Lisa Dunbar out for a stroll
Now that Summer is in full swing and the weather is better and evenings are longer, this is a great time to think about establishing some new healthy habits that you could carry with you right into the Winter, and one of the best things you could do for your health is to become more active.
The sad reality is that our bodies are simply not designed for modern day life! If you think about it, with the various developments in technology, our lifestyles have changed drastically. Today many of us spend all day sitting at a computer, and then a good portion of the evening sitting in front of a TV, we drive everywhere, take escalators and lifts, kids don’t play outside as much and we use washing machines, dishwashers, and hoovers to do our housework for us.
Don’t get me wrong, these advancements have come with great benefits but they have also caused us to become incredibly inactive and, very simply, our bodies are not designed for this. We are designed to move and our bodies cannot be healthy if they don’t get the opportunity to move regularly.
It’s really important to remember that exercise is not just for people who want rock hard abs! It is vital for absolutely everyone’s health. It has been proven to help with weight loss, energy levels, sleep, mood and overall mental health, and people who are more active have a much lower risk of developing many common chronic health issues.
The Department of Health recommends that we get at least 150 minutes (2 and a half hours) of exercise spread over the week, from a variety of activities. So, here are a few tips for becoming more active this Summer…
Be More Physically Active in General
Something that is even more important than “doing exercise” is becoming more active as we go about our everyday lives. Because research suggests that even if you do the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, BUT you spend the rest of your time being very inactive, you are still at a high risk of developing the health issues that are associated with not doing any exercise at all!
So, I’m talking about walking or cycling to places instead of driving, getting off the bus a stop early, taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, parking further away from your destination, doing more housework, doing some sort of activity on a family day out, etc, etc.
Find an Activity You Enjoy Doing
So often we associate “doing exercise” with joining a gym or doing really intensive types of exercise. But this is not for everyone (and definitely not for me!). There are so many different ways of getting active.
It is really important that you don’t hate the method of exercise you have chosen to do. Because, guess what? If you do, then you will eventually make excuses not to do it. Willpower is simply not strong enough if your chosen type of activity feels like torture.
In my life I have paid for 3 annual gym memberships and with all of them the last 9 months were completely wasted! Now, I do the types of exercise I know I enjoy – walking, dancing and yoga.
Exercise with a Friend
Exercising with a friend not only makes your experience more enjoyable and sociable, but a friend can hold you accountable and make you more likely to actually go and do the exercise and not make excuses!
During those few months that I did spend in the gym, I mostly pounded away on a treadmill with the earphones in, watching Coronation Street on the TV in front of me! I completely zoned out! But if you want to get all the benefits of being more active, you should try to do it more mindfully.
Now, instead of trying to solve the world’s problems on my daily walk, I try to look around me, notice the sights and sounds, and actually pay attention to what I am experiencing.
Remember You Will Always Feel Better Afterwards!
Exercise never came naturally to me (mainly because I was choosing the wrong types of exercise). When gym bunny friends would say “exercise makes me feel soooo good” I was often filled with the urge to poke them in the eye! But when we exercise, our bodies release endorphins and “happy hormones” which do actually help to create feelings of euphoria! Fact!
So, no matter how bad you are feeling, remember your body will reward you after getting active with a happiness boost!
Lisa Dunbar is a Nutrition and Health Coach based in Dundalk. Having used diet and lifestyle changes to help recover from physical and mental health challenges, Lisa is now on a mission to motivate others to live a healthier life. This article also appears in the print edition of The Dundalk Democrat which is in stores now.