“Sitting is the new smoking.” Around 2 years ago while prepping in the gym with my teammates, our new strength and conditioning coach introduced himself with this bold statement. On initially hearing this quip, I thought our coach had lost the plot. Could you really compare the damaging effects of smoking with the potential outcomes of a sedentary lifestyle? Over the next few days, I considered the benefits associated with exercise, and conversely, what were the damaging effects of not exercising. Increased mortality, increased risk of coronary heart disease, increased risk of type 2 diabetes… The list is endless. Additionally, the importance of exercise goes beyond the cumulative effects on our physical health, it has also been proven to help keep our mental health in check as well.
Despite understanding the importance of exercise, finding the motivation to get out and get active can be difficult. Exercise is by no means a one size fits all. What works for some people can seem hellish for others and it’s important to figure out what is feasible and works for you. It is not essential to jump headfirst into a 5k run or an intense gym programme. Start small if necessary, taking it step by step to build your exercise tolerance, similar to climbing an imaginary ladder. So, what is the best place to start?
- Take the stairs. You’ve heard it before and with good reason. Not only does it increase
your heart rate but it also gets you into the mindset of thinking about your physical health. Making the conscious decision to take the stairs whenever you get the opportunity is the first step to building your fitness and exercise tolerance.
- Take a walking break. Whether you’re in an office environment or relaxing at home on a
Sunday, every half an hour or hour, get up and walk around for a few minutes. Get the blood pumping and clear the head. Think about why it is important to get up and be active throughout the day.
- Get off a stop earlier. This tip needn’t only apply to those who get public transport, if you
drive to work, consider parking the car 10 minutes further from the office. Or better still, leave the car at home and hop on a bus instead. Improve your health and fitness, while doing your bit for the environment.
- Lunch break? Get out for a 10-minute walk. After eating your lunch, get outside into the
fresh air for a few minutes to stretch the legs and help fight the post-lunch slump.
- Walk on the weekends. If you’ve managed to incorporate some routine exercise into
your weekdays, it’s time to focus on the weekends. Take the time to research some of the beautiful walkways and mountains that are right under your nose. Do something with your Sunday instead of lazing on the couch in fear of Monday.
- Join a class with friends. Think salsa classes or Zumba to begin with. Exercise doesn’t have to be all work. Grab your friends and have a laugh while working a sweat and getting your heart pumping.
- Youtube at home. You want to exercise but you don’t have the time or money to join a
gym? Plus the weather won’t also be in your favour if you are considering going for a run outside. Enter…Youtube. Some of the most effective, no-equipment required workouts are just a click away. Joe Wicks a.k.a The Body Coach is a particularly excellent motivator and I find all of his workouts on Youtube are simple and effective, and most of them only take about 20 minutes!
Our youth won’t protect us forever, so act now, no more excuses
Exercise doesn’t have to be about the most high end or most effective training method, sometimes it’s just about making smalls changes to your daily routine that you can build on in your own time. Remember that any exercise is better than no exercise, so don’t give up because you’re finding your exercise target too difficult. Take a step back, embrace the challenge or else reassess your goals. Our youth won’t protect us forever, so act now, no more excuses. Even if it just for 5 minutes a day… get up, get out and get moving!
Sitting is the new smoking
Martha is a Physiology Graduate, Gaelic Footballer, Medical Article Writer and current Dietetics Masters Student. She graduated with a BSc in Physiology before starting work with 3D4Medical as a medical article writer. She has recently started an MSc in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics and continues to work with 3D4Medical part-time as part of the fitness and wellbeing project team. Outside of work, Martha has a keen interest in Gaelic Football, playing for both her university and county.