Physical activity helps to promote healthy growth and development, build strong bones and muscles, helps improve sleep and helps improve confidence and self-esteem in children. According to recent research, physical activity levels for Australians are declining, with around 62% of Australian adults not meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines.
Many of us are ‘time poor’, constantly rushing to juggle different commitments. Australia has fallen behind the rest of the developed world in trying to achieve a healthy balance between work and life outside work, and often exercise and physical activity is relegated to the bottom of your long to-do list.
62% of Australian adults do not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines
Premier’s Active April is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to promote healthy and active lifestyles and get Victorians to join in the fun of increased physical activity. It is a fantastic initiative to get people more physically active and to show you that exercising isn’t something that requires are lot of time or expense. So even if you do lead a busy lifestyle, there are many ways you can get active without eating into your precious spare time!
What’s your excuse?
As physiotherapists, we are often trying to encourage our patients to increase their activity, whether it be as part of their rehabilitation or just to improve overall health. If you’ve got an excuse, I can guarantee we’ve probably already heard it and will most likely have an answer (we’re annoying like that!).
Let’s take a look at some of the most common excuses we hear…
I don’t have time…
Plan ahead – look at your diary at the start of your day or the week to see how much time is free. Try not to feel overwhelmed by lack of time – think small and consider shorter timed sets of exercise a few times a day, every day, instead of blocking out longer periods. An example is to start with some stretches when you wake up, a brief walk at lunchtime and some core exercises at night – all short, manageable bursts!
I’m too old…
You’re never too old! The first step is to change your mindset – try to become more active, not less active. Spend more time gardening, walking the dog or playing with your grandchildren. Now that you have more time, get active every day by going for a walk every morning, or every evening before dinner.
I’m not fit…
All the more reason to get moving! Start with walking – it’s free and you don’t need any special clothing or equipment, other than a pair of comfortable shoes. Technology can also help – try using a fitness app or device that tracks your heart rate, breathing and distance travelled. By monitoring your improved fitness, you’ll get motivated to do even more.
I’m scared or embarrassed…
Start in your comfort zone – exercise on your own, in the privacy of your own home, or at a park where you won’t bump into people you know. As you get into a routine, you might feel confident enough to exercise with others around.
Another great idea is to join a beginner’s class – exercise can be less daunting when you know others are starting at the same level as you.
I don’t have enough energy…
We all have that feeling, especially with the hectic pace of our lifestyles these days. But did you know that activity actually helps to build energy? You’ll feel better if you get moving.
Plan your exercise for when you usually feel most energetic – are you a night or morning person? Remember you may feel flat before you start, but you’ll soon feel a lot better. Deciding to exercise is one decision you’ll never regret! (Well…except that one time that ended with a dislocated shoulder…but that’s a story for another day!)
I’m worried about injury…
You can reduce the chance of injury by choosing activities that suit your age, fitness level, skill level and health. Start with low-impact activities, such as walking, that will help build your confidence, and lead you to do more and try other activities.
What you do before and after exercise is also important – learn how to warm up and cool down.
And of course, come and see us here at Revive for help with your injury concerns.
I travel a lot…
The Better Health Channel offers these suggestions:
- put a skipping rope in your suitcase
- download an exercise podcast, or put some apps on your phone
- at your hotel, climb the stairs instead of using the lift
- stay in hotels with swimming pools or exercise facilities
- check if your gym has branches in your regular destinations
- join a gym that offers reciprocal membership with other gyms at your regular travel destinations
- visit the local shopping mall and walk around for half an hour or more
- go for a run or walk in a park/around the harbour/through the city
For more tips on how to exercise while you’re travelling, check out a blog from our archives…
How to stay fit while travelling (Christmas themed!)
I can’t afford it…
You don’t need money to get fit – you can walk and run for free. Choose activities that don’t require facilities, equipment or instructors if money is tight, or choose activities that use cheap, easy-to-find equipment such as skipping and swimming. Councils, community groups and workplaces often run free or inexpensive recreation programs. There are also many fitness apps available for little or no cost.
Premier’s Active April is a great initiative that encourages all Victorians to do 30 minutes of physical activity a day during April. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to get more people active and healthy. Their website has some great ideas on how you can exercise for little or no cost and has some special offers to help get you started! Check it out here… https://www.activeapril.vic.gov.au/
I told you we have an answer for everything! So get moving… no more excuses!
