If there is an opportunity to make new commitments to physical activity at this time of the year, World Move for Health Day is the day!
On 10 May 2019, the world celebrates a global annual event that promotes physical activity for health and well-being. Encouraging communities to take up physical activity to promote healthy lifestyles, the World Health Organisation (WHO) initiated World Move for Health Day in 2003. “WHO defines ‘physical activity’ as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits, which is not to be confused with ‘exercise’.”
Because of lifestyle diseases becoming a major epidemic in most countries – which is mainly attributed to changes in lifestyles (less physical activity, poor diet and increased use of tobacco) – WHO wanted to encourage a global debate emphasising the importance of physical activity. The evidence supporting the health benefits of regular physical activity is well established and includes lowering your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression, type 2 diabetes and many kinds of cancer. It can also lower your risk of early death from any cause and improve sleep, weight control, bone health, balance and physical function.
We share 5 ways to keep active from the Harvard Medical School Guide:
If you’re looking for an energy boost, exercise might seem counterintuitive. However, it’s actually one of the best ways to up your energy and mood. If you’re doing cardio or strength training, start with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up and end the session with some stretching to work out muscle kinks and improve range of motion and balance. Now that you’re ready, get going with one of these workouts.
The most convenient and affordable form of aerobic activity is walking. Studies have shown that brisk walking for at least half an hour, 5 times a week, has nearly the same health benefits as more vigorous exercise. People who take brisk walks have a lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, colon cancer, osteoporosis, and perhaps other diseases. Even mental health problems are less frequent in regular walkers. Although it hasn’t been studied, many regular walkers also believe that this exercise makes them more energetic.
Resistance exercise, such as weight lifting, is especially beneficial for people in their 60s and older because it builds muscle mass. Weight lifting doesn’t have to involve heavy weights. Lifting light hand weights can provide adequate resistance, as can using strength training machines at the gym. Be sure to exercise all of the major muscle groups of the legs, trunk, arms, and shoulders.
Choose weights as light as 1kg for your first few strength training sessions, so you can concentrate on good form – you want to isolate muscles by trying to move only those that you’re exercising. After that, add enough weight so that the maximum number of repetitions you can do per set is about 8 to 12. The last few repetitions in each set should require a good deal of effort. Aim for 2 to 3 sets per exercise, breathing out as you lift and breathing in as you lower the weight. Rest between sets for a minute to reap the best strength gains.
Yoga and tai chi
Yoga and tai chi can enhance energy because they are proven stress busters with substantial benefits for the mind. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that doing 20 minutes of yoga postures led to better cognitive functioning – specifically, an improved ability to focus and take in and use new information – than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise.
Rhythmic, repetitive activities
Rhythmic exercises, such as walking, jogging, swimming or bicycling, can be calming and relaxing. Once you get underway, become aware of how your breathing complements the activity. Breathe rhythmically, repeating a focus word, phrase or prayer you’ve chosen. Remember to adopt a passive attitude. When disruptive thoughts intrude, gently turn your mind away from them and focus on moving and breathing. Read more about staying present in our Mindfulness blog series.
Anyone who enjoys the outdoors, whether for gardening, hiking or taking walks along the beach, knows that getting outside can help restore body and soul. There aren’t any scientific studies documenting that communing with nature can actually fight fatigue, but scientists are beginning to explore this theory. Some research suggests that being in nature can have therapeutic and restorative effects. This supports a theory developed by Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson known as “biophilia,” which holds that humans have an innate connection to the natural world and to other living things, and that contact with nature can benefit your health.
Maintaining an exercise regime and pairing it with a nutritionally diverse diet is a commitment that benefits your overall health. Keep it moving!
Disclaimer: External information referenced is for purposes of this article only and does not imply partnership or association with the organisation or its specific view point.