Be Fit for Life

Did you know that a normal weight person who is unfit is twice as likely to die in the next decade as a person who is overweight and fit?  In the latest GI News, Prof Steven Blair reveals that his studies have shown low cardio-respiratory fitness, caused by an inactive lifestyle accounts for a lot of deaths.

Does this come as a shock? It's easy to understand why exercise is good for you and why exercising can help you lose weight and reduce the risk chronic diseases. What is hard is realising that all the normal weight people haven't escaped the risks of disease. It IS possible to be fit and active despite your size. Inactivity is a risk factor in itself for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers so even if a diet hasn't been working out, those few minutes of exercise have been making an impact.

Why should you start now?
  • Research shows even walking can have a beneficial effect on your health regardless of your age, race, sex weight etc. Walking is a great start if you can't commit yourself to vigorous training at the gym or sign up for a marathon! 
  • Improving your fitness level has also been shown to reduce your mortality risk by 44%! 
  • Physical activity can intervene during all stages of diabetes development. It can improve insulin resistance, impaired fasting glucose and type 2 diabetes. 
  • As well as diabetes it improves stroke, osteoporosis and coronary heart disease risk, not to mention its ability to prevent weight gain. 
  • If you've reached a plateau in your weight loss despite dieting efforts, exercise could be the push needed to shed those extra kilos  
  • Exercise can be a great stress reliever 
  • Exercise can help you sleep better
  • Exercise can improve your productivity. I know many people who say they don't have time to exercise however those few minutes or hours can de-stress you, brighten your mood, and make you more alert to be more productive for the other things in life

How much exercise do you need?
The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians encourages at least 30minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week AND vigorous exercise should be enjoyed by those who are able (This should be around 30mins 3-4days/week.)

Recommendations for young people (5-18yo) are at least 60mins a day and limiting electronic media for entertainment to no more than 2hours.

Of course a few minutes of extra exercise on what you are doing now will improve your fitness even if you aren't quite meeting recommendations yet! The goal is to get started!

How to get started 
Check with your doctor. If you have any medical conditions that may interfere with you exercising or any aches and pains check first with a health professional so you do not end up injuring yourself. Also ensure you have the right type of clothing and shoes so doing exercise is as easy and comfortable as can be.

Start slow.
If exercise is walking from the couch to the fridge then suddenly over exerting yourself isn't ideal. If you think about it, over exerting yourself and needing to give your body weeks to recover from all the aches and pains just delays exercising further! It's okay to just get off the bus a stop earlier, spend time with the kids in the backyard or how about taking a walk at sunset with a loved one? If you have a pet that needs walking I'm sure they'll appreciate a longer walk or more trips to the park in a week too. These small steps are often easier to integrate into your life and thus more likely to stick.

Increase incidental exercise.
Incidental exercise is the unplanned physical activity that is secondary to other things you may be doing such as getting to destinations (climbing stairs) or running errands (shopping). This is often easiest to increase. Simple things such as going the long way to a destination or splitting up shopping to 2 grocery trips so you can walk it or walking to pick up kids instead of driving can all help improve your fitness.

Do something you like
If you've always wanted to learn how to dance then sign up for a class! There are a LOT of ways to be active in life. If you have joint pain perhaps swimming is for you. If you enjoy going to the gym there's weights, cardio machines and classes you can sign up to. Team sports such as rugby, soccer, netball etc may suit you on the weekends or catching up with a friend over tennis, squash, cycling or even rock climbing.

Have goals.
Having goals can be a motivating factor to continue. Think of something specific and realistic you have in mind and how and when you want to achieve it by. This can be anything from being able to walk 5km, swim 3 laps at the pool without stopping, bench press 50kg, 100 push ups, walk an extra 1000 steps a day or run 10km in less than an hour. Whatever it is, set a time frame so you have more incentive to keep going!

Seek support.
Some people like an exercising partner or in groups. It can be quite lonely jogging alone or working out at the gym by yourself. If signing up for classes or scheduling Fridays as running date sound like something you'll like to do, go for it! Chances are you are more likely to stick to it if not going means letting people down. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family or even a personal trainer can also motivate you to stick to the exercise plan. Getting to know other active people can also give you more ideas on how to stay fit.

Exercising is one of the things I love to multitask. Lets face it jogging on the same track day in day out can only be exciting for so long before you get so bored you can't even think about getting up. Bring music with you. Music can really help pump you up for a workout or set the scene for the exercise. Another thing I particularly like doing is listening to podcasts or audiobooks while exercising. If you have an iPhone or iPod, free podcasts of your favourite radio or any audio/video files are available to download. You can also purchase audiobooks or listen to lectures or voicemails while running or cycling! If an exercise bike or treadmill is available set it up near the TV to watch your favourite program; I know many treadmills at the gym have TVs built in as well.  

Track your progress
Many people start exercising to lose weight and often weigh themselves hoping to see some results on the scale. However there are many other tools that you can use to track progress. Keeping a diary of your progress or take before and after photos. You can also measure your waist, hips, thigh and arm circumferences to measure differences or see a change in muscle tone. Use a pedometer to keep track of how many more steps you can take a day or measure your heart rate to see if it is slower. Not seeing any changes can be quite disheartening and you may want to give up but keep going at it and results will show! Anytime you have an achievement write it down! This chart by the QLD government is great for tracking food and exercise. There are also many applications on phones to track progress or you can start a fitness blog as well! 

Remember it's one thing to say you should really exercise but another to actually get started. So take the leap and start a long term commitment to exercising regularly, no matter what size you are!

For more information visit the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) website or an exercise physiologist. The new Australian Government campaign called "Swap it" has a great website with excellent tips on exercise and nutrition. If you'll like to know more about sport nutrition AIS has some great information or find a local APD today to have a chat.  

Share your exercise tips and comments below!


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The information presented on this blog acts as general nutrition advice and is not tailored to meet individual needs. It should not be used as a replacement for any medical advice you have recieved from medical practitioners. Please discuss any concerns for your health with your doctor or Accredited Practicing Dietitian before starting a new dietary or exercise regime as they can give more personalised recommendations.

I make every effort to ensure information on Nutrition with Wendy is correct and up to date however nutrition is an evolving field and discrepancies can arise. If the information here appears incorrect or out of date please let me know and I will do my best to update my posts.