“Move more, sit less.” It’s a mantra we often hear, but how do we ensure we actually practise it? For many women, the motivation to exercise comes from wanting to lose weight, drop a dress size, get fit for summer, or feel more confident and comfortable in their own skin. However, it’s important to know that the benefits of exercise run much deeper than simple self-improvement.
By looking at what the science and statistics say, you can tap into a different stream of motivation and base your will to run (or walk, cycle, dance and move) on real research, rather than a vague idea of outer beauty. This way, you may be more likely to start exercising and keep it up because you’re doing it for solid reasons and values that are unwavering. Plus, who doesn’t love a good statistic?
Fast facts and stats on fitness
For women aged 30 years and beyond, not exercising is a greater risk to heart health than being overweight or smoking.
Midlife women who exercise for less than one hour a week have double the risk of dying from heart disease and a 29 per cent higher chance of dying from cancer, compared with women who are physically active.
Regular exercise reduces a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by 20–30 per cent, bowel cancer by 30–40 per cent, and Alzheimer’s disease by 45 per cent.
Exercise is also protective against type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis (particularly in postmenopausal women) and even depression.
Flip your thinking
When you look at this compelling research, you can start to see exercise in a different light. Instead of being a punishing drag, or something to dread or fear, physical activity is in fact a gift that you can give to yourself, to your body and to your health. Sure, it can be tough and hard work (especially on those dark and cold wintery mornings), but moving is one way of rewarding your body, and it will pay you back in dividends of good health and happiness.
First stop: action station
So now that you’ve heard the facts and flipped your thinking – it’s time to start. Here are some tips to get you moving:
- Make exercise a part of your social life; for example, walk around the park with a friend instead of meeting for coffee, or sign up to a yoga class together and support and encourage each other through it
- Don’t just mentally plan your exercise – write it down in your diary. Think of it as an important appointment that you need to attend
- Find an activity you enjoy, or practise it until you enjoy it
- Embrace housework as a form of exercise (it is!). Turn up the music or put the headphones on and get your sweat on!
- Break it up – if you feel that lack of time is a big barrier to not exercising, simply grab 10 minutes here and there throughout the day – it all adds up. Some research has found that short bursts of exercise can be just as beneficial as long sessions
- Build exercise into your everyday activities – take the stairs at work, walk to pick up the kids from school, then go for an after-dinner stroll with your partner each evening, instead of collapsing on the couch
- If you work a desk job, make sure you get up and move around throughout the day. A good trick is to drink lots of water – it keeps you hydrated and forces you to get up regularly to fill up your glass in the kitchen.
If you ever get lost along the way, always come to the first stop – action station. Simply make the decision to exercise and do it. Because you never regret going for a walk, or a swim, or a run, or whichever activity makes you and your body happier and healthier.
Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.