The advantages of an active lifestyle go beyond the physical aspect. The psychological benefits of exercise are also invaluable. It has been shown that sports have a positive impact on well-being, mood, emotions and self-perception.
An active life
The complications associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are now considered an epidemic. A study published by the University of Toronto and York University shows that the physical inactivity of Canadians has indirect health costs of over two billion dollars per year and may be responsible for diseases resulting in 21,000 premature deaths – in other words, 10 percent of the total annual deaths in Canada. It is important to reverse the trend, change the current mindset and actively fight against sedentary living.
And yet, the solution is so simple and within everyone’s reach. The key is to integrate physical activity on a daily basis. The point here is not just to be active in order to burn calories. Rather, what’s needed is to change your lifestyle in order to integrate sports naturally into the daily routine, to value physical exercise and to make time for it as part of your everyday activities.
Being active means participating in activities you enjoy, that require some effort and that promote health and well-being. No need to be an athlete or to jog every day to succeed. Examples of physical exercise include playing a sport, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going to work by bike, taking a walk at lunch or playing tennis after work. To lead an active life, every effort counts, every little change helps. An increase in physical activity, no matter how small, is beneficial to your health, especially if you are more or less sedentary. Everyone can benefit from being a little more active – both young and old, and athletes in the making just as much as armchair athletes.
The main obstacles
For those who are not very active, there are many obstacles on the path to physical fitness, and the hurdles often look bigger than they really are. The three most common obstacles among adults are lack of time, lack of motivation and lack of energy. Here are some strategies to help overcome those difficulties.
Don’t have much time? Try to integrate physical activity throughout the day. Several 10-minute sessions can be a perfectly acceptable alternative. Examples of actions that can make a difference include taking the stairs rather than the elevator, parking the car further away from the entrance, walking to the corner store, playing with the kids and accompanying them in their activities.
Lacking in energy? At first, it’s normal to feel a drop in energy during and after exercise. It’s important to persevere because that feeling soon changes to the overall energy boost that comes from an active lifestyle. In addition, persistent fatigue is often linked to stress. Taking time each day to get the body moving helps reduce stress and promotes relaxation.
Feeling unmotivated? Don’t think of exercise as a chore! The important thing is to find the activity that is right for you and to adapt it to your schedule. It is estimated that between 50 and 70 percent of people who abandon their exercise program do so due to a lack in motivation. This is why it is essential to choose an activity you enjoy when deciding to integrate it into your daily routine. Think of the people around you; is there perhaps someone who would be interested in exercising with you? It is often easier to stay motivated when we’re not alone!
The elderly have slightly different concerns. Time is no longer such a limiting factor for them; in their case, their desire to get back in shape may be impeded by health issues, disability or the fear of injury. Keep in mind that physical activity is beneficial no matter what your age or fitness level. Everyone can benefit, but it becomes essential to adapt your activities to your health status. It is very helpful to consult a fitness expert in this case.
What exercise to choose?
The current Quebec recommendations are to do 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise (mowing the lawn, carrying your clubs as you play golf, jogging lightly, swimming, tennis, downhill skiing, cycling, sustained walking). Ideally, choose activities that involve a wide range of muscles. Sustained walking for 20 to 30 minutes per day is a good example of a physical activity that meets most recommendations. It’s an accessible activity for someone who is just starting to exercise again and it can be integrated into a daily routine without the effort being overwhelming. These 30 minutes are enough to obtain certain health benefits (decreased risk of chronic diseases) and to maintain good overall health.
However, if you have different objectives, in other words if you wish to lose weight, these 30 minutes per day won’t be sufficient. In these cases, it is recommended that you include periods of more intense activity, vary the type of activities you do, choose exercises that involve most of the lower- and upper-body muscles, and keep these good habits up in the long term. It may prove necessary to remain active for up to 60 minutes per day, depending on the sport you practice. The intensity of a physical activity is determined based on energy expenditure (number of calories burned). The higher the exercise is in intensity, the more calories you burn. If you choose a low-intensity activity (bowling, volleyball or leisurely walk), you will have to practice it for a longer period of time to expend the same amount of energy you would with a more high-intensity exercise like jogging or swimming. There are charts available online that compare the various types of activities according to your weight and the length of each session. It may be helpful to consult them in order to guide your daily exercise plan.
There is therefore no magic recipe that works for everyone. We must all find our own personal way of having an active lifestyle. If you are unsure and do not know where to start, speak to your doctor. This healthcare professional can work with you to identify your needs based on your abilities, taking into account your age, weight, gender and general health condition, and point the way to an active life.
There is a long list of good reasons to play sports! Active people will tell you so: the benefits are many, as much for the body as for the mind. On the physical side, examples include a reduced risk of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even certain types of cancer. Physical activity may also have a positive impact on the progression of arthritis and osteoporosis, and it may significantly decrease the complications associated with diabetes and hypertension.
The advantages of an active lifestyle go beyond the physical, however. The psychological benefits of exercise are invaluable. It has been shown that sports have a positive impact on well-being, mood, emotions and self-perception. In addition, even a moderate amount of exercise decreases anxiety, improves the way we deal with stress and the quality of our sleep. Several studies have also shown that physical activity can mitigate clinical depression.
So don’t wait a moment longer – leading an active life is within reach!