Physical activity can be really helpful for improving our physical and mental health but it is not always easy to fit in the recommended amount or to find the right balance against other important areas of our lives.
If we have a chronic health condition, it can be even more difficult to know where to start. For guidance on the importance of physical activity for various conditions and suggestions of how to adapt movement to fit your needs, the information on the Movement Medicine website might be helpful.
Whilst increasing physical activity is often recommended as part of a weight management plan, focusing on how many calories we have burned or using the numbers on the scale as an indication of success or failure can lead to us giving up forms of movement that we enjoy or to over-exercising. Increasing our physical activity or maintaining an active lifestyle can lead to many health and wellbeing benefits, even if our weight doesn’t change, as outlined in this video. Exercise is also just as important for people in the healthy BMI range. Finding the right balance is key, and this can include a consideration of the following factors:
- what do you enjoy?
- what can you afford?
- what do you have time and energy to manage?
- what are you going to do less of if you wish to prioritise time and energy to exercise more?
- which forms of movement are most accessible to you based on your physical abilities?
If you have not exercised for a while and are finding it hard to feel motivated, this is very common. Once we get started, we are more likely to want to keep going so it can be helpful to start with a very small amount and to gradually build from there. For example, if you used to run on a regular basis but got injured or had children and haven’t found your way back to exercising again, try to start with walking or jogging for a short distance at a slow pace rather than comparing with what you used to be able to manage. This isn’t a competition and trying to do too much too soon can lead to injury or put you off trying again in the future. We can also aim to break up long periods of sitting down by setting a reminder to move every hour or to split up household tasks into smaller chunks so that they are spread out more across the day and week, which also provides an opportunity to do something relaxing in between. Pacing activities in this way is particularly important for managing energy levels when living with chronic health conditions.
There is lots of further helpful guidance on recommended activity levels and suggestions for how to get started on the NHS Inform website.