This month I’m going to attempt to join the dots between:
This is arguably a subjective topic and but there is a truckload of hard evidence, research and experience to back up my argument (email me for links). Be you unconverted, occasional, regular or addicted when it comes to exercise, have a read below to see if you can glimpse a relationship between exercise and happiness.
We live in an increasingly sedentary world. It has never been so easy to put so little physical effort into our day. From the dishwasher to the car to online shopping to central heating to the 500 box-sets churned out every year, using our bodies in the way that they were designed to be used has become, to many, more remote than ever before. I’m not going to complain about the wonders of grocery shopping from the sofa but, as a physiotherapist whose job it is to help people overcome physical problems, I do think that the vast amount of manufactured ease and convenience that our lives now contain has numerous drawbacks for our physical comfort and health. Many of the conditions, aches and pains that I see are often a consequence of our modern, easy lives and it’s important to remember that if you want your body to look after you, you need to look after it.
Why Exercise??? I think the stats – the longer life span (not necessarily the holy grail) the reduced risk of heart attacks, the longer working life (really?!) and the 38% more time that the physically inactive spend in hospital etcetera – lose their impact in the deluge so let’s put them aside for a moment.
IMHO, the reason is:
With increased fitness every bend forward to pick something up can be more comfortable, every pick-up of speed to get to your destination can be done without getting so sweaty and feeling rubbish and those steps or that hill (plenty of those around here!) don’t need to leave you feeling like you need to lie down.
‘Inactivities’ such as sitting in your chair at work or lazing on the sofa at the end of the day – pastimes that may cause back/neck/hip/leg/etc ache – can feel more comfortable with increased fitness. Pretty much ANY physical effort can be made easier and simpler by exercising.
As a bonus (and providing that strategy and common sense are applied to your activity) you’ll get out MORE than you put in: the small portion of your week that you spend on exercise will have a positive, knock-on effect on ALL of the time that you don’t spend exercising.
And all of this assumes that the actual exercise bit itself can’t be enjoyable! The glimpse of deer in the woods on a quiet solo run, the smell of fresh rain whilst walking in the hills, the view from the top and a great photo to boot, the deep satisfaction of feeling your body work better and the happy chemical effect of getting an exercise fix.
HAPPINESS is why it’s worth doing your thing; getting on your bike, persisting with the ‘Couch to 5k’, joining that tennis club, sticking with the gym membership, joining in with the kids exertions, moving or leaping around in front of those YouTube videos and doing whatever you will do to get out of puff.
These figures make great targets – how do you/how are you going to get this into your week? (And don’t ignore the strength training element – I’ll go into this one in more detail another day but strength training is essential for everyone).
I completely appreciate that regular, intense exercise is hard to do and for some hard to fit in. Some people undoubtedly find it more difficult to start, do and stick to than others, for myriad reasons. But who doesn’t want to be happier? From a happiness point of view it’s important and as a Physiotherapist with a holistic take on your physical aches and pains it’s my responsibility to do my best to make you take notice.
Exercise is also a whole lot easier than putting up with frequent, regular niggling aches and pains and the limiting effects of these on your life. At the more serious end of the spectrum, it’s certainly got to be easier than living with the after-effects of a stroke, Type II Diabetes and becoming a burden to your family, friends and the wider society.
The 1 ½ – 2 ½ hours and the two strength sessions per week need to be as much a part of our daily lives as cleaning our teeth. We need to know that it’s important in the same way that we know daily dental hygiene is important to stop our teeth falling out.
I’ve added a few helpful links below. As ever thanks for reading, if you’ve a minute do pop some feedback here (Google) and here (Facebook) And if you’re not signed up to receive this monthly article mail-out and would like to be, just pop your email address in the box at the bottom of the page and my advice & musings will be handily sent to you the minute they’re available!