Life can get busy. I have three kids, work full time and run a business in my ‘spare time’ (tired much?). So, I know all too well what it’s like to be busy and feel like self-care is a luxury. But if we don’t look after ourselves, who will? If you’re going to pick one thing to support your health, I suggest it’s working some physical activity into your life every day. Here’s why.
The magical life extending benefits of exercise
We all know that exercise is good for us, but you might not realise just how good. Being active can improve your brain health, strengthen your bones and muscles, help to manage your weight, reduce your risk of certain diseases (like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers), and even improve your mental health. That’s a lot, right?
The bottom line is that physical activity has been shown to directly relate to how long you live, as well as how long you live without disease.
A Harvard study showed that just 15 minutes of physical exercise each day can increase your life span by 3 years!
Another landmark study, called the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project, followed women from midlife (~45-55 years old) for 30 years collecting data around mood, dietary intake, physical activity, social connectedness among other things. This study showed that the single biggest factor that predicted longer life and healthier ageing was being active. The key thing being doing something physical every day.
Do something, however gentle, every day
We often think that to benefit from exercise we have to commit to long, strenous activity. Which, speaking from experience, can often put us off. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Data from the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project showed that doing some small form of activity every day was the strongest predictor of health. Better even than less frequent sessions of higher exertion. They also found that the positive health benefits of activity were cumulative, meaning that the younger you are when you start your daily activity habit the bigger effect you’ll see.
How can I fit this into my daily life?
Well the best thing is, that there isn’t one type of physical activity that will show you these benefits. It can be anything that gets your heart pumping a bit faster than normal, equivalent to walking the dog.
The trick is to make it be an essential part to your normal daily life. Weaving physical activity into your daily routine is a sure-fire way of sticking with that daily target. Think walking or cycling from A to B, talking the stairs instead of the lift, or turning one of your work meetings each day into a walking meeting. You can even add a bit more exercise into normal daily tasks, like housework – I’m going to bet vacuuming counts and dancing while you’re folding the washing.
Fitness trackers that measure activity are also a good way to increase your activity. This can turn your daily step count into a bit of a competition – challenge yourself, set targets, and be accountable.
What does activity achieve?
One useful aspect is that exercise uses up excess fuel that we’ve consumed. It can improve lipid (fat) profiles in our blood, meaning reducing bad cholesterol and importantly increasing the good cholesterol (HDL).
Movement stimulates blood flow. This brings fuel and oxygen to cells and flushes out any waste products faster than normal. Because of this, every part of our body is improved by being active. Exercise, and I’m using this to mean just being active in any shape or form, can cause our blood vessels to change, keeping our vessels younger, and even to support the creation of new blood vessels and cells.
Being active daily is important So, what are you waiting for? Go for a walk today! No matter your age, ability, shape, size, or ethnicity, everyone can experience the health benefits of physical activity.
By Dr Kelly Burrowes
Dr Kelly Burrowes is the founder of The FemTech Revolution and an Associate Professor of Bioengineering. She has worked as a researcher for more than 20 years focussing on the use of technology to improve health. The FemTech Revolution provides science-backed innovations and tools from around the world to support women’s health throughout life.
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