Exercise for a long and healthy life

Shocking new research has found that lack of exercise kills twice as many people as obesity. So today leading sports nutritionist Nikki Edwards, explores ways to increase your physical activity for optimum health.

A brand new study has revealed that the risk of early death is twice as high in people who do little or no exercise than those who are obese or overweight.

But all is not lost.

The researchers also found that just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day might be all it takes to lessen a sedentary person’s risk of dying young.

The facts

The team analysed data on over 334,000 men and women taking part in a large European study looking at the links between cancer and diet that also measured many other variables such as exercise and BMI.

Author Ulf Ekelund, a sport medicine professor, concluded that people needed to get up and get moving if they wanted to live longer.

“Just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive,” he added.

The study classed 22.7% of participants as inactive because they reported having no recreational activity and were occupied in sedentary jobs.

And the analysis found that doing exercise that burned just 90-110 calories a day – the equivalent of a daily 20-minute brisk walk – was enough to move an individual from the inactive to the moderately inactive group and reduce their risk of early death by 16-30%.

Where have we gone wrong?

The fact that exercise is good for you is nothing new.

We are all aware that it lowers the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, of diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, depression, stress and dementia.

And research has proved time and time again that it also boosts self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy levels and helps you lose weight.

Why then does an incredible 30% of Britons do absolutely none?

Well I think there are several reasons for this:

  • People are less active these days. This is partly because technology has made our lives easier. We drive cars, machines wash our clothes and we entertain ourselves in front of a TV.
  • Fewer people do manual work. In fact most of us have jobs that involve sitting on our bottoms all day in front of a computer.
  • We are too busy. This is one of the most often used excuses for not doing any exercise.
  • We find it inconvenient.
  • We find it embarrassing.
  • We find it costly. Although it costs absolutely nothing to go for a walk round the block.

A nation of couch potatoes

In the UK we spend a lot of time worrying about weight.

Many of us are sucked in by diet tricks and fads and the market for lifestyle manuals and healthy eating recipe books is booming.

Yes, we all know that carrying too much weight is unhealthy.

But if you think it’s okay to be a couch potato because you’re thin, you’re making a huge mistake.

Exercise is as important – if not more so – than what you put in your mouth.

 

How much exercise?

Government guidelines advise Britons to do 150 minutes of moderate activity such as gardening, dancing or brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, including playing sport, running or aerobics, every week.

But another recent survey found that a third of people could barely manage to walk for 30 minutes over seven days, even when trips to the shops, work or school are considered.

And a report backed by the initiative Walking for Health last year found that physical inactivity cost the economy up to £10billion a year through sick days, healthcare costs and early deaths.

When exercising, you need to make sure you are doing it right.

Otherwise your time will be wasted.

Moderate-intensity activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can’t sing the words to a song.

Step by step

Of course, for a person who does little or no exercise, starting a regime of daily workouts can be daunting.

The key to success is to make small but achievable changes in physical activity which may be easier to achieve and maintain.

It also helps to chart your progress.

The more you do, the easier it gets.

So whether it’s going for a walk, taking a bike ride or using the stairs instead of the lift, keep a diary of your achievements.

Don’t give up

Exercise can easily be incorporated into your daily life, whether you work long hours in an office or are a busy mum juggling a manic family life.

Pick activities that you enjoy and fit into your routine. Then work out what time is best for you to exercise and stick to it.

If you work in an office, take the stairs instead of the lift and walk up escalators rather than standing still.

Stand while you speak on the phone, and walk around the office to chat to colleagues instead of emailing them.

You could also consider exercising during your lunch break.

Some offices have gyms on site but others are located near swimming pools and squash courts.

Busy mums should try to think of activities to do with children which are active.

Take them to the swimming pool or play in the garden or park perhaps? You could also consider joining a child-friendly gym.

Enjoy life

Life is precious. It is also fleeting.

If you want to live longer then paying heed to the most recent statistics is paramount.

And you never know, you might learn to love your daily 20-minute workout once you get going.

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