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Physical Activities

Our lifestyles have changed dramatically. With ever-increasing advances in technology we have become physically less active. Physical activity should be part of our daily and weekly routine. It is as essential as sleep and nourishment. Exercise is about enjoying a physically active lifestyle (e.g. walking or cycling to the shops rather than driving) that includes increasing your heart rate (such as brisk walking) a few times a week.

This page aims to help you become physically active by:

  • telling you about the numerous ways in which to feel the benefits of exercise,
  • increasing your understanding about exercise,
  • giving you guidance on how to exercise,
  • offering tips on how to start exercising and how to stay motivated.

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, back problems, arthritis, joint pain, diabetes, are recovering from an illness or are pregnant, check with your doctor.

Accumulate 30 minutes of activity every day.

Being physically active on a regular basis can make a big difference to your physical and mental health and allow you to make the most of your life. Physical activity will help to reduce your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes and reduce your risk of stroke. Becoming more active can also help you control your Weight, make you feel and look better, give you more energy and help you relax. And you don't have to spend a fortune on keeping yourself well!     

You don't have to take part in energetic exercises or sports - small changes in your everyday routine which involve you being more active will be sufficient. Aim to build up 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Just small changes in your everyday routine, and you will see the difference in ghow you feel.Walk instead of travelling by car for short journeys, take the stairs instead of the lift, park your car further away or get off the bus a stop earlier and walk. Activities such as brisk walking, gardening, swimming and dancing are ideal.

Iit's never too late to begin being more physically active! The potential gains from physical activity can be great at any age, as physical activity can have a favourable effect on many health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. To make the most out of these benefits without encountering any problems you should seek advice from your GP or practice nurse and a physical activity specialist before you begin a new activity programme.

  • Begin by participating in a variety of activities that you enjoy.
  • Begin anything new gradually and build up slowly.
  • Add a little activity into your daily routine like going for a walking break a lunchtime with a colleague or even taking the stairs instead of the lift / escalator at work whenever you can.
  • Seek out social support. It will help you begin and stick to your active routine. Encourage a friend or family member to participate with you. No matter what you do or how you do it - it all counts. Do activities you enjoy.
  • Vary your activities by participating in different kinds of activities. Visit your local sports centre to see what activities they offer.
  • Try to set yourself some short, medium and long term goals to keep you motivated such as: "In one weeks time I'm going take a walking break at lunchtime on at least two days of the week and take the stairs most days. " "In one months time I'm going to walk the dog instead of watching tv for 15 minutes on at least three evenings a week." Keep a note of what you do. Reward yourself for achieving your goals.

There are lots of benefits you will gain becoming more active:

  • reduces risk of heart disease
  • reduces risk of high blood pressure
  • decreases resting heart rate (so your heart doesn't have to work as hard)
  • increases bone density
  • reduces risk of osteoporosis
  • improves strength and stamina
  • increases co-ordination and balance (especially important for older adults)
  • improves flexibility
  • improves respiration
  • improves circulation
  • helps to prevent constipation
  • helps with Weight control
  • improves sense of well-being and reduces stress

Four aspects of exercise

  • Cardiovascular fitness

This refers to the fitness level of your heart, lungs, veins and arteries which are responsible for processing and transporting oxygen to your muscles. As your fitness improves, your heart will become more efficient, being able to pump more blood with fewer contractions. This is was is meant by a reduced or slower resting heart rate. A slow resting heart rate means your heart is working with ease and efficiency; a high resting heart rate means that your heart is having to work hard. (Resting heart rate is the number of heart beats per minute when you first wake up and before you get up). Exercises which use oxygen (i.e. aerobic exercises) are those which improve cardiovascular fitness.

  • Muscular strength and endurance

If you do not use your muscles they will shrink. Muscular strength is necessary to perform fundamental movements of everyday life: lifting your children; carrying your shopping, even standing. Endurance (stamina) is necessary to continue to walk or carry your shopping without becoming tired. Both are essential in order to maintain mobility and functionality, particularly in older age. Without them we cannot live an independent life. Furthermore, muscular tissue uses more calories than inactive tissue which is good news for those trying to control their Weight. Resistance exercises improve muscular strength and endurance.

  • Flexibility

Flexibility is critical, yet often overlooked. Flexibility is the range of movement at a joint (where two or more bones meet). Without flexibility we will suffer from increased stiffness (and so an inability to perform simple tasks easily, like turning around to reverse park) poor posture and muscular tension, particularly in older age. Furthermore, flexibility helps to reduce the possibility of injury and risk of low back pain. Exercises to improve flexibility include stretching and yoga.

7 Ways to Stay Fit

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