Did you know that being inactive is the fourth leading cause of premature deaths around the world, and the problem is getting worse?
In the late 1990s we each walked around 402 km, however by 2008 that had dropped to 273 km. At the same time the number of journeys we went by foot rather than by car reduced from 44 per cent in 1975 to 22 per cent today.
Did you know that lack of physical activity causes roughly the same level of ill health that smoking does?
Also did you know that only 37 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women take enough exercise to get any benefit from it?
In order to be healthy, adults should do a minimum of 30 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity, five days a week. Moderate intensity means the exercise makes you slightly breathless or a little warm.
Some people say that they have no time for exercise or see it as a chore. They are too busy to add extra time to their day, however, this is a misunderstanding of exercise.
Let me give you an example. We don’t have a car in my family. I have 2 children and we have not had a car for 5 years. And believe it or not we survive! My wife’s parents have never had a car their whole lives. Instead of driving we do something revolutionary in this part of the world - we walk. We sometimes even take the bus. Even in the summer. In the heat. In the rain. In the wind. In this way exercise is not something extra that is added on to a busy day, it is a necessary part of the day. Your exercise is a part of your daily life. If it’s not then you need to change your daily life.
Start slowly. If you haven't done much activity for some time, it's important to build up your level of exercise over a few weeks. This might mean starting with a walk of just five minutes.
If you have any health problems, you can talk to your doctor. Don’t assume because you have a heart condition or a bad back, for example, that you can't exercise. In fact, there are many conditions for which certain exercises are very beneficial. But it may be that you need to rule out certain activities, or build up more gradually than other people – get advice first.
Exercising during pregnancy can be excellent for posture, and strengthening your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor, but there are also signs that mean you should consult a doctor first, such as bleeding, headaches or nausea, or if you have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, or have had more than one miscarriage, for example.
Eat sensibly. We all need a healthy, balanced diet that contains the right vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins, but if you're exercising you're burning energy so you need to make sure you have enough 'fuel'. Avoid processed, tinned foods and eat more fresh, lightly cooked food. Avoid fried fatty food.
Don't get dehydrated. During exercise our bodies get hot, and our main way of cooling down is to sweat, which means we lose fluid. On average, we lose one litre of fluid for every hour we exercise. The longer and harder you work, the more you'll lose. Try to drink 300ml to 500ml of fluid in the 15 minutes before your workout, then about 150ml to 250ml every 15 minutes during exercise.
Warm up and stretch. This is a good habit if you want to prevent injuries, such as pulled muscles. But it also prevents stagnation and encourages the movement of blood around the body which reduces the effect of stress.
The bottom line is that any physical activity, no matter how little, is better than none.