Why Should You Be Active?
If a friend told you that delaying the aging process, controlling your weight, feeling happier and less anxious, sleeping better and warding off illnesses like heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes is as easy as walking briskly for 30 minutes each day, would you believe her?
It's true. You can receive all these benefits by simply taking that 30-minute daily walk. Studies have suggested that walking at a brisk pace for three or more hours a week can reduce the risk for coronary heart disease by 65 percent. And, if walking isn't your cup of tea, there are endless options, all with the same results.
What's missing in this age of modern conveniences and desk jobs are ways to get our bodies up and moving on a regular basis. It's no wonder, then, that in several studies, about 25 percent of American adults — and an even greater percentage of women — report they are sedentary and engage in no physical activity during leisure time. After age 44, upwards of 30 percent of women are sedentary, and by age 65, the proportion increases to almost 35 percent. By the time they reach age 75, about 50 percent of all women are sedentary. Only about 22 percent of American adults engage in regular, sustained physical activity for at least 30 minutes five times a week, and only 15 percent exercise both regularly and vigorously.
Being sedentary has several negative health consequences. Your muscles, including your heart and lungs, become weak; your joints become stiff and easily injured; you can develop high blood pressure, fatigue, obesity, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression. Being physically fit, on the other hand, actually reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases. Exercise may also reduce bone loss after menopause.
Good News… The good news is that it's never too late! At any age, at any level of health, even if you already suffer from a chronic disease, you can improve your level of fitness. In fact, according to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health , women with heart disease or arthritis actually experienced improved daily function from involvement in various modes of physical activity.
What, exactly, is fitness? Physical fitness has four components:
Cardiovascular fitness - Your heart, lungs and blood all need oxygen to work. Your level of cardiovascular fitness will determine your body's ability to use oxygen as a source of energy. It gives you the stamina or endurance to be active without gasping for breath.
Muscular strength and endurance - This is the force your muscles can exert and their ability to keep moving without becoming exhausted.
Flexibility - Keeping the optimal range of motion in the joint areas, making bending and stretching easy, is a measure of flexibility.
Body composition - There should be a healthy ratio of lean muscle tissue to fat.
How can I get started?
Getting active can take as little as thirty minutes of aerobic activity a day - physical activity that uses the heart, lungs and large muscles over a period of time such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, step aerobics, cycling, dancing, active sports, and physically demanding housework and gardening. To get started, try and be more active at home each day. You will be surprised how a walk to the shops or the farm and some gardening can add up to thirty minutes of activity in your day.
Once you start to be active regularly you might find something comes up that breaks your routine. The key is to treat setbacks as temporary and to get going again as soon as you can.
Avoid becoming bored or lethargic by exploring new and exciting activities. Contact Leitrim Sports Partnership to get a full listing of clubs, activities and events in your area.
You should compliment your physical activity programme with a healthy diet.
What activities do other women participate in?
Any type of regular physical activity that gets you moving is good for you. The list of activities on offer in this county is endless and can range anywhere from yoga, pilates and aerobics to surfing, mountaineering and canoeing.
Let’s Go Now
You've heard many of the reasons girls should be active. We know that if a girl does not participate in sports by the age of 10, there is only a 10% likelihood she will be participating at age 25. (Bunker, 1988). Research suggests that physical activity is an effective tool for reducing the symptoms of stress and depression among girls. Sports help girls develop leadership and teamwork skills. Girls who participate in sports have higher self-esteem and pride in themselves.
Physical activity is anything that moves your body and gets your heart pumping. Working out on a regular basis (at least three days a week) will make you strong, increase energy and flexibility and turn you into a physically active person.
You don't have to run a marathon or swim across the Shannon to be considered active. Whether you engage in light activity like throwing a Frisbee or more vigorous activity like running, you are still engaging your body in movement, and that's what matters.
