Loaf or leap?

As the nights draw in, the days get shorter and the weather becomes autumnal, it’s very tempting to shut the curtains and snuggle into the comforts of home.

Very often the last thing you feel like doing is going out to an exercise class. The effort of getting there, braving weather and traffic, even the thought of having to get changed into exercise kit is enough to put you off. The demands of your job, family and just daily life can sometimes leave you feeling as though you are running around in circles. It’s so much easier to sink into the sofa with a coffee, or a glass of wine and the TV, feeling you need a rest and promising yourself you’ll go to the class next week when you don’t feel so tired. The truth is, though, that the only way to generate energy, to feel less tired, is to move your body.

Modern life with its advances in technology and transportation means that most of us are sitting around for most of the day, with little to no exercise or activity built in. Even leisure time is mostly sedentary, scrolling through Instagram, watching TV, playing video games. This means that there are long periods of time when you’re not moving your body. It is a fact, though, that not moving your body comes at a price in the form of increased risk of heart and circulatory disease.

The heart is a muscle and like any other muscle it needs physical activity or exercise to help it work properly. When you’re active, your lungs do a better job of getting oxygen into your blood so it can be pumped to the tissues and cells of your body.

Regular physical activity:

  • Helps control your blood pressure and keep it within healthy levels
  • Raises your levels of good cholesterol and reduces the bad cholesterol
  • Can help to control your blood glucose levels, reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Increases the number of calories you burn and helps you maintain a healthy weight

Not only does regular activity protect your heart, it can also help your general wellbeing by boosting your mood, improving your concentration and memory and helping you sleep better. (British Heart Foundation)

We all know that the desire to curl up on the sofa can so easily override the desire to get fit. On top of that, if you’ve spent the day avoiding cake or a drink, then you’ve run out of will power when it comes to exercising. It is also a fact that women tend to be less active than men, possibly because they feel guilty for taking time out for themselves. Or is that just another convenient excuse?

How can we overcome all those barriers to becoming more physically active?

One way is to build a mix of everyday and organised activity into your life. First set yourself the target of doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity each week. This is anything that raises your heart rate, makes you breathe faster and feel warmer. For example, you could:

  • Park your car as far away from your destination as possible so that you have to walk to it. Time yourself over a period of time to see if you can decrease the time it takes.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier.
  • Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift.
  • Carry your heavy shopping rather than using a trolley.
  • Do some heavy housework or gardening.

As far as organised activity is concerned, there’s no need to join a gym or run a marathon. Walking, running, cycling and dancing will do the job just as well. If, like many women do, you feel anxious about being outside on your own, see if you can find a friend to join you. Walking the dog is another good way of exercising regularly. It’s a job which has to be done and it is very social because dog owners seem to have an affinity for each other.

First choice for me has always been joining a FLexercise class. OK, so you have to overcome that ‘sofa or go out’ dilemma. In your heart, though, you know that however tired you are, making the effort to get to your class will be rewarded by making you feel a hundred times better. The more you sit around thinking how tired you feel, the more tired it will make you feel. Once the music and exercise starts your energy returns and all your cares and worries are put away for a while.

What was it that the BHF said? The music and the company will boost your mood; having to remember and repeat the exercises will improve your concentration and memory; the physical activity will make you enjoy that moment when you sink into the sofa or put your head on the pillow even more. You will make some wonderful friends too. Who you could go walking with!

Find a class near you

Margaret Peggie