“This simple fitness lesson helped me feel better about my 2021 exercise routine”

Allowing every form of exercise to fit into your routine could be the best way to improve your health. 

What have you learnt about your health and fitness this year? Did you focus on moving every day rather than chasing wild fitness goals, or did lockdown allow you to put your all into your regime – smashing those PBs in the process?

I realised – finally – that there’s no hierarchy of movement and that all forms of exercise have a purpose. That idea was further strengthened after listening to a podcast with Professor Jasper Schipperijn, president of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH). During the interview with the British Journal of Sports Medicine, he reiterated one sentence again and again: “every move counts”. 

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While outlining the ‘eight investments’ – things that public health officials, medical experts and individuals can implement – to improve health, he says: “Whereas traditionally we recommend perhaps someone who wants to exercise more goes to the gym or does sports but in many cases, we can be more simple,” he says.

“I think that’s very much what the whole concept is about. We’re all busy people. If we can fit activity in a more natural way in our daily lives, the chance is that it will be sustainable.”

The idea actually stems from the World Health Organisations 2020 activity guidelines, that state “all physical activity is beneficial and can be done as part of work, sport and leisure or transport (walking, wheeling and cycling), but also through dance, play and everyday household tasks, like gardening and cleaning.” 

WHO state that dancing and housework both count towards activity goals

Not to sound like a broken record, but didn’t we all learn the impact of a good walk over lockdown? While the mental health benefits are huge, I’ve also come to see walking as a respectable part of my training programme – both the intentional steps I do when I actually go ‘on a walk’ and the incidental steps that happen during my commute or when I’m shopping. Perhaps that’s because, for a few brief months, it became difficult to balance socialising with working out. By seeing walks as an instrumental part of staying fit, I was able to move every day without feeling guilty about missing ‘real’ exercise (the stuff that got me hot and sweaty). 

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‘Every move counts’ can stop us from doing too much. For some, it’ll encourage them to move more and for others, it’ll give them the permission to slow down.

For Professor Schipperijn, there’s no one size fits all. “The option of becoming more active during transportation is not always there. There might not be an option to cycle or take public transport for some people. [However] it might be very viable to become more active during their workday. “How can we make [movement] more accessible to more people? There’s no one solution that fits everyone,” he says.

If you’re stuck for a new year’s resolution, perhaps working on counting every movement is a good place to start. You’ll be surprised at how motivational it is to give yourself that freedom.

Images: Pexels

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