Exercise levels among people in Scotland have stagnated in recent years despite £500 million a year being spent on physical recreation according to a Scottish Parliament report published in The Times (registration required)
The recommendations from the chief medical officer are that adults do 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week, 150 minutes of moderate intensity or a combination of both. I know plenty people who don’t get anywhere near that figure. The Health and Sport Committee also said that many of the issues raised during the inquiry have been raised before. It doesn’t say what these issues were but I’m assuming they are to do with available facilities and cost. With a reduction in council budgets, the spending is being reduced year on year and so this is going to be an impossible game to win if you’re trying to improve facilities but with less money.
What if we tried a different approach and redefined how we view exercise?
Instead of exercise, why don’t we encourage people to simply move more?
The most common factor I see with the clients I work with is inactivity. The majority of people now sit down at work either behind a desk or drive a lot or a combination of both. Everyone leads busy lives, have a lot of commitments and going to a gym, leisure centre or other facility isn’t always practical to do. The biggest problem for people is consistency so how about we make things easier? We all know we should be exercising, we all have big goals but many people struggle with knowing WHAT to do and HOW often/long they should be exercising for in order to achieve them.
How many people do we know, including ourselves, who make grand New Years Resolutions to get fit, join a gym, go to classes, go on a diet only to lose their way before January is out? People become overwhelmed if they make a lot of changes in one go and find it difficult to juggle making healthy meals, going to the gym or a class etc on top of the already busy schedule.
What if we dropped the word exercise and encouraged people on daily movement?
We’ve heard in the past about parking a little further away from our work or getting off the bus a stop early but how many people actually do that? What if we encouraged people to walk for 30 minutes a day, either in one go or 15 minutes in the morning and again in the evening? We can also encourage setting an alarm to remind ourselves to get up from our chair every hour to go get a glass of water that we can sip on for the next hour (kills two birds with the one stone as the majority of us don’t drink enough water) or just simply to get the body moving and prevent us from stiffening up. This doesn’t sound much but if you’re generally inactive through the day then this is more exercise than you were doing before so it’s a positive start.
All we need is a starting point and so if we can make time to walk for 30 minutes a day, every day then it won’t take long before this feels easy and then we can increase the time spent walking either end of the day or add another short walk at lunchtime. This will not only be beneficial for our physical health but also our mental health. Few of us make time for ourselves and these bursts of time away from everything can help clear our minds and potentially help us deal with unresolved issues and negative emotions. You never know the difference just a few moments of peace can make to someone’s life.
Another major issue is back mobility, or the lack of. I work with a lot of people who sit behind computers all day and struggle with press ups, and most floor-based exercises, commenting on the lack of strength in their arms. The problem isn’t in their arms though, it’s coming from lack of movement in their upper backs. This not only affects our ability to do certain exercises, it also affects our posture and if you’re a runner, it will hinder your chances of running faster. You can do the plank for 5 minutes at a time but it won’t make the slightest difference if you’re sat behind a computer of 3-4 hours at a time without taking a break.
How can we make a change?
Here are my tips on getting more people moving:
- Get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning and go for a walk then repeat the exercise later in the day. Do this every day for a week then…
- Move more during the day and I always recommend to my clients to start doing the following exercises 2-3 times a day for about 2 minutes at a time (see video below). Do this every day alongside your walks for a week then….
- Make an appointment with yourself to do something else whether it’s to extend the time you spend walking, add in another walk at lunchtime or go for a longer walk in the evening or weekend and invite a friend to join you.
It’s not the type of exercise that’s important in the beginning, its just doing it and be consistent with it. Try the first tip, become good at doing it every day until it feels like it’s something you do without thinking then move onto the next one. You will build confidence from mastering each one and this will spur you onto the next one and so on. You can add to your list things like going to bed earlier, doing some form of housework in the evenings (that his good exercise), drink 2 litres of water a day (the most powerful step towards improving your health), planning your meals in advance or whatever you like.
Write down all the little steps you need to take to become healthier and more active and you can cross them off when they start to become habit. There’s something very powerful about scoring a job off your to do list. After a few weeks, you will find yourself having made several changes to your life without it feeling like its been too much of an effort to do and it’s also likely that many other things like productivity, how you deal with stress, mindset and more will have changed too without you having actually done anything specific to change them.
How can you become more active? What’s the first step you need to take?