There are really three ways to get active.
1. Fit it into your day
The easiest way is to think about how to make physical activity a part of your day – that is, how can you be active while doing something else that has to be done anyway? Think about how you can be physically active in as many ways as you can. Even though our lives are very busy, there are lots of ways to fit physical activity into our daily routine. Some of the following ideas may help to get you started.
• Get off the couch and change the TV channels instead of using the remote.
• Get off the couch or off the chair – the more you sit on it, the less active you will be.
• Walk into the next room to speak to a family member rather than shouting through walls.
• Watch one less TV program each week and instead do something active during that time – go walking, do some housework or gardening, play games with the kids.
• If you have a garden, tend to it yourself – weeding, planting, digging, mowing the lawn will all help to burn off extra kilos and it can be fun at the same time.
• Housework – ironing, vacuuming, dusting, hand washing clothes, polishing furniture – may not seem like fun, but it burns up energy and somebody has to do it. • Wash the car by hand – it’s good for you and for saving water.
• Walk the dog if you have one – it’s great for both of you.
• Clean out the cupboards, storage areas, garage or shed.
• Wash the windows – inside and out.
• Walk to the letterbox to post letters rather than waiting until the next time you’re out in the car.
• Get a cordless phone and walk around while using it, rather than sitting down.
• Visit your colleague in their workspace instead of phoning or sending an email.
• Take a break or use your lunch break to go for a walk – even 10 to 15 minutes is a good effort. Ask some others to go with you.
• If there are stairs, use them.
• If you sit at a desk all day in front of a computer, do some stretching exercises at least once a day.
• Try to get away from your desk throughout the day.
• Do some filing. Going places
• Walk, ride your bike or rollerblade instead of driving. If you can’t do it all the way, at least do it part of the way.
• Forget about finding the closest parking space – park further away and just walk the extra distance.
• Get off the bus/tram/train one or two stops earlier and then walk.
• Count to 10 before jumping in the car – just think about whether you really need to drive or not. The less you drive the car, the better it is for you and for the environment. Social
• Catch up with friends for a walk.
• Go on outings that encourage you to walk around, such as visiting the zoo, gardens, fun parks, expos or historic sites.
• Visit the local park and take a picnic.
• Arrange to do active things with friends, such as bowling (ten pin or lawn), sailing, bike riding, tennis, rock climbing, dancing (all types), swimming or bushwalking.
• Join a local community walking group or try something new, such as belly dancing, tai chi or yoga.
Ask a friend, work colleague or family member to join you. Having another person along can be a great motivator – it helps you to keep your commitment to being physically active and it’s good for their health too!
2. Do some planned physical activity
The second way to get more active and burn off extra kilos is to try to set aside some time each day for planned physical activity. Many people struggle with this, saying that they don’t have time to be physically active. And it is hard to find time when you have lots of other priorities, such as work, family commitments and social functions.
It’s really about making physical activity a priority for you. Try to get some planned activity into your life at least three times a week. Then try to build that up over time. What are some examples of planned physical activity? Doing any of the following sorts of activities on a regular basis for a set amount of time is planned physical activity:
• go for a walk or a jog
• go to a gym class – weights, aerobics, spin or pump
• play a sport – cricket, netball, football, volleyball, rugby, soccer, badminton, squash, tennis or volleyball
• go for a swim
• do yoga, tai chi or Pilates.
If some of your planned physical activity is vigorous activity – that is, it makes you really breathe hard and sweat – then it will bring extra health, fitness and weight loss benefits. Using a pedometer is a great motivator for helping to increase your physical activity levels. Pedometers are small instruments that clip onto your clothing and measure how much walking or running you are doing. Some will also tell you how much energy (kilojoules) you have burned.
Every bit of extra movement will help to burn energy (kilojoules) and it all helps towards losing weight. Even if you don’t need to lose weight, being physically active for at least 30 minutes each day is great for your health!
3. Sit less
If you are sitting down then you are generally not being active – chair activity classes are an exception to this. If you’ve been recording in a diary how much time in a day you spend sitting down, you’ll have a good idea of where you could make some changes. Always think about whether there is a way that you can be physically active rather than sitting down – then do it! I’m already active – what can I do? If you are already active, but are putting on weight or are overweight, then you still need to think about how you can be more active.
You also need to look at your eating habits (see here) and see if there are any changes you need to make. Review what you are doing and see if you can include more planned physical activity sessions or if there are other ways that you could build more activity into your daily routine. Also, think about how you can spend less time sitting and being inactive.
If you feel that you are already doing all that you can, speak with your doctor about what else you can do. He or she may also refer you to a physical activity health professional for advice.
Some notes about being physically active safely
• If you become breathless or uncomfortable while doing any physical activity, slow down or stop. Discuss this with your doctor as soon as you can.
• If you have been prescribed angina-relieving medicine, carry it with you when you are being physically active and follow your doctor’s advice for its use.
One of the advantages of planning your physical activity is that you can mark it in your diary or on your calendar and you’re more likely to do it.
• Know the warning signs of heart attack. The warning signs vary and usually last for at least 10 minutes. You may experience more than one of these:
o tightness, fullness, pressure, heaviness or pain in one or more of your chest, shoulders, neck, arms, back or jaw.
o you may also feel short of breath, nauseous, a cold sweat, dizzy or light-headed.
If you experience these heart attack warning signs, immediately stop what you are doing and rest. If you are with someone, tell them what you are experiencing. If your symptoms are severe, get worse quickly or last for 10 minutes, this is an emergency. Get help fast.
• Always wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing or clothing appropriate to the activity.
• When being active outdoors, wear a hat and put on sunscreen.
• Drink plenty of water before, during and after physical activity, especially in hot weather.
Too many reasons not to be physically active?
Apart from lack of time, other factors that can impact on your physical activity levels are:
• your weight
• feeling shy or embarrassed
• not feeling ‘sporty’
• poor health
• having some form of injury or disability.
If your health is poor or you have some form of injury or disability, seek advice from your doctor about suitable ways for you to be physically active. Your doctor may refer you to a physical activity health professional to give you more specific advice.
If your reasons for not being active are because you are embarrassed to be active, or your weight makes it difficult or you just don’t feel sporty enough, always remember that a great form of physical activity is walking.
Most people can walk and you can do this anywhere – even around your home. Being physically active doesn’t mean that you have to join a gym or play some form of sport. Doing these things is great, but if they don’t suit you, you don’t have to do them. It’s most important that you find types of physical activity that you are comfortable to do.
It doesn’t matter if walking is your only form of physical activity – what matters is that you are being active in some way and that you are enjoying it.