We’ve heard it all before – we need to get up and get moving. If you’re like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in front of a computer (for work and/or pleasure!). But, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines indicate that we should be moving more. Specifically, they indicate that adults (aged 18-64) need 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity a week. That works out to be about 20-25 minutes a day. I don’t know about you but 150 minutes sure sounds like a lot of sweating to me!
Well, a Toronto doctor by the name of Mike Evans has changed my perception of that rather daunting number. By now, a good chunk of you has likely seen Dr. Mike Evans’ video entitled “23 1/2 Hours”. Incidentally, his clever video has gone viral and has now almost amassed a whopping 3 million hits on YouTube. It’s worth a look and will only take up 9 minutes of your time.
Still not convinced after watching that? It’s no surprise that getting regular exercise is linked to lower incidences of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and many types of cancer. But it’s not just about chronic disease, regular exercise helps manage stress, improves your overall mood, energy levels and feelings of wellbeing. In fact, hot off the presses is a New Zealand review that found, in addition to the reams of evidence pointing to the benefits of physical activity, regular activity can improve memory and other type of executive functioning across generations – young and old alike. That is, highly cognitive functions such as task switching, planning, memory and sustained attention are improved with regular aerobic exercise. A 2006 review in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at exercise’s effects on the aging brain, specifically. Human clinical trials have indicated a type of neuroprotective effect in those who participate in regular exercise. It not only improves your physical health but also boosts your mental health.
I hope by now you are seriously considering how to move for a measly half an hour a day (while still sitting/sleeping for 23½ hours). You can keep it as basic as you want – there’s no need for costly gym memberships. In fact, Health Canada offers its suggestions for physical activity and includes ideas as simple as:
- Take a walk once a day;
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator;
- Spend less time in front of the television or computer;
- Play actively with your kids;
- Walk, wheel or cycle for short trips; or
- Find out about walking and cycling paths nearby and use them.
The bottom line is that as long as the activity you choose is something you enjoy and you start at a realistic pace (i.e. don’t start with a half marathon if you’ve never run), then you’re more likely to stick with it. As onerous as journaling can be, scientific evidence strongly indicates that it is one of the most effective ways to stick to a plan, be it a health eating plan or a physical activity plan. You don’t have to create Excel spreadsheets, but simply jotting down on the calendar how long you walked for can be motivating and spur you to keep moving.
So, get up, get outside, play with your kids actively, park your car a little further from the shop doors, pound the pavement during your lunch break, do bicep curls during TV commercials and enjoy the feeling of being active and have fun doing it.