Whether you are 5 or 55 or even 85 everyone will benefit from an increase in physical activity.
During Winter, the days get shorter and our energy levels slump and particularly over this period our calorie consumption increases, whilst our exercise levels reduce. This means that our bodies tend to lay down more fat, and if this is typically around the heart can lead to complications in health such as increased risk of heart disease. If this has followed a spring, summer and autumn of regular activity, suddenly reducing your activity levels can have an even more detrimental affect.
In a 40 year study of 6000 men, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 55% of men that were completely healthy and exercised regularly in their 50’s lived to at least 85 years of age with no major health problems. This was opposed to only 9% that had risk factors such as smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, high blood pressure or cholesterol during their 50’s. Fitness was particularly important to staying healthy later on and most of the major risk factors can be prevented simply by eating a good diet, avoiding cigarettes and taking part in exercise.
It’s never too late to incorporate physical activity into your life and one of the simplest ways to do this is by adding walking to your daily life. Walking is inexpensive and simple to progress with. It will improve lower body tone and is a ‘fat burner’. It allows you to get outside, alone or with friends, so can be great ‘me time’, or can provide a widening of your social circle. Walking is flexible it can fit around you. Walking is fun.
Government ‘guidelines’ recommend 30minutes of daily activity to keep your heart healthy. This does not have to be continuous; you can break it down into manageable chunks. We can all enjoy the excesses that the festive season offers by starting now to increase our walking levels. Walk to the local shops for a pint of milk, rather than taking the bus or car; arrange to meet your friend or neighbour and go out together for a walk on some of the lovely byways and footpaths; meet the grandchildren from school and walk them home.
By increasing activity levels your body & mind may benefit from, among other things:
Reduced risk of heart attack; lowered blood pressure; reduced risk of hardening of the arteries; increased lung function & capacity; reduced body fat; improved muscle tone; strengthened bones; reduced stress & strain; improved sleep patterns; improved mental alertness.
At the same time take a quick look at your diet.
It should be balanced in all the major food groups: carbohydrates – wholegrain breads, potatoes, rice; protein – lean meat, fish and pulses; a mix of colourful fruits and veggies; the right fats – the omega 3’s and from polyunsaturated sources such as vegetable oils; quality dairy and plenty of water. This will give you the energy that you need to increase and sustain an increase in physical activity whilst also providing good protection in anti-oxidants which help fight the ageing process. ‘A little of what you fancy’ is all very well and good, so long as that is balanced with sustained physical activity, optimum nutrition, restful sleep and plenty of water.
If you suffer from illness or injury, are overweight or have not exercised for a period of time we recommend that you visit your GP before embarking on or increasing your exercise/activity levels.
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