A NEAT way to exercise

It’s generally acknowledged that exercising helps you live longer, improves your general health and elevates your mood – it tones the muscles, increases circulation and elimination, and maintains coordination of mind and body. But, as Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson says: “It is not about spending hours and hours in the gym, it is about finding ways to build activities into our daily lives.”

So it seems that moderate exercise fitted into your daily routine is more beneficial than bursts of high-intensity activity followed by flopping on the settee as a couch potato and – more importantly – you’re more likely to do it!

The NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) way can be fidgeting, tapping your fingers and toes, changing position – basically keeping moving as much as possible. In America, Professor James Levine created an office environment that encouraged movement whilst working – pacing around when on the phone, even walking on a treadmill while on the computer!

But we can make simpler changes such as using the stairs instead of the lift, leaving the car at home, getting off the bus a stop before your own, hiding the remote controls. When doing chores around the house, do it to lively music, you’ll go faster.

Simple exercises help you stay flexible and make you conscious of your posture and which muscles you might habitually hold in tension. Pull your tummy muscles in, stand up straight then clench your buttocks, draw up your pelvic floor while doing the ironing, the washing up or cleaning your teeth.

You’ll feel more motivated if you can find what type of exercise complements your body and lifestyle. If you are a competitive workaholic, perhaps a co-operative team game will provide a balance; sedentary types will need more rigorous brisk exercise to perk up a sluggish body; nervous, active types might benefit from rhythmic flowing exercise such as dancing, yoga or t’ai chi.

Whatever you decide, do it sensibly and enjoy it – and perhaps have a relaxing massage to help ease aching muscles or an invigorating massage to help ‘prime’ you for action.

‘Southwell Life’ – March 2006

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