In this second of a five part series I will be looking at the ‘Be active’ element of the 5 Ways to Well-being and suggesting simple tips to incorporate it into your daily routine. It ties in nicely with National Walking Month…

“Be active – go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.”  New Economics Foundation.

Woods walk

Why be active?

Everyone knows that being active is good for your physical health. It improves heart health, reduces the risk of diabetes, helps to maintain a healthy weight and can improve the immune system to name but a few of the benefits. Being physically fit enables us to do the everyday things more easily; we can climb the stairs without getting out of breath or run for the bus.

 Another major benefit of being active that is now becoming more widely publicised is improved mental health. Being active and moving our body gets the blood pumping which in turn releases the feel good hormones, endorphins. They produce a natural state of excitement and pleasure.

Being both physically fit and having good mental health increases our resilience, or ‘bounce-back-ability’, so that we are able to cope better with the things that life throws our way.

I don’t have time

Many people say they don’t have time to exercise but in reality we don’t have time not to exercise. Taking a break actually makes us more productive. It’s counter-productive to sit at your desk continuing to work while eating your lunch. Having had a break you come back to work feeling refreshed and are more able to concentrate.

By finding ways to incorporate physical activity in to your day it becomes a habit. You simply need to prioritise it. I bet you always manage to make that important work deadline, and that’s because you make it a priority (even if you do have to stay up till the early hours getting it done). In Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he identifies how the urgent stuff gets done first and often the important stuff is relegated to ‘later’. Unfortunately, ‘later’ doesn’t often come as there is always something else ‘urgent’ that needs attending to. Being active is important both for our physical and mental health and therefore it should be a priority. It’s highly unlikely we’ll sit on our death beds wishing we’d worked more hours!

Top tips

Being active doesn’t need to take long and doesn’t have to involve going to the gym (unless you particularly want to). Make an appointment with yourself and put it in your diary. The recommended amount of physical activity for an adult is 30 minutes of moderate exercise (enough to raise your heart rate) on 5 out of 7 days.  If you haven’t exercised in a while or finding it difficult to fit into your day this can be broken down into 3 x 10 minute or 2 x 15 minute chunks. As a well-known supermarket slogan say’s ‘every little helps’.

·         Take the stairs whenever possible rather than using the lift or escalator

·         Park a bit further away from the shops / office etc

·         Get off the bus a stop earlier

·         Do the housework to music – adding fun to a boring chore and being active at the same time

·         Take the kids to the park on the way home from school – great way of increasing quality time with your family too

·         Find an ‘exercise buddy’ – being active with a friend or loved one increases the enjoyment and you are accountable to someone else.

·         Take advantage of local events / festivals. E.g. there are lots of things happening through Walking Month* (link below)

·         Try out lots of different activities. When you find something fun you are more likely to stick at it because it’s enjoyable

·         Have an active break – go for a walk at lunch time, walk over to your colleague and talk face to face rather than sending an email, have a walking meeting

Challenge yourself

Another thing I have found inspiring is to set myself a challenge. I recently completed a 100 Day Physical Activity Challenge. My criterion was very simple – do something active every day for 100 days. Some days I skipped for 2 minutes (which is actually harder than you think when you are starting out!), or vacuumed the house, or  went for an enjoyable bike ride for a couple of hours or did a 10  minute home exercise routine (with tins of food as weights!). The 2 things that kept me going were planning ahead and not wanting to give up. There were a couple of times round the  60 – 65 day mark where I was really busy but knowing that I had come so far inspired me to keep going. I would look at my week ahead and think about what I could do each day then get anything ready the night before (I normally did my activity first thing in the morning so I started my day in a positive frame of mind and didn’t need to worry about trying to do exercise later when I may be feeling less inclined). Being active became part of my psyche. I was aware if I hadn’t done any activity that day and took action to make sure I did some before the day was out.  Since completing the challenge, although I haven’t exercised every day I have on most; it’s become a positive habit.

And another thing…

Being active is great for creative thinking and improving productivity. I often find that when I’m feeling stuck or not sure what to do next, if I go out for a walk the ideas start to flow.

If you are local to the South Yorkshire area join me on one of my free monthly Well-being Walks. You know it will be good for you J

Stepping stones to a better future

Stepping stones to a better future for more information about National Walking Month for more information about my Monthly Well-being Walks