With the average life expectancy of people increasing through the years due to advances in medical sciences, we have been exposed to previously lesser-known degenerative complications with physical and mental health.
This is also made worse due to the leaps in technology as we are less active with lower need of manual labour and we are sometimes even discouraged from physical activity with misinformation belted out on social media or hearsay telling you that you’ll hurt yourself if you exercise the wrong way or that manual handling guidelines scare you from lifting anything over a certain weight in a particular way. Even worse, when you do get a strain or hurt yourself, which is common and unavoidable in life, exercise is to blame and you decide to avoid it entirely preventing you from getting stronger to avoid the injury in the first place.
With that injury you are told to, or self-prescribe, bed rest which would only be needed in serious conditions where you’ll more likely be hospitalised, whereas a walk, a bit of light exercise or stretching may do you a world of good and is often prescribed by Physiotherapists.
There are however some lifestyle choices that you can implement to slow down degenerative aging and improve your chances of a longer, healthier and happier life.
How To Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
Increase your physical activity by doing at least two days of resistance training sessions per week and you will be meeting the NHS physical activity guidelines. Lifting weights to get stronger can desensitise pain and help with your recovery from injury and reduce the risk of pain or injuries in the future.
Some of key benefits of getting stronger through lifting weights are improvements in bone density that can help prevent fractures from falls a well as protecting joints, improving balance and flexibility to allow you perform everyday activities at ease. Stronger people are statistically less likely to have health problems so it makes sense to start lifting weights and you can do this at home, in the park, at a gym or with fitness classes.
Another aspect of the NHS physical activity guidelines focuses on your aerobic activity (cardio). It’s recommended that you complete at least 150 minutes of aerobic conditioning per week. This could be done while walking your dog, as long as your breathing gets heavier and you’re finding it harder to continue a conversation then you’ll be at the moderate activity level required. You may need to do a few laps around your dog for a change.
You could also, swim, cycle, run, play a sport or join a fitness class like dance, step, boxing or aqua fit, even weightlifting has anaerobic benefits. Increasing your physical activity will lead to improvements in your cardiovascular, respiratory, anti-inflammatory systems, help you with weight management and reduce the risk of disease and also has mental health benefits with improved sleep, recovery and stress management.
Seeking help from a fitness professional can give you the confidence and knowledge to stick to your health and fitness goals for the long term. If you have struggled with motivation to exercise, then you are one of the normal ones as humans have evolved to hunt and forage whilst purposely avoiding needless energy expenditure, but now in today’s world recreational exercise is a necessity due to our more sedentary lives.
By making a commitment to see a trainer or class instructor may be a sure-fire way to maintain your drive through highly motivational dynamic classes and sessions that keep you engaged and interested throughout the year.
The Importance of Nutrition
Ok, so you’ve dusted off your gym shoes, found an old T-shirt and created a banging playlist. You’ve marched out the door to lift weights and dance the tango in one of Alison’s classes, what could possibly be standing in your way?
Of course, its nutrition. If health and fitness were a pyramid, then your nutrition would be the foundation, the most important component that everything else is built upon as no amount of exercise can combat a poor nutrition plan. There are some challenging, but simple changes that you can make to help your body cope better with everyday inflammation, recovery, energy levels as well as aid your digestion and weight management to lower the risk of disease and illness.
Ideally you would need to cut down on the ultra-processed foods that you eat as these types of foods are chemically engineered to override any satiety responses from your body and brain. Your body may tell your brain that you are full after dinner and that you couldn’t possibly have another bite of roast chicken or potato, but that tasty slice of cake that you know is in the fridge will instantly make you feel hungry again whereas natural fruit won’t have the same triggering response.
Making positive changes to your food environment by overhauling your fridge and cupboards will help you avoid these satiety overriding triggers which will lead to fewer calories consumed. It is however easier said than done and ultimately depends on your budget, family support, mental health and stress management. Finding professional support whether it’s through a nutritionist, dietitian, counsellor, personal trainer, weight-loss group have shown to be very helpful at gaining and maintaining progress.
To Recap: Where Do I Begin & Why With Health & Fitness?
You can try and meet the NHS physical guidelines by increasing your activity levels of aerobic conditioning to 150 per week and lifting weights twice per week, even if that means seeking a fitness professional for motivation and/or support.
Start cutting down on ultra-high processed foods and start increasing the amounts of fruits and vegetables that you eat, there are experts in nutrition and mental health that can offer support. This may be enough to get the ball rolling on your health and fitness journey to get stronger and live happier.