym. As a result, I passed up lots of opportunities to be just a little bit active a lot more often. And at times when I was feeling bad about myself, I would find myself doing less and less exercise (which had the result of making me more tired, more depressed and more reluctant to do anything at all).
These days I’m a big fan of doing very small things, so I’m delighted to find out that – in the case of physical activity, at least – there’s good reason to believe that even very small steps are worth taking. Particularly if they get you just a bit out of breath….
So I’m curious…what are your favourite (most amusing / unusual) ways of keeping active?
If you’re not as active as you’d like to be, what is it that gets in the way?
I was fortunate to meet and talk with with Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE, the founder of Parkrun, at this year’s Do Lectures. As a former non-runner who discovered the joy of Parkrun – a place where people cheer you on simply for showing up, even if you walk slowly round the course and don’t run at all – I was really touched by the story of why and how it all came about. If you’re interested, you might like to watch his talk….