Hitting the gym is probably the last thing you feel like doing. Here’s how you can create fitness habits that help you stay healthy for life.
Movement is not just about looking good. It has many benefits that are crucial for our health – it helps us to feel and perform better, live longer, and with less disability as we age. Movement is vital to our happiness, and can help us to manage anxiety and depression.
Moving our body improves fitness levels. Fitness boosts our mood, energy levels, focus and brainpower. It can spark creativity and propel productivity. People who are fitter are less likely to develop stroke, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer. Being fit and healthy help us manage our risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and joint issues, and even dementia.
Movement has also been found to help lower our stress levels and blood pressure. Exercise helps us to feel calmer, too.
Being fit also helps us build strong bones, and that can impact on our quality of life, as we age. So, being fit is not about the numbers on the scales; it is simply crucial to living well.
In many countries, physical inactivity is a serious problem, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognising it as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.
In 2018, this international public health agency reported that one in three Singaporeans does not get enough physical activity. Another 2018 study, published in PLOS ONE, said that participants (from Australia and New Zealand) were “significantly more active when they correctly identified more diseases associated with physical inactivity, and when they overestimated the risks associated with adult inactivity.” So, understanding the risks is crucial, and with inactive teenage lifestyles being associated with adult inactivity, it is vital to inspire our kids to move.
According to the Australian Burden of Disease Study released in 2017, if we all did an extra 15 minutes of brisk walking for at least five days each week, the nation’s disease burden due to physical inactivity would reduce by approximately 13 percent.
One in three Singaporeans does not get enough physical exercise
Sitting Is The New Smoking
Dr Nikki Stamp is a heart surgeon, and author of the new book Pretty Unhealthy. She writes about how we are a generation obsessed with our body appearance, not body health. She discusses the idea of ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and urges readers to get moving.
According to Dr Stamp, “56 percent of adults are not active enough, and that becomes 66 percent for people from a lower socio-economic background. Elderly people are also not active enough, with serious repercussions for their health and ability to recover from [various] diseases.” She notes that these statistics, published in Australia’s Health 2018, are echoed globally and deserve particular attention.
It’s normal to feel a lack of motivation to move, but the secret is to just do anything. Doing something also gets us away from procrastination.
Author Mark Manson writes in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck about the ‘do something’ principle. He suggests that if you lack the motivation to make a change in your life, you should “do something and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.” He further writes that any progress is important.
Dr Stamp says one of the theories around motivation to exercise is something called the ‘self-determination theory’. “When we have the autonomy, a feeling of mastery and a feeling of connectedness in an activity, we’re more likely to do whatever that is,” she explains.
“So that means choosing something that you want to do, that you feel like you don’t suck at and that you can share with people. On a broader level, the social determinants of health – where you live, how much money you make, your education level, your responsibilities – are a significant factor in a healthy lifestyle. I’d like to see a world where we make it easy for people to be healthy – no matter who they are. Let’s create a world where health is a default, not a struggle.”
Enjoyment is important when it comes to exercise, says Dr Stamp.
“Research supports this as a way to get and stay motivated around exercise. This concept that you haven’t done proper exercise unless you’re flogging yourself is really misleading. It’s much less likely that you’re going to want to keep showing up if you hate what you’re doing.”
Change The Language Around Fitness
Dr Grant Schofield, a professor of public health, questions why society tends to “malign” those who take time out for fitness. He’s referring to negative terms such as ‘fitness freaks’. He says the language should radiate positivity around those who take time to get moving.
WHO Exercise Guidelines
Dr Stamp says the current exercise recommendations by WHO is 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly.
“With exercise, the more we can do, the better, but even small amounts of exercise are essential. There have been a number of research studies looking at lower levels of exercise.
“Take the 10,000-steps-a-day advice, for example. A large study of older women published in a medical journal this year showed that these women got health benefits in 4,400 steps a day. My rule with exercise is that some [exercise] is better than none, and more is better than some,” she says.
Professor Grant Schofield argues the WHO guidelines “put the bar too low.” He explains that “humans are made to move.” And that, “we need to take it regularly, seriously, but not too hard.”
Professor Schofield suggests that people should integrate movement into their day whenever they can, such as walking or cycling instead of taking the bus.
“Half the time, you might not feel like moving. You feel knackered, stressed and tired. The last thing you feel like doing is exercise. But if you do it, then you come out of it a different person,” he explains.
Fun Ways To Exercise With Young Kids
Make exercise fun for the little ones and motivate them to be on the move whenever you can. It’s crucial for their wellbeing, confidence and dexterity, plus it’s a blast being out in the fresh air.
Try taking them to a skate park with ramps and cool jumps. It can be fun for them to try new skills, and it can improve their fitness, coordination and balance. Take the kids to play in different parks to make it more exciting. If you’re not a fan of our humidity, check out the many indoor, air-conditioned playgrounds such as SuperPark and Kiztopia, and join in with the kids to embrace the power of play.
Climb ladders, then hurl your body down a slide or balance on the rope bridges. It’s more fun for your kids if you join in, too. When was the last time you tried monkey-bars? How about pull-ups on a bar in a playground? This summer, skip the gym and get all the exercise you need at any children’s playground.
Fun Ways To Exercise With Older Kids
The key to motivating older kids to get their daily recommended physical activity is to find something they enjoy. And if they get to choose the activity to do, there’s more chance they will want to be involved and make a habit of it.
Walking and cycling trails can be fun to explore, and a trip to the beach can be a fun way of exercising, too. You could also use an app to do a yoga session with your kids at home. Workout video games are super fun, make effective workouts, and you can do them anytime!
How about hiring a kayak or canoe, or going for a roller skate? Summer can also be an excellent time for a windsurfing lesson. If you’re looking for a challenge, check out stand-up paddleboard yoga. This can be an exciting way to get stronger and embrace the art of balancing.
Or is there a tennis or squash club nearby to trial? Archery, rock-climbing and outdoor rope courses are great for the adventurous.
EXERCISE FOR ADULTS
You no longer have to do traditional fitness like running, swimming, cycling or hiking. Try something new!
How about going to a tai chi class in a park to become calmer?
Embrace the power of play by trying an acro-yoga session outdoors. Acro- yoga combines yoga, acrobatics and Thai massage with a partner.
If you don’t feel motivated to exercise, then take your dog for a walk. This can help you to focus on the pet’s enjoyment, rather than the need to pound the pavement.
Buy a skipping rope and elevate your heart rate. Mix things up by taking the rope with you to the park. You can also use it when you’re away from home on holiday.