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Keep On Movin’ For An Active Life

As the warmer months approach, it's tempting to focus solely on achieving the perfect beach body. But here's a reality check: while we fret over outward appearances, it's the unseen enemy within – visceral fat – that truly warrants our attention.


Keep On Movin’ For An Active Life

Summer’s on the way (believe it or not) so it’s time to get those bingo wings out again! Ironically whilst we berate our wobbly bits, it’s actually the fat around our organs - visceral fat - that should be our focus of concern. And guess what - even thin people can unknowingly harbour this ticking time bomb, associated with many of the commonest ailments of our time; diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune disease, cancers, dementia and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.


Once rare, these are now the commonest causes of sickness and death in the modern world and sadly, developing countries are quickly catching up, as the Western diet and our sedentary lifestyle are adopted across the globe. These diseases shorten life expectancy and steal the joy from the later years of our lives.


So what can we do about it? Good nutrition is rule number one in a healthy lifestyle but whilst we are all aware that being active is beneficial, recent scientific research reveals that our muscles have a much more far-reaching role in promoting health and wellbeing than previously thought. We also have a better understanding of why.


After we eat, glucose levels rise in our bloodstream. Our muscles, under the influence of insulin, absorb and store it as glycogen to be used when needed. The more our muscles store, the less gets deposited as fat and the less our tissues are damaged from toxic high glucose levels. This is how maintaining good muscle mass helps regulate metabolism and is the reason exercise helps with weight control, rather than the calories we burn during the activity per se. However, muscles consume a lot of energy even when resting, so we only maintain what’s necessary. That’s why body builders have to spend hours working out every day to preserve their bulk.


If we’re sedentary, our muscles atrophy (become smaller) and we’re more likely to gain fat. Active muscle also keeps our immune system on track, releasing hormones known as myokines which prevent our immune cells going rogue and attacking healthy tissues. Even an hour of inactivity can flick the switch to trigger the inflammation cascade behind the diseases listed above. For this reason, some researchers are now calling sitting “the new smoking”.


The great news is that doing just 150 minutes of moderate exertion per week (e.g. brisk walking) reduces the risk of death from all causes by 20%; additional resistance training lowers the risk even further. Major improvements in symptoms of anxiety and depression have also been found in numerous scientific studies. These effects on physical mental health are greater than any prescription medication, cost nothing, are side-effect free and available to everyone. It’s a no-brainer!

So why do so many people avoid exercise? The reasons are manifold; the trauma of school PE lessons; being labelled un-sporty at a young age; intimidating gyms with their complicated machines, svelte bodies in lycra and bulky, sweating men grunting in the weights corner; the expense of a personal trainer, fear of injury, not knowing where to start and of course the ubiquitous, “I don’t have time”. Don’t worry - there’s good news ... and no room for excuses. There are many ways of introducing activity into your daily life which don’t necessarily require special kit, a monthly direct debit or a major shift in your routine.


Making Moves: Practical Tips for an Active Lifestyle


Think of activities you enjoy; walking or dancing, for example. You’re more likely to stick to something long-term if you love it. Consider joining a local club who play sports you enjoyed when you were younger. Knees not what they used to be? No problemo! Say hello to walking football, hockey, rugby, etc.


Team sports also have the benefit of being a social activity, another tick in the wellbeing and longevity box. The same is true for classes. Buddying up with a friend also helps keep you accountable and so can a subscription with a regular instructor for your yoga, pilates or Zumba. Online classes both live and on-demand are available if you find it difficult to be there in person and can be a flexible option if your lifestyle demands it.


Finally If you’re really struggling to find time to be active there are countless ways to make everyday life more active and these are the easiest wins. We just have to be intentional and take advantage of every opportunity.


Make a point of avoiding lifts and elevators, heading instead for the stairs (building up the number of flights you can tackle over time). Do the same on the way down, as this involves ecentric exercise, requiring control of the postural muscles which help balance. Brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil becomes an opportunity for 2-3 minutes of heel raises, lunges or squats.


We can also use our tech to our advantage. Fitness apps on our phones provide workouts, record our step count and alert us when we have many been still for too long and need to get moving again. They are a great way to keep tabs on how much we’re moving.


So whatever your age, think about it like this. If you want to do all the things you love for the rest of your life without pain and physical limitation, it’s time to take action. Let’s get physical!


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