Eating healthier, getting more exercise and saving money are the resolutions many of us make this coming New Year, but by February many of these goals start to disappear.

However, one resolution health experts and the Government is keen we all stick to is getting far more exercise and leading a more active and healthy lifestyle. 

Morc Coulson, senior lecturer in health related exercise at the University of Sunderland, believes there are ways to stick to our exercise goals, but success comes in small changes.

It’s a no brainer as far as the ‘experts’ are concerned.  They say we all need to get off our backsides and do a lot more exercise to stay fit and healthy.  But if that is the case, why are so few people doing it?

Only one person in three follows the government’s advice on exercise.  And that’s assuming that those who say they do are actually telling the truth.

The Chief Medical Officer for the UK advises that we should exercise for about 30 minutes, five times a week (150 minutes).  The advice suggests moderate intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking along with muscle strengthening activities. So why do most people fail to meet the target?

Trying to do 150 minutes a week when you normally do nothing at all is too ambitious. You are setting yourself up for failure.  What happens is that people will join a class which is much too vigorous, don’t enjoy it, and ache terribly the next day.  So they don’t go back.

More people give up on boot camps than any other form of exercise.  They are good for people who are already fairly fit, but inactive people can’t go from zero to hero in one session. It’s much more effective to set yourself smaller goals which you can achieve – because that motivates you to do more.

Other experts are also admitting that for many people the current advice is unrealistic. For sofa surfers the emphasis is shifting from encouraging them to exercise to increasing their everyday activity levels. Even modest increases in the time spent standing or walking rather than sitting can reduce the risks of an early death.

The evidence in various studies has found that inactivity caused T as many deaths as being overweight. Those most at risk work in jobs where they sit down for most of the day and take no exercise in their spare time. However the good news is that relatively small amounts of exercise – the equivalent of a 20 minutes brisk daily walk – can offer protection against early deaths.

SITTING DISEASE – ARE YOU AT RISK?

A sedentary lifestyle is also now known as ‘sitting disease’ – and many of us are at risk from its lethal effects. It causes twice as many deaths as being overweight! According to the World Heart Federation sitting disease may be as dangerous as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.[1]

It is clear to see that the risk of death increases significantly when adults sit for more than six to seven hours a day.

To compound this even further our busy lifestyles are designed to save time and reduce physical effort: even our toothbrushes are electric. If we wish we can go from bed, to breakfast, to a sedentary workplace, to lunch, the sofa and bed hardly standing on our feet at all.

Takeaway meals and convenience foods also save us from spending time on our feet in the kitchen. For the majority of us small changes in our habits are key to reducing sedentary behaviour as let’s be honest, are we really ready to become the boot camp warrior.

Try these simple strategies and enjoy your mince pie!

TOP TIPS

  • Increase the time you spend on your feet….try some new habits.
  • Walking around while talking on the phone – better to wear out the carpet than your heart
  • Get up during TV advertising breaks and do some stretches/run on the spot
  • Spend some of your lunch hour walking
  • Walk over to see a colleague rather than emailing
  • Don’t look for the nearest parking space – park further away
  • Wash the car yourself
  • Get off the bus or tube a stop or two earlier
  • Shop in real time rather than on line (carrying bags helps muscle strength)
  • Use stairs rather than the lift – don’t send the kids upstairs to fetch items for you
  • Walk rather than drive whenever possible – and make a point of walking for at least half an hour a day. Find a walking buddy and go out whatever the weather.

Morc Coulson

Morc Coulson has been involved in the health and fitness industry for the past 20 years. He is a Senior lecturer and programme leader of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Sunderland. He was Chair of the CPD endorsement panel at Skills Active, the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure, for many years and is a Level 4 Specialist CPD course evaluator. He is author of a number books, including: The Fitness Instructor’s Handbook, The Complete Guide to Teaching Exercise to Special Populations and Practical Fitness Testing.

His latest book, The Complete Guide to Personal Trainers, was voted a best seller in the OriGym Awards: Best Books for Personal Trainers (2019).