Exercise doesn’t always mean slipping on your brand new compression gear and your super amazing, ultra-light, gel-filled $350 runners and sweating it out at your local gym or running track. Instead, sometimes the most simple, practical exercises are the most effective for those who work a 9-5 office job.
As someone who commutes to a full-time job in the city every day, whilst finding the time to care for my four-year-old son, I’m not afforded much of an opportunity to dedicate myself to exercise during the day. Instead, I keep myself fit by finding ways to incorporate walking into my daily activities.
I find it so refreshing, as it helps me clear my head when I’m stressed, and it’s an exercise which engages your whole body. You also get some fresh air, which you wouldn’t otherwise get when you’re stuck inside an office or say, at the gym doing pull-ups.
I walk every day, but I wouldn’t say I go out walking specifically for 30-60 minutes at a time; instead, I just try to avoid being seated. For example, if I’m on my way home from work and there’s an option to take a short bus ride, I’ll elect to walk the journey instead. My day will often include 5-6 short walks instead of one prolonged one.
This is a great way to get your blood circulation going, and sometimes this simple method of exercise is all you need.
I started walking everywhere during my pregnancy. I was advised to do this by my doctor – she told me that this was the only exercise I could really do to stay healthy during this period. She told me I can’t climb stairs or do a lot of things, but she said to stay in shape, walking regularly would be the best thing as it loosens up your muscles, which is important when you’re pregnant.
I found a lot of benefits through doing this: firstly, I found that once I gave birth, I was able to return to my usual activities very quickly as I had a good fitness base, and I avoided symptoms such as back aches and other muscle pains.
Whilst it may not be the case for everyone, I strongly believe walking also helped me avoid symptoms of the ‘baby blues’. There would have been other contributing factors, but I found that getting out in the fresh air and keeping active definitely helped my mental health after giving birth.
I wouldn’t consider myself an overly health-conscious person – I don’t eat the healthiest food; however, I keep on top of this by ensuring I only eat what I can burn off in the following two hours through walking. Because a lot of our work is very sedentary (sitting at computers, sitting at assessments and talking to people etc.), you’re not spending much time on your feet, so it is important to find periods of the day where you can get up and moving.
Recently, my colleague wrote a blog on the benefits of walking throughout winter (and there are plenty). In fact, winter is the best time for you to adopt your renewed approach to fitness.
If practical, start small by leaving your car at home and walking to the train station instead, or heed the advice of another one of our recent blogs and make sure you get outside for a lunch time walk during the day.
According to a study by Dr Mike Evans, an Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health (and founder of Health Design Lab at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute), being active for 30 minutes per day had the following effects on his subjects:
Those with arthritis in the knee reduced their rates of pain and disability by 47%;
In older patients, it reduced progression to dementia and Alzheimer’s by around 50%;
For patients at high risk of diabetes, and coupled with some other lifestyle interventions, it reduced progression to frank diabetes by 58%;
Post-menopausal women who had four hours per week of walking had a 41% reduction in the risk of hip fracture;
In a meta-analysis of a large group, anxiety was reduced by 48% and for those suffering from depression, 30% were relieved from their symptoms whilst only taking a low dose of an anti-depressant;
Finally, after following over 10,000 Harvard University students for more than 12 years, Dr Evans found that there was a 23% lower risk of death in his subjects that were active for 30 minutes a day.
Pretty remarkable, right? You can learn more about this study by viewing Dr Evans’ visual lecture, 23 and a Half Hours (as seen on ‘Orange is the New Black’, for all you Netflix fans out there).
As I said, the majority of people (even those who are heavily pregnant) can get outside and walk. If you follow my lead, you won’t even need to create extra time in your day to do so. Start thinking about what transport you can replace with walking, or take a quick break from your work desk every couple of hours and step away for a walk, even if it’s only for 10 minutes – your body will certainly thank you for it!