BUT, exercise is often viewed as a job. It's a chore and adds to the hundreds of other things we need to do each day. Being humans, that makes it unattractive and it's likely to get pushed to the bottom of the list.
How about if we reframe it?
What we need to do is move. We all have ways we enjoy moving - some might dance, some run, some cycle, walk, swim, play with the kids, team sports, or just jump and skip.
At its most basic, we just need to make sure we aren't sitting still all day, so getting up and moving away from your desk, even if it's just to get a drink of water, is good. If you can add a few little stretches to ease your upper back, so much the better.
Government advice is to do something like 2.5 hours of moderate intensity 'exercise' a week, and that this can be made up of lots of bite size chunks. Divided between 7 days, it's about 20 minutes a day, which isn't that much. So running up the stairs if you can, having a 10 minute walk after lunch, or something else which doesn't feel like exercise, can be a great start.
I've never been sporty. Always reasonably active, on and off, but I've never run, taken part in team sports or embraced the gym. I thought I was doing enough, but when I got diagnosed with osteoporosis and my lovely food and supplements didn't make a positive difference to my bone density, I realised that I needed to start doing some weight bearing 'exercise'.
So I thought I'd try running, about 3 years ago now, and my thinking was ' it's good for my bones, just keep going'.
The odd thing was, once I got used to it, and started enjoying moving through the countryside, and realising I could actually cover a decent distance, I completely forgot that I had started for my bone health.
Also, the final bits of inflammation in my joints - arthritic stiffness and discomfort in my wrists and thumbs, disappeared.
Now I understand a bit more about the wider benefits of being active, I can see that the stimulation of the blood supply, getting it properly circulating around the body, can make a massive difference to overall health, and for some people, like me with my arthritis, it could be the missing piece of the jigsaw.
So, I do nothing I consider to be 'exercise' (ie work), but:
- I run 5 or 6 times a week, for the pleasure of moving my body and enjoying the countryside - and the headspace it gives me
- I move alongside the people in my Get Moving class, which is fun, and just happens to include some stuff which is generally called strength training
- When I swim, I swim for the pleasure of moving through the water, trying for a smooth and elegant stroke, and the chat in the sauna afterwards (or the poolside at the Pells in the summer)
- I cycle and walk for transport
- I do yoga to feel the stretch and flexibility in my body
I don't like the gym because it is purely for exercise, which to me means a job, and that doesn't work to motivate me. I need to do things I enjoy, which just happen to give my body a benefit.
The key for me was finding something I genuinely love doing and would hate to have to give up.
Also, I think, starting small with something you truly enjoy can lead to becoming more active generally, and before you know it, you could be doing much more than you originally intended, just because it's fun.
To be honest, it may not start out being fun; I think it can take about 6 months for something to be a well established activity, so at the beginning, there probably is an element of doing it because it's good for us.
Once you start to feel stronger, less breathless, able to get up stairs and hills with no trouble, and you can savour the feeling, it can be very motivating. Why get in the car, for example, when you get a buzz out of walking or cycling to and from your destination?
I do know how hard it can be to get moving when it's not your habit, or when you have discomfort, extra weight, stress, limited time and all the other barriers life presents us with. I think it's important to start small and add in some short activities, while adopting a postive attitude rather than regarding it as a chore.
Some suggestions might be:
- If you like dancing, you could simply put on your favourite dance music and lose yourself for 5-10 minutes.
- Use some of your work breaks to walk round the block, or further if time permits - doing this after eating can also help with blood sugar balancing.
- There's also the old advice to use stairs not lifts and park or get off the bus a bit further from your destination and walk the end bit.
- Find a YouTube video of yoga, Thai Chi, Xi Gung for gentle, mindful movement.
- Or there are loads of free exercise classes, many are low impact, so if you have joint problems they are designed to get your heart rate up without jarring your joints.
- For many people, teaming up with someone else provides the motivation and accountability which can turn an activity into an enjoyable habit.
- Many people who run exercise classes will offer a taster class at a lower rate or free, so that you can try before you commit on a regular basis. Some classes can be great fun, so it's worth trying different types.
Just find a way, and get moving!
Please note: this blog is my opinion, based on my current understanding and experience. Please use common sense when reading and interpreting, and if you have any health conditions or take medications, consult a health professional before making any major changes.