Guest Blog: Laura Haslem
Exercise Physiologist @ Ethos Health
Balancing our needs with those of our loved ones can sometimes feel like an impossible balancing act, particularly when children are young and parents’ needs often fall to the bottom of the priority list. Knowing when to prioritise our own needs is a constant and ongoing process between ourselves and others. However, addressing some of our own needs enables us to meet others needs more effectively.
On an aeroplane during an emergency, adults are instructed to secure their own oxygen mask prior to offering help to others. The reason for this is simple: if we are not fit and healthy, we cannot assist and support others. Making time for our own health and wellbeing can enhance our ability to help others and can benefit everyone in our life, including ourselves.
Why exercise is important:
Exercise has a positive effect on mood and energy levels, as well as long term benefits for health and wellbeing. Exercise can feel like a lot of effort, but when you think there’s not enough time to exercise, consider the following reasons to prioritise a short walk or something active.
Exercise is a great way to improve mood. When we exercise our body releases serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which are the feel-good hormones that leave you with a euphoric feeling. Endorphins are also released during exercise which help with reducing stress and promote relaxation. Exercise can help reduce tension, improve mental clarity and increase energy levels, lifting your overall mood.
Reduced fatigue, increased energy
After a long day, when the last thing you feel like doing is exercise, exercise is one thing that will assist with increasing your energy levels. Twenty minutes of physical activity per day can increase energy levels by 20%!!
Biomechanically, physical activity increases blood flow which carries oxygen and nutrients around the body, it also releases endorphins causing us to feel energised. This means you’ll have more energy to do things with your children and loved ones, as well as increased patience to deal with meltdowns!
Reduced chronic disease
If you hear yourself saying you don’t have time to be sick, then you need to make time to exercise! Fifty percent of women suffer from one of the eight chronic diseases: arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), CVD (cardiovascular disease), diabetes, and mental health conditions. Physical activity reduces modifiable risk factors (such as body mass, blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance), which reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases.
Physical activity is also key in weight management. Being overweight is associated with increased pain and pressure in load bearing joints, such as knees and lower back. By remaining within the healthy weight range (BMI 18.5-24.9 for adults) you reduce the load through your joints. A decrease in weight by 1kg has been proven to decrease the load through joints four-fold, making basic activities of daily living more comfortable with every kilo lost.
- Increased self-confidence
- Improved body image
- Increased strength and endurance
- Improved mobility
- Improved lung function
- Improved cardio fitness (for chasing runaway kids)
- Improved reflexes.
So now you know why, let’s discuss how!!!
A recent survey found that women reported lack of time and putting the needs of others above their own as the biggest barriers to participating in exercise. Here are some tips to try overcome your barriers to exercise…
Have a look at the family weekly schedule to fine any blocks of time that you can use for some “me time”? If your kids play sport or do other after-school activities, is there anywhere you can walk or do some body weight exercises while they are busy? What about using your lunch break for some exercise or get outside with the kids to kick a ball or be active together. If something comes up and you’re thinking about cancelling your exercise time, ask yourself would you cancel a doctor’s appointment or skip medication?
Make the most of the small windows you have:
High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to produce health benefits similar to moderate intensity exercise. HIIT involves performing alternate periods of high-intensity, short duration exercise with low-intensity recovery activities. Studies into HIIT have shown that it can burn 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise.
HIIT also increases your metabolic rate leading to calories being burnt long after you’ve stopped exercising. HIIT has also been shown to increase oxygen uptake (VO2 max), which is the body’s ability to transport and utilise oxygen. The higher your VO2 max, the better you can supply your muscles and organs with oxygen, which results in more energy during activity. The most popular reason for people choosing HIIT over other forms of exercise is that it achieves the same health benefits in a shorter period of time.
You can also try incidental HIIT, turning common household tasks into exercise, such as squatting or lunging to pick up toys or washing; or even push ups on the kitchen bench while waiting for dinner. There are several apps (Workout for Women, 7-Minute Workout, Daily Workout Fitness Trainer) which provide 7-15 minute workouts that can be performed anywhere, with the aim of helping you achieve the health benefits of physical activity.
Grab a friend:
Do just that, grab a friend and do something you both enjoy (walk, bike) or try something completely different (yoga class). Having a buddy can help the time pass quickly and they can help keep you motivated and accountable. Set up a fine system for when one cancels or doesn’t show up at all.
Time to get up and get moving.
Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity. Moderate activity is any movement that increases your heart rate and breathing so that you can still have a conversation but can’t sing a song. Start with getting up and doing something. The aim to do 150 minutes a week is just a guide. Anything you can manage will be beneficial and it doesn’t have to be done in big blocks. Five minutes here and 10 minutes there all adds up across the week.
Below is a short home exercise program to try throughout your day, it requires no equipment and can be performed in short bursts.
- Incline Push ups (on the bench)
- Plank (on the bench)
- Triceps dips
Perform all exercises for 30 seconds before moving onto the next, without rest. Once you’ve completed all, rest for 1 minute. Repeat 5 times.
If you need more reasons to prioritise your own health by adding physical activity, have a look at the video below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo