We all know that physical activity is good for us. Regular physical activity may help prevent or delay a variety of health problems from developing. Being active helps you look and feel better, now and in the future.
Why do you need regular physical activity?
There are a variety of physical and mental health benefits that stem from regular physical activity:
- Improves concentration, creativity & performance.
- Reduces stress, anxiety & frustration levels.
- Strengthens bones & improves muscle strength & endurance
- Reduces the risk of developing heart disease.
- Improves blood circulation throughout the body.
- Is a natural way of lowering blood pressure & preventing high blood pressure from developing.
- Helps control appetite.
- Improves digestion.
- Helps maintain a healthy body weight.
- Improves self-image and sense of well-being.
- Improves mood.
- Improves your immune system.
- Helps you sleep better.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
For healthy adults at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise is recommended, per day. Examples of aerobic exercise include: fast walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, sports (soccer, hockey, netball etc.), swimming – any activity that gets your heart rate up and causes you to breathe harder, but without making it impossible to speak several words in a row.
Strengthening activities are also recommended, at least twice a week – this includes activities that require you to push or pull against something (e.g. lifting weights, doing push ups and sit ups).
If you suffer from health issues, such as heart disease, high or low blood pressure, diabetes etc. it is best to consult with your doctor about the amount and types physical activity that are right for you and your condition.
How Can You Start Increasing Your Activity?
Perhaps the best place to start is by picking an activity you enjoy. It’s difficult to stay motivated if you are doing an activity you don’t like. Make a list of activities you enjoy or would like to try and alternate between them, thus staving off boredom and keeping motivated.
Next, remember to start off slowly and gradually build up time. If you are currently inactive, the thought of doing 30 minutes of exercises can be daunting. Start off with 10 minutes of sustained activity, five days a week. After a few weeks, add 5 – 10 minutes until you are able to comfortably sustain 30 minutes of activity.
Finally, set yourself some goals. Start with short-term goals, such as: walking 30 minutes a day, three times a week. With time and increased endurance you can set new goals, such as taking part in 5 km or 10 km walks and fun runs.
Below are some tips for overcoming obstacles and blocks to your new exercise programme:
- If you find it difficult to do 30 minutes of sustained exercise in one go, break it up into 10 minute bursts spread through the day.
- Add a 10 or 15 minute walk to your daily routine – take a walk around the block during your lunch break, take a walk with your family after dinner.
- Get a friend or family member to join you. Getting someone to exercise with you makes it more fun, you get to spend quality time together and you can motivate each other to stay on track.
- You don’t need to join an expensive gym to get active. Use YouTube exercise videos or choose an activity you don’t need special or expensive gear for – walking, you need a good pair of shoes; dancing, you need some music.
Tips to Help You Get Active. (2009). Retrieved from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/tips-help-get-active/Documents/tipsactive.pdf. [Accessed on: 28 February 2017].
Why Move More? (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.eatsmartmovemorenc.com/MotivationalPosters/Texts/MM_Poster6.pdf. [Accessed on: 01 March 2017].