We all know that being physically active is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Being active is as natural as breathing for kids. They’re literally the poster children for what it means to have a truly active lifestyle. Yet many people seem to give in to physical inactivity as they age.
On average, most of those attending my stress management workshops tell me they don’t get enough physical movement. Most of them say they know a more active lifestyle is a good idea and they’ll get around to it sometime. But the question is when?
It reminds me of that classic ParticipACTION TV commercial about the average 60-year-old Swede vs the average 30-year-old Canadian back in the 1970s. Ironically, the health and fitness organization was resurrected in 2007 out of concern for Canadians’ physical inactivity. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Impact of Inactivity
Spending too much time in front of the TV or a computer monitor? Then you might want to be aware of these potential effects:
• Physical inactivity is estimated to cause 21-25% of breast cancers and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes and 30% of heart disease caused by a constriction of the blood vessels (World Health Organization).
• Physical inactivity is the number one factor contributing to obesity. One-quarter of all Canadian adults are obese (Canadian Institute for Health Information).
• Research shows that up to half of adults between 30 and 70 experience physical decline as a function of inactivity, not aging (Public Health Agency of Canada).
Benefits of an Active Lifestyle
The good news is that it’s never too late to get active. Although the sooner, the better. Before you do, always check with your health care professional before attempting any vigorous exercise routine.
Here are four benefits you can expect when you start a more active lifestyle:
1. Reduces the risk of over 25 chronic health conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, breast cancer, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis (World Health Organization).
2. Can lead to improved fitness and strength.
3. Regular exercise such as brisk walking delivers more oxygen to the brain and helps improve your focus and attention span.
4. Reduces physical and mental stress. Also, it can make you more resilient to stressful situations.
Move Your Body
The World Health Organization recommends that you get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week if you’re 18 to 64 years old. Right now, only about 15% of Canadian adults currently get this recommended level.
Even better, strength training should be a part of that regimen at least twice a week. And if you’re really ambitious, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week is a worthy goal.
5 Easy Exercise Tips
Getting adequate exercise doesn’t mean you need an expensive gym club membership. Fortunately, there are ways to gently get moving at low or no cost. Try these five indispensable tips:
1. Walk this way
Use every chance you can to walk because it’s one of the most basic and effective ways to get moving. Start your day with a brisk walk to work or at lunch. Or arrange a walking meeting with an office colleague. Maybe take the stairs instead of an elevator. Feel the difference already?
When it’s time for a break, relieve stress and muscle tension with exercises you can do right at your desk. They only take a few minutes and are easy to do – even for someone who doesn’t exercise. To start, choose stretches in the video in this post that you feel comfortable with.
3. Be social
Join a team sport and meet new people. Or find a buddy with a similar interest in getting more fit. It’ll keep you energized and you’ll be each other’s cheerleader.
4. Don’t overdo it
Limit your exercise to just 10-15 minute chunks at the beginning, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a while. That way your body (and brain) can become more easily accustomed to the change. Stick to a regular exercise routine to keep you on track.
5. Have fun
Whatever activities you take up make sure they’re something you really enjoy doing. That in itself will provide a large part of the motivation to get you moving even when you might not feel like it.
Once you start the ball rolling – or whatever activity you pursue – your body will thank you for it. And, hey, it could even add a few years so you can enjoy your active lifestyle even more.
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