Tips to stay active

Many of us live sedentary lifestyles with jobs that involve sitting in front of a computer. Driving to many locations we visit, and sitting during our leisure time eg watching television, reading, playing cards etc. This lack of activity might be detrimental to our health. Inactivity has now been related to several conditions including coronary heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers (Lee et al 2012). 

The question is how to increase your activity levels. Below I have listed some tips for you to become more active. 

1) Exercise: probably the most obvious but remember you don’t have to join  a gym to exercise there are many alternatives. Many parks now have outdoor activity machines that are similar to those at the gym and are available free of charge. Power walking or jogging outdoors is definitely preferable to using the treadmill at the gym. You can start with a power walk, then progress to a jog for 30 seconds, walk for 30 seconds (10 minutes in total). Gradually increase the time you run and decrease the time you walk.

Playing sport is also great exercise and sociable, examples include 5 a side football, badminton, tennis etc. 

Fitness classes either at a local hall or using DVDs at home are another way of adding exercise to your daily routine.

One note of caution to add here, is that many people exercise but then spend the rest of their time being inactive. This does not confer the benefits associated with exercise and an active lifestyle. 

2) Purchase an activity monitor: These are relatively cheap and I would use them to monitor the number of steps you take each day. You should start with a total of 6000 steps daily but aim to increase this figure to 8000. If you find that you are short of your total when you get home instead of watching TV go for a walk to make up your steps. Other strategies include park your car further away and walk the rest of the distance. Walk for 5 minutes during your lunch break. 

3) Set an alarm on your computer for every 30 minutes and when it goes off stand up and march on the spot for one minute before sitting down again. Soon you will do this automatically and won’t need an alarm to remind you.

4) Get up 10 minutes earlier and walk for 10 minutes before leaving for work.

5) Everytime you need to go up the stairs do it twice (IE turn around at the top, walk down and then walk up again).

Taking on board the advice here will mean activities become automatic behaviours. However you need to make them a habit by performing them regularly and consistently. Initially use reminders and set your activity reminder to inform you when you have been inactive. This will help you incorporate these activities in your daily life. It will not involve excessive time commitment but the benefits you will glean by exercising AND being active throughout the day will confer many health benefits and you will find everything gets easier the more you do it.

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Reference: Dr I-Min Lee ScDEric J Shiroma MScFelipe Lobelo MDPekka Puska MDSteven N Blair PEDPeter T Katzmarzyk PhDfor the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group 2012. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet 380(9838): 219-229.