Fitting in Fitness
Like many others, January is the time when I reflect on the habits –good and bad– that I have adopted over the past year. January is also when I set new goals for the year to come, particularly around nutrition and physical fitness. We tend to get a bit overzealous with our New Year’s resolutions and this can often leave us feeling inadequate and disappointed with our progress, or lack thereof.
According to the Canadian Psychical Activity Guidelines, adults between 18 and 64 should get 150 minutes of moderate (biking, brisk walking) to vigorous (jogging, skiing) physical activity per week. This equates to only 2.5 hours out of a total of 168 hours in a week. I must admit, I was taken aback by this number — it actually appears manageable!
2.5 hours is less than the length of one hockey game, about the same amount of time as a movie, or slightly longer than two undergraduate lectures. The best part of it all is that it breaks down to 20 minutes per day; a timeframe that I feel is realistic and manageable.
To give us a boost of confidence going into the New Year, I have included a list of ways to fit fitness into your day, relieving the pressure of having to set aside dedicated time to exercise.
Take a brisk 15-minute walk after two meals each day. It could be breakfast and dinner, or lunch and dinner, but adding a walk to the end of a meal makes it easy to remember and can help to dispel any lingering post-food grogginess.
Walk the stairs on your break. Most buildings on campus have a set of stairs that are most likely infrequently used. Plug in some headphones and walk up and down to get your blood flowing. A great alternative if the weather is lousy!
Capitalize on chores and housework. Perform regular tasks like mopping, scrubbing, raking or mowing at a vigorous pace to get your heart pumping. Offer to help out a neighbor for more of a workout.
Exit the bus early. For those who use transit to commute, exit the bus or train a few stops early. You can reach your 20-minute quota before you even get home. Or, come prepared to walk to meetings on the other side of campus instead of driving.
Hydrate with a little help. There is a great free App called Waterlogged that helps you track your daily water intake and will even remind you to hydrate throughout the day with an alarm that sounds like running water.
Ultimately, we are working towards reducing our risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity. Physical activity is one of the largest preventive factors against chronic physical illness, and these chronic conditions are also risk factors for poor mental health. Improved physical health can promote social connectedness and self-efficacy, as well as support a sense of belonging and empowerment. As a result, we can experience elevated mood, clearer thinking capabilities and improved self-esteem, all of which are crucial to our overall positive mental health.
Here’s to a healthy New Year!
All my best,
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