How to Get Moving
Exercise seems to be like marmite people either love it or hate it!
Whichever camp you fall into, the benefits of physical activity cannot be disputed. According to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence physical activity helps prevent and manage coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, mental health problems, musculoskeletal conditions, and some cancers. They also note it have a positive effect on wellbeing, mood, sense of achievement, relaxation, and release from daily stress. Exercise also improves sleep and helps maintain a healthy weight.
The UK Chief Medical Officer has laid out guidance on the recommend amount of physical activity for every age group.
For adults they recommend:
· Minimising sedentary time
· 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75minutes of vigorous activity per week
· 2 strength building sessions
· 2 sessions to improve balance for older adults
They also define the intensity of exercise using ‘the talk test.’ In moderate intensity activities you should be able to talk but not be able to sing. In vigorous activities you should not be able to hold a conversation.
These goals can seem difficult to reach but there is good news. All amounts of exercise are good for you however small and in fact, the benefits of physical activity are greater when you start from a lower level. In other words, it is worth increasing your activity levels by any amount and those who currently do the least will benefit the most.
The New Year is a time when we make resolutions and often increasing our physical activity is one of these. In last week’s article on New Year Your Way we discussed the importance of making resolutions that resonate with us rather than things we think we should do; or worse, things we think other people think we should do! In clinical practice we often talk to patients about physical activity for all the reason discussed above but how we do this is the key.
Let us examine our relationship with exercise.
The words “exercise” and “movement” are closely related and yet some of us feel more inclined to move than to exercise. Perhaps this is because the purpose of exercise is for health and yet movement is connected to much wider benefits. With movement there is the joy of self-expression and communication. A large percentage of communication is made via body language and movement. There is the profound comfort that is achieved on the first yawn and stretch on getting out of bed in the morning. Many of us enjoy “cracking “our joints, tapping our feet or drumming our fingers. It feels pleasant to be passively stretched out during massage, and when in pain, we rub, extend or shake the affected body part.
When we walk with wider purpose than exercise alone, we may focus less on the effort of walking. There is certainly some movement that feels good to everybody so why can it be difficult to exercise?
Exploring what physical activity means to an individual is vital. For some exercise means running and gym circuits and conjures up visions of sweat and pain. This can be an intimidating view and offers an easy out for many. “I can’t do that” is a common reason for inactivity.
We would encourage you to examine your definition of exercise. All movement is, of course, activity. Everything we do that causes an increased heart rate burns calories, and all tasks or actions that use our muscles help to condition those muscles and increase the rate at which we burn calories, our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR.)
The NHS has helpfully published examples of moderate, vigorous, and very vigorous activities:
riding a bike
pushing a lawn mower
jogging or running
riding a bike fast or on hills
walking up the stairs
sports, like football, rugby, netball and hockey
Examples of very vigorous activities:
lifting heavy weights
sprinting up hills
running up stairs
Other activities that we feel should be considered are gardening, household chores, DIY, decorating, shopping, trampolining, and playing with the kids such as Tig and blind man’s bluff.
Counting up all the activities you do in a week makes the recommended levels much more achievable.
In our article on creating a ‘Five-Point Rescue Plan' we highlight that the key to successfully changing the situation or your behaviour is small sustainable modifications that reflect what you currently do and fit with your values and experience.
Consider carefully what exercise means to you. How active are you currently? what do you like to do? What do you dislike? Where is there joy in movement for you? As we have explained above, all exercise counts and makes a difference. Therefore the trick is to weave activities into your day. Things that you enjoy doing and have time for, making the changes sustainable.
Looking even more deeply into the psyche it can be helpful to understand why we chose not to be active. We know it is good for us and will make us feel better about ourselves both directly through the endorphin release and indirectly over time by helping maintain a healthy weight but we often sabotage our good intentions. This might be because negative core beliefs dictate that we don’t deserve to feel healthy or have a fit body. These beliefs can also encourage an attachment to our fatigue and the other reasons we give for not being active.
Ask yourself – what do I have to lose by becoming more physically active?
This week we invite you to create a plan for increasing your physical activity.
In previous articles we have discussed How to Reframe Core Beliefs. To do this we need to change our internal narrative. Affirming we are worthy of health and vitality will help us achieve just that.
Spend time each day to affirm that you are full of energy and health, that physical activity nourishes you. This can be part of your morning ritual or as you go to bed, part of your gratitude for the day.
Choose from the activities listed above or choose your own. Really think about what resonates with you, what you enjoy doing as this is less likely to feel like a chore.
Choose your time. Looking at your daily rituals; where can you add in parcels of activity? A good way to weave new activities into your day is to ‘Habit Stack.’ Pick something you do every single day without fail and do your new activity after it. Before you know it the physical activity is a healthy habit.
If you cannot find any time for exercise You need to get inventive and find small sustainable was to increase your physical activity.
While you brush your teeth for 2 minutes – do a series of squats. No one will see you! Your heart rate will be elevated and your quads muscles will strengthen which over time will increase your BMR. In addition it is good for conditioning your knees and will help if you have any knee pain.
As your exercise tolerance increases you can increase the number of squats. To keep the activity fresh mix in other strength exercises such as lunges.
On the commute to work pull in your stomach muscles and hold your abs for as long as you can. Make this a game, time yourself and see if you can beat your personal best. Pelvic floor exercises are great here as well.
When you are watching TV you can do the same thing with your abs and add in some arm exercises. Try punches, lifting weights (aka tins of beans) above your head, biceps curls and triceps dips.
Good cardio exercises on the spot are star jumps and jump squats (jump up and when you land sink into a squat.)
If you already do lots of activity then vary it with a combination of cardio, strength and balance exercise.
 Physical activity: brief advice for adults in primary care (nice.org.uk)  Physical activity guidelines: infographics - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)  Exercise - NHS (www.nhs.uk)  S.J. Scott (2014) Habit Stacking:97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. Oldtown Publishing LLC.