So, what does it mean to be an ‘active’ person exactly? How much exercise is enough, and once you’ve started a new exercise regime, how do you stick with it?
Most of us know that we should exercise – but often we think of exercise as going to the gym, lifting heavy objects or sweating it out to the point of exhaustion. But exercise truly means ‘to engage in physical activity to sustain or improve health and fitness’ and could encompass a range of activities. Our bodies are designed to be moving (constantly) and so it is no surprise that a lack of activity can contribute to weight gain and poor health.
How much do you really need?
Any increase in activity is positive, but to prevent chronic health conditions, we need to accumulate 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking, at a level where you are at least slightly out of breath. Or, if you are experienced, you can work harder and aim for 90 minutes of vigorous exercise per week instead (like spin class or circuit training). It is also important to look at being less sedentary as less time spent sitting also has positive health implications. While 10,000 steps per day is quoted often, it appears that if you are looking at weight loss (or maintaining weight loss) you need to hit a target of 11-13,000 steps per day, including up to 60-90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise along the way.
What does being active look like?
In reality, only 60% of Australians achieve the target 30 mins five days per week! The more time we spend watching TV, sitting at our desks, driving or scrolling through social media, the less active we tend to be. And, simply going to the gym for 30 mins but not making an effort to increase your incidental exercise over the day may even negate some of the benefits you gain from your exercise session. So it is important to engage in planned exercise, as well as increase your incidental activity too. Being active means developing consistent habits such as parking farther away, shopping in person rather than online, getting off the bus two stops early (or walking to work), using the stairs, walking the kids to school and taking the longer route to get somewhere whenever possible.
What are the benefits?
For people who are physically active, you reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 20-35%, colon cancer by 30-40% and women who are active also reduce their risk of breast cancer by 20-30%. Regular exercisers also report improved sleep, have lower rates of depression and science tells us we can improve our brain function simply by exercising – it encourages the growth of neurons, or brain cells, involved with learning and memory. Resistance exercise (even body weight exercises) increases your bone density and slows down the bone loss that occurs with ageing. The added bonus of exercise is that you are more likely to retain your lean muscle as you lose weight, which helps to boost your metabolism and keep that weight off long term.
Accountability with exercise
We might be motivated to increase our exercise when training for an event, but if we are training for our health or trying to achieve a more active lifestyle, there is less urgency. Most of us are simply not that interested in how many kilograms we can bench press or how fast we can run 100 m – and this doesn’t translate directly to how we feel when playing outside with the kids. This feeling of energy is equally improved by our day to day activity levels. Deciding what your goal is with exercise and activity, and why that is important to you, can help you to build in some accountability and incentive to stay committed to increasing your physical activity. It is important to change your mindset to focus not only on exercise, but including movement that you enjoy, so it becomes a priority in your day.
No motivation? Set appropriate goals and to find exercise with a purpose. For example, learning a martial art, taking the kids to the park, doing yoga to unwind, playing tennis to socialise. No time? Schedule exercise into your diary to make sure it is an appointment you don’t miss. Getting bored? Change it up or invite a friend to keep you on track. Not sure how to increase your activity? A personalised exercise program from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who can offer you additional accountability is also a great option for increasing your activity safely. Sit down and be honest about what is stopping you, and brainstorm ways you could overcome those hurdles so that you can make a lasting change to your activity habits.
About the LifeShape Clinic
Over 15 years, the LifeShape Clinic (formerly Wesley LifeShape Clinic) has helped more than 10,000 Australians achieve healthier, happier lives through their award winning weight management programs. The LifeShape program enables the lifestyle and health benefits gained from losing weight, improving your health and gaining a positive mindset.
The clinic’s team of specialist medical professionals support each client by creating a personalised weight loss plan to reach a healthy weight, improve nutrition, exercise and mindset – helping to find balance and break the dieting cycle.
Find out how the clinic can help you achieve your health and wellness goals.