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  • Resilient Practice

How to Get Moving

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

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[1]. 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[2].

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[3]:

Moderate activities:

  • brisk walking

  • water aerobics

  • riding a bike

  • dancing

  • doubles tennis

  • pushing a lawn mower

  • hiking

  • rollerblading

Vigorous activities:

  • jogging or running

  • swimming fast

  • riding a bike fast or on hills

  • walking up the stairs

  • sports, like football, rugby, netball and hockey

  • skipping rope

  • aerobics

  • gymnastics

  • martial arts

Examples of very vigorous activities:

  • lifting heavy weights

  • circuit training

  • sprinting up hills

  • interval running

  • running up stairs

  • spinning classes

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.

The key to successfully changing 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.

‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual’ from Sheldon Press is now available with over 60 tools and techniques to help improve your mental wellbeing, reduce burnout and allow you to take control of your life.

[1] Physical activity: brief advice for adults in primary care ( [2] Physical activity guidelines: infographics - GOV.UK ( [3] Exercise - NHS ( [4] S.J. Scott (2014) Habit Stacking:97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less. Oldtown Publishing LLC.

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