Being Physically Active in North Trafford
(By Mark Beattie – 3rd year Nutritional Sciences student at MMU)
Covid-19 lockdown number two is well under way, daylight hours are short, but the weather is pretty grim anyway so staying on the sofa seems like the obvious choice. I’m sure this describes most of us at the moment! The outdoors is probably not tempting you, but what if I told you that being physically active outside could be the key to greater health and happiness? Well, that might sound a bit too good to be true, but the potential benefits have been proven by scientists all around the world. Read on to let me convince you why getting out of the house and on the move may do you a whole lot of good this winter.
Why it’s important
Humans might not be the fastest species, but our capacity for endurance is unmatched in the animal kingdom. We’ve evolved to be able to carry out long periods of physical activity. That’s why the more inactive we are, the higher the risk becomes of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Although physical activity alone is by no means the only influence. Our genes, diet and environment also influence our overall health. However, if we make positive changes to the areas in our lives that we have greater control over, like diet and physical activity, we are likely to stay in better health for longer. This includes better mental health too, with improvements for anxiety and depression.
Types and amounts
The UK physical activity guidelines for adults of all ages suggest that we should aim to be physically active every day. Some is better than none, but more is even better. Time spent sitting or lying down should be broken up with activity on a regular basis. This could be as simple as going up and down the stairs or walking around the block. There are recommended amounts of activity that we should try to achieve each week that differ in intensity and impact on the body. These activities can be done close together or split up into more manageable chunks throughout the week.
Moderate intensity activity should increase your heart rate, make you feel warmer and breathe faster. If you can still talk but not sing then you’re doing it right. Brisk walking, hiking, cycling and dancing are all examples of moderate intensity activity. We should aim to do 150 minutes per week.
Vigorous intensity activity should increase your heart rate and make you breathe hard and fast. You shouldn’t be able to talk easily during this type of activity without pausing for a breath. Jogging or running, fast swimming, fast cycling, aerobics and sports are all forms of vigorous intensity activity. We should aim to do 75 minutes per week.
Try incorporating muscle strengthening activities that stretch the major muscles of your body like the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms on two days per week. Carrying shopping bags, gardening, yoga, pilates, press ups/sit ups, and weight training are all forms of muscle strengthening activity. Age related muscle loss increases after the age of 40, so muscle strengthening early on is important for preventing osteoporosis, frailty and falls in older age.
Indoors or outdoors
It really depends on the type of activity you enjoy. The outdoors has a distinct advantage though…it’s free! Exposure to daylight and natural surroundings can also boost your mood and reduce stress hormones. If the weather is fine, or even if it’s not and you’re feeling brave, there might be a little green oasis that’s not too far to walk, run or cycle to. Are any of these parks and open spaces nearby?
If you’re the green fingered type, there are a number of allotments to choose from in the north of the borough. You can combine your love of plants and the outdoors with muscle strengthening activity, such as digging, while meeting new people in your community. The cost of renting a plot is normally just a few pounds annually. Sign up for yours at one of these sites:
If indoor facilities are more your thing, there are a number in the area that cater for activities like swimming, fitness classes, gym (including women only) and group sports. Here are just a few of them:
Don’t wait until January to make a new year’s resolution to get fit like everyone else. Start now and stay active to make some real changes to your overall health and wellbeing.