Smart Move

Can fitness be synonymous with fun?! Pick a sport that you enjoy and fight that fat

Many of us enjoy watching sports on television; unfortunately, the activity is restricted to the screen. Physical activity has many health benefits and that’s no secret. Why then, are more people not becoming active? A possible answer for our laziness could lie in our genetic coding and brain settings!

Our ancestors were designed to survive in the wild, using physical prowess and skills: chasing deers or warthogs, fighting rivalling tribes, and defending themselves against hungry carnivores. Rest and recovery was a desirable achievement as part of survival! It helped to restore the physical functions before the next battle. Unfortunately, it is only restoration that survived the test of time, while physical activity took a backseat.

Genetics may explain the need for inactivity, but doesn’t solve the problem. It is not only the genetic disposition that is unchanged; our body too needs physical activity to function optimally. Sedentary people face a higher risk of  heart and circulation problems, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other diseases!

In consequence, we have to replace the chases and fights with some form of physical activity. Physical activity also helps to produce serotonin, which makes you feel happier. It improves your cognitive functions and mental qualities like self-efficacy and self-esteem. Furthermore, it relieves depression. One challenge to overcome is that the body has adapted to a sedentary way f life, causing decreased nutrition depots, muscle mass and nerve functions, so you might perceive any activity as extreme. In addition, there are misconceptions about physical activity.

Let’s address the top five misunderstandings of physical activity:

Physical activity must be strenuous

On the contrary, moderate physical activity has the best benefits for your health like weight reduction, heart and circulation functions, etc. Try to keep your heart rate at 70% of the maximum, and adapt the performance when you get tired. You should always be able to increase the performance or talk, then you are sure to be moderately active. Even 30 minutes of physical activity three times a week has benefits.

Sport is not fun

Jogging and workouts are not the only physical activity. If you’ve never jogged before, it might be too hard. You could start with brisk walking, for example. You could also mix exercise with social lifE: Walk and talk with a good friend (instead of meeting in a café). Go dancing. Situations maybe different, but the strategy is the same. Fun is a crucial element because it guarantees that you are encouraged to stick to it, rather than doing it for rational reasons only. Start with badminton in your backyard if you love the challenge. I often meet people who ask me which sport would be the best for them and my answer always is: “The one you have the most fun with!” I met a couple years ago who decided to buy two canoes and have been happy with their rivers and lakes tours over weekends.

I have no time

Try to make a diary to see how much time you are using daily for which activity. For example, the average consumption of TV is 40 hours a week! If you only use 10% of that for PA, you are doing great already. Alternatively, why not use a stationary bicycle in front of the TV? Sometimes, you can incorporate physical activities in your daily routinE: Take the bicycle for short distances, which does not affect your time table significantly. You can accumulate short bouts of PA during the day to achieve some 30 minutes in total. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, walk to the supermarket or take a bicycle instead of the car for short distances. The additional efforts are most often very small.

I am too old to start

Research clearly proves that you can improve your physical fitness at any age! By the way, regular PA slows down your aging process up to 20 years. In other words, a 40-year-old untrained person is physically as old as a 60-year-old trained person.

Sport is wearing out the joints and is dangerous

On the contrary, inactivity counts for 80% of joint problems. The adage “resting is rusting” couldn’t hold truer. Cartilage needs regular, better daily pressure and movement to be properly nutrified. However, there are a few risks like sprains and injuries from falls, etc., and strenuous sport generally bears more risks than moderate activity, but the benefits outweigh them.

Other tricks to become and stay active:

  • A dog can be a good walking partner and for your security, too.
  • Do not try to change your lifestyle in a week. Start slow and forgive yourself when you once miss an activity.
  • A regular schedule helps to be committed. Also, your family and friends will get used to your schedule and interrupt you less.
  • Find a group to share an activity. They will expect you and you will expect them at the event.
  • Rest enough. Don’t play  when you are tired.
  • Measure your changes! The heart rate at rest will decrease, you may develop more power, run faster, walk longer, improve body composition, decrease your waist circumference, lower your blood pressure, etc.

All this can be measured with only little effort and helps to reassure that you are on the right track.

Hans Szameit is a sport physiotherapist with a MSc in Physiotherapy. His website is www.physiotherapy-ug.com