4 new ways to embrace exercise & feel healthier

Emma White - Certified Personal Trainer | 09 Jan, 2023

Exercise is a bit like Marmite don't you think? You either love it or you don't! While some people really enjoy exercising and it's naturally part of their weekly routine, for others it feels like a big chore that's hard to commit to. But here's a little word of encouragement – it genuinely is possible to grow to like some sort of activity. Shifting your view of what exercise actually is, and your reason for doing it can really help change your attitude.

There's a common misconception that 'exercise' means sweating it out in the gym or experiencing real discomfort. While some people may love that exercise experience, it's perfectly possible to simply move more to improve your health without the need for structured exercise. Here I'll discuss how to take a new approach to exercise this year and reap long-term benefits.

Move more often

Move more often, not more intensely

While there's no denying a good hour long sweat session at the gym will help your fitness level, it is not actually necessary for optimum health. Research shows that leading a generally sedentary lifestyle increases our risk of various diseases, and whilst bursts of physical activity can help to offset the risks, generaly moving more often is better for health [1].

What this means is the best way to protect our health in the long term could be to simply move as frequently as we can throughout the day – even if this is low-intensity movement. Nutritionist Amy wrote a very interesting blog recently on the habits of the healthiest groups of people around the globe, which discusses the fact that people who are more active generally – but don't necessarily run marathons or climb mountains – tend to live longer than those who are more sedentary. Look out for more on this when Amy's blog is shared next week.

This is not to say that people who love a good high-intensity sweat session aren't doing themselves any good – because of course, you absolutely are. It's important to remember that moving more of the time should be everyone's goal and that people can still be very healthy just doing frequent, lower-intensity movements.

My top tips for being less sedentary are:

  1. Try not to sit for more than an hour at a time – take a break and grab a glass of water or go to the loo. Set the alarm on your phone as a reminder.
  2. Avoid convenience all the time – wash the dishes by hand, hang the washing on the line, walk instead of catching the bus, shop in store instead of online.
  3. Make social events more active where possible – meet for a 'walking coffee' instead of sitting in the coffee shop, bowling or ice skating instead of the movies, activity games night instead of board games.
Some is better than none

Some is better than none

Often people who can't or don't make time for exercise, feel like they must do at least an hour for it to be worth it – but this simply isn't the case. It's time to shake the mindset that being active has to mean hitting the gym for an hour.

How many times have you thought to yourself 'I don't have time to exercise today, I'll just start tomorrow/next week'? But what if you only had to find 5-10 minutes in your day? We can benefit our health in incredible ways by being consistent – just a few more active minutes anytime throughout the day, every day. Research has found that just a one minute burst of activity here and there can benefit our health and help boost weight loss in the same way fewer, longer sessions of activity can [2]. So next time you think 'I don't have time to exercise' – think again! Every short bout of activity at intervals throughout the day counts.

My top tips for fitting in 5 minute activity slots:

  1. Get up from your desk every hour and walk to make a cuppa or go to the loo. While you're up, do some gentle squats or side-steps or calf raises while you wait for the kettle to boil.
  2. Set the alarm for 5-10 minutes earlier and fit in a 5-10 minute HIIT session before your morning shower (it will certainly wake you up!). For inspiration, check out my 10 minute workouts here.
  3. Take the stairs as often as you can – this minute of activity will do far more for you than stepping into a lift. (And if you're carrying bags, that's even better as it will further raise your heart rate).
  4. Walk around while talking on the phone to a friend or family member, instead of sitting down.
  5. Walk across the office to talk to your colleague instead of messaging them.
Exercise for the mind

Exercise for the mind

It's time to reframe your thinking! Our brain is the strongest part of our body as it controls our actions. How we mentally approach exercise can have a huge bearing on how often we do it or even how much we enjoy it. (Reference back to my opening statements).

If your sole reason for exercising is to burn calories or lose weight, it can put quite a bit of pressure on the whole experience. Instead, I challenge you to try and focus on the other benefits you get from exercise – in particular, how it helps your mental health too. Shifting your aim for being more active to lifting your mood, can be hugely motivating. Moving to improve mood can be done in any way – walking, dancing, cleaning, yoga – whatever takes your fancy at the time! It's a lot more achievable than thinking you must do a 5k run or lift weights in the gym 4 times a week. If you make your exercise plans too ambitious and structured, it can feel like a lot of pressure and may mean you don't exercise at all.

Focusing on the benefits for our mental health when we get more active, can mean we opt to do something rather than nothing – because we know any type of movement will do the job! How many times have you been in a real stinker of a mood, then you've gone out for a walk and found your emotion have calmed and your mood has switched around? That's the power of exercise!

Research shows that even as little as 15 minutes of activity per day can have significant positive impact on our risk of depression [3]. So even just getting out for a quick stroll at lunchtime can do you the world of good – or stop by the gym for a 15 minute cycle on your way home from work, it's all worth it. Every little counts.

Don't sweat it

Don't sweat it

If you've taken anything from what I've said so far, it's that you don't have to sweat it out in a gym to reap the benefits of extra movement. Some people simply do not like to sweat or engage in high intensity activity of any kind – and that's absolutely fine. Sticking to low intensity activities like walking or gentle cycling, or simply moving about more at home to do the chores or the gardening, can still benefit our health and help us reach our weight goals.

In fact, research shows that generally moving more, regardless of the intensity, can help us live longer [4]. Keeping your movements or your chosen activity light, can still do you the world of good. Heavy sweat sessions are not essential, don't put yourself through it if you don't enjoy it. It's better to do an activity that you enjoy rather than force yourself through something you dread – because it's very unlikely you'll keep that up!

Take out message

If you love exercise and can fit regular sweat sessions into your routine – keep doing what you're doing, that's great. If you're someone who struggles with 'exercise' as in running, gym, classes etc, know that you can reach your goals and improve your health simply by moving more in any capacity. The overall goal for all of us is simple: spend less time sitting and more time moving!

Emma White (Certified Personal Trainer) has always loved fitness. She's passionate about the many benefits of regular exercise, particularly the positive impact on mental health and overall quality of life, as well as how it provides the key to successful weight management.

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