I was asked by a journalist who is working on a new Reebok campaign looking at the fittest cities around the world based on how active people are per city and they needed some expert comments in support of their research.
Here are the questions and my answers.
1. The WHO reported that 26% of men and 35% of women were insufficiently physically active in high-income countries. With this knowledge, how should the average person combat a sedentary lifestyle and become more active on a daily basis?
Its all about mindset. To start they should go out for walks when they can do, so maybe walking to work or park the car a bit further away from the office and walk. Also walk to get your lunch or go out for a walk at lunch time. Also start off small and try to find an exercise routine which works for you. Don’t go all in and say I want to run a marathon in 7 days when you haven’t trained at all. By all means have a dream and work up to it.
Another option is to get up half an hour earlier than usual or even just 10 minutes and do some form of exercise for yourself and your mind. Being a yoga teacher, I tell my clients to roll their mat out just before bed and by their bed, then when you get up in the morning, you would have already stepped on your mat reminding yourself to just move. Even if you’ve only got 3 minutes to get ready in the morning, a gentle stretch will really allow your serotonin (calming hormones) to rise and your cortisol (stress hormones) to decrease.
Maybe if you are one to play at team sport, go and try it out at your local club. Anything to get you moving will make you feel so much better.
Another great tip is if you are watching TV and the adverts come on, get up and do as many star jumps as you can within the ad break. This will get your heart rate to rise and will release the endorphins (happy hormones) to flow. Just trying to build exercise into your lifestyle. You don’t have to have an hour each day to do anything, just little bits here and there is great for a busy lifestyle.
If you have children then get them involved to. You will always see me exercising with my children in tow. You can also use them as weights but giving them a piggy back and lunging or letting them climb on you for some extra weight and resistance. Its also fun to and if they see you doing exercise, they are more than likely to do it as adults.
2. What are your tips for staying active if you don’t like exercising?
Find something that you find interesting and just try it out. If you don’t like it then move on and find something else.
Mini bites of exercise is a big one to keep active to. You don’t need a full hour to exercise. If the full hour makes you dread exercise, the sick to 5 or 10 minute bursts or high intensity to get your heart rate up and your blood to flow.
Exercise with a friend as that will make you both not want to let the other person down. If one of you is feeling rubbish and doesn’t want to go then the other person will push you and want to help you. Same the other way around. You are there for each other.
Go out and juts get some fresh air. It will make you feel so much better by just being outside.
Have a goal you want to reach even if its just a walk everyday for 10 minutes. It takes 21 days for a habit to form so tell someone your goal. You will be more likely to stick to trying to get active than if you didn’t tell someone your goal.
3. What advice would you give to someone trying to maintain a fitness routine with a busy lifestyle?
Get up half an hour to an hour earlier or even 10 minutes earlier. Now I know that’s easier said than done but trust me it will make you feel good. I know being a busy mum of 2 and working full time you don’t have time to fit in exercise and I get you but squeezing in little workout bites is a good way to get your daily exercise squeezed in. You can do squats or lunges while cooking dinner. Have a pull up bar around the house. We have our pull up bar in the hallway just outside the bathroom and whenever I visit the bathroom I have to walk under the pull up bar so I then make sure I do 3 pull ups. It takes less than 1 minute and makes you feel good.
Get up and have your mat rolled out before bed so you are stepping right on it. It will give you the push you need to start your morning right. Any kind of movement will make you feel good so once you start it will be easier for it to become the norm.
Also having it in little bite size timings will be more appealing for you to keep on track rather than giving yourself a whole hour and you cant wait for that hour to go.
Set a goal that say maybe you want to run a certain distance within a month. Break it down and start off small. Keep adding to it till you reach that goal.
4. How important is exercise for our health? How can we best use fitness to improve our general physical and mental health?
Exercise is so important for our health, especially with what the world is going through right now and has been for the past year. Each time we get our muscles moving, we are creating more breath work to get the oxygen flowing into our bodies. The more we breath, the more we need to have fresh oxygen into the blood flow. Having fresh oxygen in our system will then nourish the blood flow going all around the body which in turn oxygenates the brain making us feel better immediately. The more we exercise the more serotonin and endorphins we are creating (they are our calming hormones and happy hormones) This in turn makes us feel better about ourselves which then makes us want to exercise more.
By exercising outside we are getting fresh air, breathing in all the goodness and also getting vitamin D to our bodies which is a great energy and mood booster. By also exercising outside we are taking in our environment, listening for the sounds of nature and really connecting back to where we should be. This will then make you feel calm and more relaxed allowing your mind to feel the same.
Whenever we are stressed and need a break, going outside even for a short walk and taking in the fresh air and our surroundings will help your cortisol levels drop (stress hormone) and for our happy hormones to increase.
Mental health is so important right now so going outside and getting fresh air and just being in nature really helps. A great tip I tell my clients is to go outside and remove your shoes and socks. Really allow your feet to connect with the ground, the earth. Really notice the feelings around your feet, what can you feel underneath you. How does it make you feel? We as humans need to connect more with nature, so by doing this it releases all the calming hormones (serotonin and endorphins) for you to feel good.
On a walk in nature, really soak up all your surroundings. Take in and notice the grass or notice the trees. Look up and gaze up looking at the clouds or the tops of the trees. We as humans tend not to look up as we are ones to just look at the floor but make a conscious effort to look around. See what you can see and make it fun. If you have children, try and spot different colours around. If you do the same walk each day. Spot a different colour each day. This will really make your mind tune into what is actually around you, making you feel so much calmer.
By bringing in a daily routine of a small amount of exercise, you will start to notice your body changing and then in turn you will start to feel better about yourself because your clothes are getting a little loser so you will want to carry on with your exercise.
5. What are the best exercise routines for each age (ie. kids, teenagers, over 20s, 30s, 40s, 50+)? What are the best exercise routines for different health conditions? For example, what are the best exercises if you've just had a baby or if you have back/neck pain?
Kids – You will need to find something fun for them to do as children don’t really have a huge attention span so playing in the park or kicking a football around will be classed as exercise. If you look at children they just run around a lot of the time which is exercise in itself. Being active will really help them to grow up feeling confident and will probably want to carry it on in adulthood.
Teenagers – Early teens can be quite sedentary so its important to make it fun again for them to want to do something. Allow them to choose the activity for exercise. So that could be racing each other in the family unit or giving them a challenge to complete over a course of a week or so. It needs to be fun and engaging. Late teens may want to start going to the gym so encouraging this is a great self esteem booster.
Over 20’s – This age group their bone density is still getting stronger so being careful not to lift to, to heavy weights. It’s a bit of a compromise here because they need to lift weights in order for the bone density to work but not to compensate it to much. Over 20’s are more likely to stick to a exercise routine and will be disciplined enough to carry it out compared with teenagers.
Over 30’s – This depends on where females are with their family etc and if they are wanting to start a family then to much exercise can be detrimental to falling pregnant but then to little exercise will be detrimental to because the body wont be producing the hormones it needs. General health and wellness in all ages should be considered and being as active as you can be.
Over 40’s – In females mid to late 40’s is when perimenopause or menopause can happen so they will need to look out for that and exercise appropriately to how they are feeling. Bone density will also decrease while going through the menopause so its certainly more important to go outside and be active while its sunny for the body to absorb vitamin D.
Over 50’s+ – Start to slow your workouts down and the risk of injuries will increase because of lack of new bone being produced so tailor the workouts to maybe brisk walking, yoga, pilates, or anything less stressful on the body. By all means carry on with any sports but just be aware the bodies recovery time will be increased. More arthritis will start to be found so keeping the body active by walking and getting out in nature will be good as well as doing some resistance band training to keep the muscles supple.
The best exercises for example say new mums are to start when they are ready and to know how your body is feeling. Get the all clear from the GP and then start slowly exercising by going for a gradual walk and then upping it to a brisk walk. Concentrate on the core and pelvic floor areas once the diastasis recti has knitted back together (that’s the middle of the core that splits to allow room for the baby) Use resistance bands to help keep your strength up and go gentle. It takes 9 months for a body to grow another body and it takes 1 year for that body to recover post partum. Definitely get outside and get fresh air. That will make you feel so much better and will help with any post natal depression. Also meet up with new mums, make new friends and get out and do some exercise together. My book BEE FIT Baby Enhanced Exercise Fitness is all about exercising with a baby in tow either in a wrap or in the buggy.
If you have back or neck pain, shoulder pain etc
Target those areas which are painful by going gently and allowing the muscles to stretch. You don’t want to over do it but then those particular muscles need stretching to get the oxygen to them for faster recovery. Aim to do some head and neck stretches by lifting the head up chin towards the sky and then head down, chin to chest, then left to right going as far as you wish. Shoulder roles are good for releasing tight shoulders and my favourite, Childs Pose to release the lower back and pelvis.
Start in all fours and push the pelvis back to the heels. Stretch the arms forwards and bring forehead to the floor, Breath and stay here for 5 minutes or so. Its amazing as releasing tight shoulders, tight hips, stretches out the arms, elongates the spine, stretches out the tops of the feet. Its amazing and it also helps to lower blood pressure and calm the mind.
Another good one for shoulder pain is Cow face pose so bring one arm up above your head and bend at the elbow brining the hand down to touch the neck or middle of the shoulders. With the other arm bring that around the back and try to grasp the other hand. Use a resistance band here to try to reach both hands together. Keep the top elbow up and the bottom elbow down, Lift through the chest. It’s a great shoulder opener. Stay here for 5 breaths and release, repeat on the other side.
6. Could you share a list of the 10 best exercises you would recommend to improve our mind/mental health?
1. Childs Pose
2. Walking outside to get fresh air
3. Running outside
6. Banana Pose (Yoga)
7. Savasana (relaxation pose in Yoga)
8. Breath work
9. Legs up the wall pose (Yoga)
10. Star jumps or burpees during an ad break while watching TV or doing squats and lunges while cooking dinner.
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Have a great day.
Lots of love xxx