“If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.” Robert Butler, MD (Founder of National Institute for Ageing)
The fact that we should exercise gets drilled into us so often that it’s easy to become sick of this message and eventually ignore it. But take a moment to consider how truly powerful physical activity is…
Imagine that I offered you a form of treatment that would reduce inflammation in your body and lower your rates of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, various types of cancer as well as depression. Not only that, but it would also decrease your risk of fractures, improve your cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and assist you in achieving better body mass and composition.
And that’s still not all.
Beyond these more ‘direct’ effects, research show that you will also experience less stress, consume less alcohol and caffeine and smoke less. You will improve healthy eating habits, emotional control, attendance to commitments, monitoring of spending and mental capacity.
I don’t know about you, but if this was offered to me I’d probably assume that it’s something that’s either far too expensive to be accessible to me, or that it is simply too good to possibly be true.
So doesn’t it seem a little crazy that we hesitate to take advantage of physical activity, given that it has been shown to do all of the above (and more!) and is not only possible to do at absolutely no cost, but is accessible to every human on the planet?
It is actually mind-blowing what we have at our disposal and how often we take it for granted.
So how much activity is enough?
Current guidelines recommend that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or an equivalent combination of the two per week. Children are advised to do an hour of moderate-vigorous exercise daily.
When you break up the weekly recommendations into daily activity, you realise that it is far more manageable than you may have thought. You also don’t need to get too technical about what constitutes each type of activity: if your breathing is elevated but you can still carry out a conversation, it is likely to be in the moderate category and if your breathing is elevated to the extent that it is difficult to maintain a conversation, it is usually more towards the vigorous category. It is also a good idea to do some form of strength training at least twice a week.
If all your brain conjures up when you think of exercise is a gross, sweaty gym that you’d rather die than step foot into, try to remember that physical activity is simply movement and that the benefits are cumulative. Physical activity can be taking your dog for a walk. It can be gardening or running through the sprinklers. It can also be playing your favourite sport, going for a hike or even just walking to get some water as a break from sitting. You don’t need to have it as just another thing on your to-do list that you never seem to find the motivation for, or think that if you don’t come close to passing out then you may as well skip it. The best type of physical activity is the one you enjoy doing. Only then will you make it a sustainable part of your life; a part you may actually look forward to!
Of course, during this lockdown period you may need to get more creative. But I hope that by now I have convinced you that it’s worth taking the extra time and effort to find an activity you can do at home. This time is also a great opportunity to build good habits for when things start going back to normal. Please do be careful, though, and don’t push yourself so far that you feel unwell or in pain. You are also welcome to get in touch with me if you’d like further guidance or advice.
In the meantime, here are some resources to inspire you.
To access more blog posts or to contact me, please visit: www.oslerchiropractic.co.za