We are at the halfway point of exploring our seven pillars of health. Each month we’ve been focusing on a pillar, finding our groove in how that pillar fits into our lives, and challenging ourselves to improve that area. We’ve looked at increasing our water intake, improving our sleep hygiene, and getting some more sunshine in our day to day.
This month where going to zero in on an area which is so important in my life, and my clinical practice; exercise.
Both the word, and action, of exercise can bring up some strong emotions and ideas for many people. Those of you who know me well, will know how important exercise is in my life, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s an outwards ripple. My partner (or husband, not sure which word you use) and my daughter are equally active. Many of my clients and friends are athletic individuals and I am part of a wider, physically active community.
My passion for exercise isn’t reserved just for professional athletes. Whilst I have been privileged enough to work with Olympians and World Champions (which is truly inspiring), my favourite people to work with are everyday athletes and individuals who are just trying to challenge themselves and get the most out of their bodies. Be it running their first 10km race, or losing their first 10kg I’m always excited to see what exercise people are willing to try to reach their goals.
We all know exercise is good for us. We’ve heard that exercise will help us improve our cardiovascular health, reduces our risk of obesity and its related complications, lowers stress whilst also improving our strength, flexibility, and mobility. And this is where I want you to start thinking about the role of exercise in your life. What areas would exercise improve for you? Will it help lower your risk of diabetes if it runs in your family? Can it help reduce your chance of developing cardiovascular problems? Will exercise help you start to feel better and reduce anxiety? Understanding your personal how and why makes starting and continuing an exercise regime so much easier.
For those of you reading from Australia, we currently base our guidelines on that of the American Heart Association. Australian adults (18-65), who are healthy and have no illnesses or diseases are advised to do the following to promote and maintain good health:
1. Moderate intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 5 days a week for 30 mins, or
2. Vigorous intensity exercise for 3 days a week at 30 mins.
So in a real world setting, what does this look like? When we talk about aerobic activity we are talking about exercise which elevates your heart rate, and keeps it up for at least ten consecutive minutes– so essentially what many of us know as “cardio”.
Moderate intensity can be a brisk walk, light jog whilst VIGOROUS activity, is when your heart rate is noticeable, and your breathing becomes a bit more rapid.
So I ask you to have a think right now about your aerobic activity during the week. If you have a desk job, what are you doing to get that heart pumping? Are you going for a walk during your lunch break, or perhaps sweating it out at the gym for a cardio class.
If you’re not currently reaching the guidelines, what can you do to get there? Remembering that you’re a work in progress, and it’s best to build up; what can you start this week to reach the 5 sessions?
In addition to our cardio exercises, the American Heart Association guidelines state that at least twice a week, we should be looking at activities that engage all the major muscle groups in our bodies. This is to help build endurance and skeletal muscle strength. This strength based work is the anaerobic exercise. Many people refer to this style of exercise as ‘weights’ or ‘strength training’. It’s so important to mention right now that doing anaerobic exercise is an important part of a balanced exercise plan. Even if your goal is to lose weight, or compete in a running event, the strength work can help aid in preventing injury, ensure stability, and improve tone.
So my challenge to you this month is to have a look at your own exercise and movement. Are you reaching the recommended targets; remembering if you have a chronic disease, you may have a different guideline to follow. If you are new to exercise or you are struggling to find the motivation, I challenge you to think of your WHY. Why do you want to be physically fitter? Is it to protect yourself from a hereditary condition? Is it because you are curious to know what your body is capable of?
What is one step you can take this month to get more active? Maybe find a local walking or running group. Perhaps it’s time to dust off the gym membership card. Or, if you need a little extra encouragement, consider enlisting a friend or PT to get you going. I know it can be harder to get going in winter. I suggest if you get into a good routine now, before it’s too dark or too cold, you’ll be all set up to keep the momentum all the way through to spring.