You do not have to exercise to be healthy.
‘Exercise’ is a component of the larger umbrella term of physical activity; and physical activity is literally anything that involves moving your body. This includes getting out of bed, having a shower, making breakfast. It is literally anything that involves moving your body. And that’s great because it is often easier to be more physically active than it is to exercise. It might mean using the toilet upstairs rather than downstairs, pegging the washing on the line one item at a time, taking things upstairs rather than piling them up for later. These things might seem really small and insignificant and ‘not enough’ but they all add up. Even just making your normal activities a little more challenging is great too.
When thinking about becoming more physically active, some people find it really helpful to set an overall goal that is important to them, for example, being fit enough to play with grandchildren as this makes them happy and enhances their feeling of well-being. So, they set smaller goals to help with their fitness that have ‘wiggle room’ in them, they might start off by getting off the bus one stop earlier on the way home twice a week. When this become easier and they are quicker (because they are fitter), they get off two stops earlier, until eventually they walk all the way home. But they only plan to do these three times a week – this means that on the odd day that they’re really pressured time wise they can get the bus all the way home without feeling guilty or like they’ve failed.
It is really important to understand what effect physical activity has on the body. Even at low levels it can help with blood pressure, keep the heart and lungs working well, and it is really great for loading the bones which is important as we get older and for maintaining the amount of muscle we have. People often notice that when they’ve increased their physical activity their clothes fit better. Exercise and physical activity in general is however, unlikely to result in weight loss, unless it is being done to much higher intensities than most of us are motivated – or have time to do! Being aware of this is really important as it would probably be demoralising to expect to lose weight after being more active and then for it not to happen – the key is to look for the things being more physically active can actually change rather than what it is unlikely to.
The key message is that being physically active can help you to achieve your goals, improve your quality of life and general well-being, but is unlikely to help with weight loss, so, when it doesn’t, don’t be hard on yourself – you haven’t failed… and remember you do not have to exercise to be healthy! 😊
Jennifer James is Specialist Physiotherapist at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS FT Weight Management Service and Current NIHR PhD Fellow. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @Physio_JJ.