It's important to also emphasise that being a physically active person means a lot more than the numbers on the scale. Here are some of the other benefits of being active:
Strength is good for all sports as well as life. Getting stronger means your muscles are more capable of kicking a soccer ball far, lifting and carrying more or jumping higher.
Stamina means more energy. You can keep going; you can run further, climb more stairs, keep working and playing longer—without feeling winded.
Flexibility feels more graceful. You feel more elastic, have more bounce in your walk and are able to touch your toes or reach a high shelf.
Improved self-esteem. This is probably one of the most important benefits for girls. When girls work out, they start to appreciate and respect their bodies for the amazing movement it's capable of. This in turn will help them to have higher self-esteem than girls who aren't physically active.
Walking is the simplest, safest and one of the most effective forms of exercise. Not only does regular walking benefit the heart and lungs, but it also keeps bones, muscles and joints in good condition, and it increases our feelings of well being.
This sense of well being helps in coping with the stresses and strains of modern living. Another positive aspect of walking is that it does not require expensive equipment or facilities.
For this reason, walking is one of the simplest initiatives that can be introduced into your daily routine in any of the following ways:
Give the car a rest, walk to the shops, bank and church
Walk the dog or take the family for a walk
Walk about during the day
Walk with a friend or partner
Look out for your nearest Slí na Sláinte route
Climb the stairs - a flight a day may keep heart disease away
Good walking tips
Start slowly and gradually build up to the recommended thirty minutes a day
Drink a glass of water before and after your walk
Wear comfortable shoes and comfortable loose clothing
Warm up at the beginning and cool down at the end of your walk - walk at an easy pace for five to seven minutes until you feel warm/cool all over
Walk whenever you get the chance to - to the shops or just for fun
Vary your walking route
Walk with family or friends
Keep a record of your progress
Stop if you experience any unusual symptoms chest pain, breathlessness or dizziness and consult your doctor
If you have a medical history, consult your doctor before you start
Stop, look and listen - be aware of road safety
Wear reflective clothing if walking at night
Find your nearest Slí na Sláinte route
Give the car a rest, cycle to the shops, bank and church
Take the family for a cycle
Cycle with a friend or partner
Look out for your nearest cycle track
Stop, look and listen - be aware of road safety
Wear reflective clothing if cycling at night
Find your nearest cycle track.
The most important thing when taking up a new activity, especially cycling, is to stay safe.
Around the House/Garden
Would you believe me if I told you that those boring, mundane chores you perform around your house actually count as exercise?
Around The House
Housework utilises all of your muscle groups. This, in turn, builds strength, endurance, and flexibility. For example, picking up the children's toys works the muscles in your arms and shoulders. Hauling those toys throughout the house also works your legs and buttocks. Walk the length of your house while vacuuming, and you will enjoy a full body workout that will also burn calories and increase your heart rate if you vacuum at a fast pace.
To make a chore more aerobic, push yourself by working faster, scrubbing harder and more continuously.
Around the garden
Depending on the activity, gardening can be as tough a workout as sports such as kayaking or weight training
Gardening is good for you, enjoyable and it's never boring. In addition to the physical benefits, you get beautiful flowers, lots of vegetables and your home looks nice.
More than muscles get a workout in the garden. There is also a psychological boost from succeeding with a task and literally taking time to smell the roses! In a complex, technological world, where many people sit in front of a computer all day, gardening offers the simplicity of soil, seeds and seasonal cycles - a reconnection with nature that also can nourish the spirit.
Many older adults use gardening as their primary physical activity. It's a wonderful activity for people of all abilities because you can go at your own pace, and do as much or as little as you're able.
Leitrim Organic Centre offers excellent courses and advice on getting started with gardening.
Good gardening/housework tips
When doing gardening or housework, take good care of your back by paying attention to your posture and avoid overusing any one muscle group.
Change from one activity to another every fifteen minutes.
If you don’t have your own garden, contact your local Tidy Towns Committee who will be delighted for you to help in keeping your Community looking well.