What if I told you there was a medication that could prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, depression and obesity; that was cheap, easy for people to take, readily available and with virtually no side effects.
What if I also told you that people who don’t take this medication are more at risk of dying than if they were a smoker, a diabetic and obese – combined together, and that 37,000 people in the UK die every year as a result of NOT taking this medication.
First of all – you’d probably want to know why you don’t know about this drug and why all doctors, healthcare professionals and members of the government aren’t shouting about it loudly? – and that is a really good question.
Because the medication we are talking about is called physical activity or exercise.
We tend to think about exercise as something you do to lose weight or “get fit”, but very few people know how important exercise is in preventing many of the diseases I have listed and how effectively it can be used to treat these conditions and many others, including dementia, osteoporosis and arthritis. There is strong research evidence to show in many cases, exercise is more effective than medication in treating and preventing these diseases and there is also strong evidence that prescribing exercise is more cost effective as well; something we should be giving serious consideration to in our cash-strapped NHS.
The recent introduction of the “sugar tax” in Britain has got people talking about what we eat and its effects on our health, which is great, but the important role that physical activity plays in preventing diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease has been seriously overlooked.
Physical activity vs Exercise
It’s important that we talk about physical activity rather than exercise. Many people are immediately put off by the concept of exercise, disliking the thought of getting out of breath, hot and sweaty or wondering about how they can fit those gym visits or aerobic classes into an already busy life. But to reduce the risk of these serious conditions, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, you don’t need to push yourself to get hot and sweaty – you simply need to get moving!
Still not ready to hit the pavement? Take a look at these 5 reasons to get active.
Help to control weight
Physical activity can work wonders on your waistline. Although HIIT classes and heavy workouts might be all the rage, you needn’t go this far if it doesn’t work for your lifestyle. To see the benefits of exercise try getting your heart-rate up for 30 minutes of the day. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, or get off one stop earlier on your commute and take a brisk walk to start the day.
Move your mood
When you’re feeling low the thought of getting active might be on the bottom of your list, however, Dr Phil Riyley’s blog here to see statistics about mental health and exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins, you might have heard of the ‘runner’s high’ which improve the mood. Activity such as Pilates can help promote mindfulness, soothing our stress levels and taking time to focus on ourselves.
The more active you are the better your endurance. If you start taking the stairs to the tube or in the office tomorrow it might be a little tough at first, however, by week three or four you’ll see a huge improvement.
Well deserved sleep
We’re not suggesting your run laps just before bed as this can actually have a negative impact on your sleep. However, being more physically active during the day has been shown to improve sleep quality. As we’ve mentioned physical activity is also great for mental health, silencing some of that stress and worry can make switching off at night that much easier.
Make it social
While some people might get a kick out of boot camps, for some of us the thought of getting pink and sweaty doesn’t seem all that fun. However, joining a running club or even heading out for a walk with a colleague on your lunch-break is a great way to be social whilst getting those much needed 30 minutes in.
Try something new like a dance class or hiking trails. There are some great groups out there like TRIBE that offer adventure and community for those looking for something a little different.
Convinced? So what next…
You should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. Check out this handy graphic to find out what we mean by moderate.
Make it something fun that works for you. If you hate gym environments then don’t join! Try classes, or go solo and use apps like the Couch to 5K to start running. Routines can become boring so mix things up, try walking, swimming or running and make sure you add some strength work. This could be hitting the weights, joining a Pilates class or getting your weekly food shop home.
It’s best to check in with your Doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Read how handy tips in this blog on how to start exercising. Good luck and we’re sure you’ll be feeling great in no time. If you want to book an appointment with Claire or one of the Pure Sports Medicine team, follow the link or call your closest clinic.