The Dreaded E Word…
If it was only as simple as ‘fitting’ exercise into our weekly routine, wouldn’t we all be absolutely ship shape and on top of the world?!… Possibly not… It seems that in today’s world, we are struggling to fit in the very thing that could give us the health and energy to get more out of each week; and the years ahead.
As an Exercise Physiologist, I wish I had all the answers, but even I spent most of 2017 either too busy, or too tired, to exercise. Or so I thought. But its time we stop making excuses and start including this “one stop shop” into our routine. There is no pill or solution better than exercise, it helps our physical, emotional and mental health, all at the same time; whilst treating or preventing diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, musculoskeletal injuries, and some cancers.
Easier said than done though, right?! I know….
I am going to talk about this from a Mums perspective, because it is simply where I am at, however, I challenge everyone to extend their health through exercise in 2018.
As the World Health Organisation reports, globally the number one killer of women is cardiovascular disease, which is often perceived as a ‘male’ only disease, and throughout the world breast cancer is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20 – 59 years.
Australia’s Physical Activity Guidelines, which I note now have a huge focus on reducing sedentary behaviour, are now referred to as “Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour” guidelines. How sad is it, that our lifestyle has become so sedentary based, our Government has to name our activity guidelines about controlling the amount of time we are sitting? Our bodies are simply not designed to sit, we are machines designed to move. We have muscles, joints and a skeleton that is designed to stand, walk, run, and as our ancestors did, hunt for food. Could you imagine women before our time sitting as much as we do, be it at work, or even at home. We need to change these patterns of behaviour to increase the time we are moving.
So the Australian Governments Guidelines advise us to be active on most; preferably all days every week, and to accumulate 2.5 – 5 hours of moderate physical activity, or 1.25 – 2.5 hours of vigorous physical activity (on most days). Now I don’t know about other Mum’s out there, but some weeks, this is simply not achievable! So I am happy with the first guideline, which is that doing any physical activity is better than none, and that it’s ok to start by doing something, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
Let’s be kind to ourselves, in realistic terms, and let’s be happy and aim for 2-3 sessions/week of moderate to vigorous activity, and on the other days, try and implement other changes to our lifestyle that make us move more, such as sitting on the floor at night and stretching, taking the stairs at work, parking further away from where we need to go, and taking the kids to the park and playing with them.
There are some great reasons why we should be moving more, but “how do we manage to fit it all in?”, I hear you saying. But you are not alone in this problem. See below my top tips for fitting in movement into your weekly routine for busy women:
- If you have kids, include them - its important they see you exercising. We need to breed back into our generations a respect for and love of exercise. I can only credit my parents for this. I grew up being lead by example of how good exercise is for your physical, emotional, and mental health. Although including your kids into your exercise might not be the ideal situation, as you may not be able to do exactly what you would like to do, including the kids in a run, bike ride and some body weight exercises is not only great for you, but great for them as well.
- Move when you have the chance – take every opportunity you get. Life is busy, but there are always more hours in the day. You might need to change your sleeping habits. Going to bed an hour earlier, and getting up an hour earlier in the morning, is a really easy way of incorporating exercise into your day and still getting enough sleep. The feeling you get in the morning after exercising often puts you in a better frame of mind to tackle the morning chaos and arrive at work fresh with endorphins flowing reading to dive head first into a productive day.
- Break the cycle – often its breaking a cycle of habit, by introducing a new habit. Once a new routine is introduced, and the benefit is realised, it becomes a habit. Exercise has an addictive power for some, simply for how it makes us feel. The chemical release of endorphins felt after higher intensity activity, as well as the improvements in strength and cardiovascular fitness, are hopefully rewards enough to keep us on track.
- Find something you enjoy – there’s no point taking on a running program, if you hate running, because you’re not going to stick to it. Although, it is surprising what you can grow to enjoy, so don’t be afraid of trying something new as you never know what you might enjoy. Find the exercise that gets you in, there are so many options, walking, running, swimming, pilates, yoga, strength-based training, HIIT, boxing, or a new sport. Often if you pick an event or something to train for, this gives you a timeframe and structure, and a reason to stay committed to your program.
- Look after yourself – sometimes you might need to address an injury or niggling aches and pains, before upping the intensity of exercise. Just remember, if you are commencing or returning to exercise pre or post-partum, your body is going through, or has been through an amazing transformation, it has already run its own marathon. So, take care and get the advice and assistance to prepare and recover your body after its grown and delivered another human being.
My perspective for 2018 is I’m keeping it simple - to be happy about doing something. Whether it's one or two things a week, that is OK, because it is better than nothing at all. Although what I might really love, is to do is something by myself (or more intense), but I am learning to be happy with a compromise. Only you know what you enjoy, and what your goals are, so go set them; because a goal without a plan, is simply a dream.
Write your plan down at the start of each week. Detail when you are doing your exercise, so the family can see it, and work around you, or better still, join in! You don’t need to dread the “E” word and treat it like a chore – find something you enjoy, have a plan, and go enjoy the physical, emotional and mental health benefits of moving more in 2018.
Michelle Morgan is an Exercise Physiologist and Co-Founder of Savvy Birds. With 15 years working in Occupational Health, Workplace Rehabilitation, clinical Exercise Physiology, and leading teams of Allied Health Professionals. Michelle is honoured to share her experiences at Savvy Birds, nurturing, empowering and growing the amazing women of our region. Contact Michelle via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to talk more about Exercise Physiology or Savvy Birds opportunities.