This article was first published in Great Health Guide in the May/June 2021 issue. Read it here.
Do you hate exercise?
I hear you.
As a short-sighted, uncoordinated asthmatic child growing up in the UK, I used to dread P.E. I dropped the ball on the netball court, I got asthma on the wind-exposed hockey pitch, and I loathed cricket.
We’re always being told how important exercise is for our health and wellbeing, so what do you do if the thought of going to the gym brings you out in a cold sweat, you’re allergic to Lycra and you get short of breath just thinking about going for a run?
It’s time to remove all the angst and guilt and do things differently.
1. Move more and sit less.
Did you know exercise is a modern phenomenon? In generations past there were no gyms, personal trainers or Pilates classes. Exercise became a “thing” as our life became more sedentary and work less physically demanding. Choosing to be more physically active across your day is actually more in keeping with how we used to stay fit. If your work requires you to be on your feet all day, you’re probably doing enough. Yes, really!
Being sufficiently physically active means looking out for those opportunities to be on your feet more of the time and to walk instead of taking the lift, catching the bus, or driving your car especially for those shorter distances.
2. Spend more time in nature.
If you’re lucky enough to live in the country, a leafy suburb or close to the beach or a river, you probably already spend more time outside than if you live in an inner-city apartment. Studies have shown how spending a minimum of 120 minutes outside each week is a fantastic boost for your mental wellbeing and feeling good about yourself is energising!
Forest bathing or Shinrin Yoku as the Japanese call it, is taking a stroll through a forest to lower stress and cortisol and raise levels of those feel good hormones dopamine and serotonin.
3. Dance like nobody’s watching.
So, you’ve got two left feet? Not a problem. This isn’t about being on “Dancing with the Stars”. This is about getting into the groove of your preferred music genre and moving your body. It’s a great total body workout and gets your heart rate up.
Whether you’re into heavy metal, rap or Dolly Parton, dancing round the house, at a club or taking dance lessons is about having some fun.
How do you like to move in a way that makes you happy?
4. Have a laugh.
When did you last enjoy a ripsnorter, rib-tickling belly laugh that had you rolling around the floor in a fit of giggles?
One study showed that a big belly laugh uses the equivalent energy of walking a kilometer. Laughing is a great way to use those muscles that ordinarily don’t get a workout. Have you had a good laugh today?
5. Get a dog.
You know the story. You get the cute puppy that grows and then needs walkies, every day. How can you resist those big brown eyes pleading with you to get out the lead and share a walk with you around the block, down to the park or along the river? The benefits go beyond improved fitness levels, cardiovascular health and stronger muscles and bones. Dog owners tend to be social, enjoying chats with other dog owners you meet on your walks, and all that unconditional love and non-judgmental companionship is great for your mental fitness too.
Exercise. Love it or loathe it there are many ways to move more across your day.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase.