Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 20 years, you already know how important regular exercise is to good health and wellbeing! But most Australians still don’t get anywhere near the amount of exercise they need to maintain a healthy body weight; reduce their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers; and they also don’t realise how exercise keeps mood and energy levels high.
If you’re still choosing the couch over regular exercise we hope these tips can help you get moving!
1) Think short and sweet.
Use the little bits and bobs of free time that pop up during the course of your day to exercise. Lots of people think that exercise needs to be done in one long, hard, puffing-and-panting session in order to be worthwhile. Not true!
Incidental movement – short bursts of activity – such as walking to your supervisor’s office (rather than sending an email) and taking the stairs (rather than the lift) can contribute significantly to the number of calories/kilojoules you burn each day. And breaking ‘formal’ exercise up into short blocks may actually be better than doing it all at once.
A study of exercise for weight loss found that people who did 40 minutes of treadmill exercise in four blocks of ten minutes each, lost more weight than those who did their 40 minutes in one long, boring block.
Exercise with hand weights or resistance bands, or good old-fashioned floor exercises like push-ups and sit-ups, can also be done in short bursts whenever you have a few minutes to spare. How about an exercise session in the ad break of your favourite TV show, rather than an expedition to the kitchen to grab a snack?
2) Keep exercise equipment handy
Q: Where is the worst place to keep your exercise equipment?
A: In the garage: it’s often cold and draughty, there’s usually no stereo there to play up-beat music, and your equipment is out of sight (and therefore, usually out of mind).
Q: Where is the best place to keep it?
A: In the lounge room! There your equipment is in full view, easily accessible, and able to be incorporated into daily activities such as talking on the phone or watching TV.
3) Combine exercise with errands
Rather than drive to the shops, post office or bank, you can walk or cycle. Carrying home groceries adds extra oomph to your walking workout (ed note: oomph is a humorously technical term meaning ‘calorie burning and muscle-strengthening potential’).
Bikes are great for travelling distances that are too far to walk, and a backpack, luggage rack or front basket allows you to carry home your goodies.
If you have a young child, a child seat that fits onto the back of your bike lets Junior come along for the ride – and adds extra intensity to your pedalling workout. When my kids were little, we only had one car. I cycled or walked everywhere, carrying them either in a front sling, baby backpack or bike carrier. I have to tell you, I had legs of steel over this time period!!!
4) Combine exercise with enjoyment
Yes – the two can be mutually compatible, even if you’re not a born gym-junkie or jogging nut!
Broaden your definition of exercise – Latin dancing is a terrific calorie-burner (and a great way to meet a Latin lover if happen to be looking for one).
Roller blading or ice-skating will take you back to your childhood while taking inches off your thighs.
Boxercise allows you to hit things (and other people) and get away with it – wow, just think of all those office frustrations you’ll be able to discharge!
5) Identify your best time
Are you a morning person, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from the moment you wake up? Then your best bet is to get to bed a little earlier and do your exercise as soon as you wake up.
On the other hand, if you have to be dragged kicking and screaming from your bed in the morning (or if you don’t even have the energy to kick and scream), you’ll find it easier to fit some exercise into your lunch break, or after you finish work.
Don’t even think about trying to fit exercise in in the morning if you’re a night owl, or conversely trying to do it at night if you’re an early-to-bed, early to rise type.