How to get active when you are busy
Being too busy is probably the most common excuse we hear for why people aren’t getting enough exercise.
Leading such busy lifestyles as we do, it is very easy to put exercise at the bottom of the list, but being active is one of the most important things you can do, each day if you can, to encourage good health.
You may not be able to reduce time for other commitments, but you could squeeze short bursts of activity into your busy life – every little bit helps! Remember that any exercise is better than none, and you can make it quick and easy if that’s all the time you have. By making time for activity everyday you’ll be setting yourself up for better long-term health (and saving money down the track on doctors, physiotherapists, x-rays and other costs).
Not everyone has a routine – every day can be different! While you might have a block of time on some days, on others it might only be short and intermittent, squeezed around other activities. Whatever your day brings, here are some suggestions from the Better Health Channel for fitting activity into your busy schedule…
Exercise in a block session
You may prefer the idea of a half-hour or hour-long exercise session rather than incidental exercise. If so, you will need to be organised, especially if you’re working around family commitments and other activities. Try these suggestions:
- exercise early in the morning before you get busy
- schedule your exercise session in your diary or calendar – when it’s already in your diary, you’re more likely to plan other things around it
- commit to exercise with someone else – it’s much harder to cancel when you feel you’re letting someone down
- choose an exercise that you enjoy – don’t swim if you prefer running and don’t choose a solitary sport if you prefer the fun and social aspects of team sports
- think about the travel time involved – you can start a run or walk from anywhere, but going to the gym will take extra time
- do a workout at home
Exercise through the day
If scheduled exercise or block sessions are impossible for you to achieve, you can try the following tips to squeeze in 5-30 minute blocks of exercise without interfering in your day too much:
- combine physical activity with something you already do, such as walking the dog, shopping or doing the household chores:
- when you unload your shopping, strengthen your arms by lifting the milk bottle a few times before you put it away
- when you go shopping, park at the far end of the carpark and walk briskly to the shops
- think about whether you need the car or whether you could walk or ride your bike instead
- get off the bus or tram 1 or 2 stops earlier than usual and walk the rest of the way
- instead of calling or emailing a colleague at work, walk to their workstation
- organise to have standing or walking meetings instead of sitting down
- take the stairs whenever you can instead of the lift or escalator
- while talking on the phone, stand up and do a few leg raises or toe stands to strengthen your legs
- while waiting for the kettle to boil, do a few wall push-ups or march on the spot
- when you brush your teeth, do 10 squats
- while watching television, do stretches and core exercises or pedal a stationary bike
- stretch to reach items in high places and squat to look at items at floor level
What kind of busy are you?
Juggling exercise and kids can be tricky. Try these ideas to get active together:
- plan family outings and holidays that include physical activity (such as hiking, cycling or swimming)
- walk or cycle to school with your kids once or twice a week instead of driving them
- if you live too far from school for your children to walk, park a 10-minute walk from school
- walk or cycle to a café or a friend’s house for play dates
- play together as a family – go for a bike ride, play hide and seek, start up a backyard cricket or footy game, or take a ball or frisbee to the park
- plan family activities that involve walking – go to the zoo, the park, an art gallery or museum
- get the kids involved in the garden
Busy at work
Some jobs keep you very busy, whilst keeping you very seated! If your job is a bit sedentary, try these ideas to get more active at work:
- join a lunchtime walking or running group
- ask your boss if you can get a sit/stand desk
- have meetings outside so you can walk while you talk
- take regular breaks from your computer – stand up and move around every 30 minutes
- walk somewhere for lunch
- rotate sitting tasks (such as emails) with standing tasks (such as photocopying or presentations)
- stand when you’re on the phone
- go and talk to colleagues at their work stations rather than calling or sending an email
- use the stairs instead of the lift
- drink more water – going to the water cooler and bathroom will break up sitting time
- move your bin away from your desk so you have to get up to use it
There are so many benefits to physical activity so try to embrace it! Being busy doesn’t have to get in the way of good health, it could just be an excuse! Speak to your health care professional about ways they can help you increase your activity.
- being active each day is one of the most important things you can do for your health
- even if you are busy, you can plan physical activity in short burst that fit around your life
- getting active will be even easier if you choose something that you enjoy and schedule it into your calendar