Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Should we all be aiming to get our fitness 5-a-day?

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We’ve all heard about five-a-day when it comes to getting enough fruit and veg, but what about when it comes to moving our bodies?

Just five short and easy exercises a day could be the key to safeguarding our future health – including helping prevent certain cancers.

Studies have shown that even small amounts of regular movement can be beneficial. In fact, just three-and-a-half minutes per day of vigorous activity like stair-climbing can reduce overall cancer risk by 17–18%, compared to doing no vigorous activity – research from University of Sydney published last month found.

However, not having enough spare time is often cited as a barrier to exercise. Over half (56%) of UK adults say having more time, and energy and feeling fitter would motivate them to be more physically active, according to a new poll commissioned by the World Cancer Research Fund.

But getting your fitness five a day doesn’t have to mean big workouts – it’s micro-breaks of movement that you can incorporate into your daily life.

Cost can also be a barrier many people experience when it comes to staying active. But ‘exercise snacking’ doesn’t cost a penny – it’s something you can do every day in the comfort of your own home.

“The whole basis is around making exercise easy – don’t feel you have to carve out specific time for it,” says nutritionist and health information and promotion manager at World Cancer Research Fund, Matt Lambert.

“I think that’s really the key, because a lot of people’s barriers when it comes to keeping active is time, because of work and family. Sometimes people don’t realise you can build movement into your day.”

Keen to get your fitness 5-a-day and help safeguard your future health? Here are some ideas…

1. Start walking while you’re on the phone

Do you have a call scheduled at work? Lambert says this is a great excuse to get moving. Whether it’s going out for a brisk walk or just pacing in your workspace, moving while you’re taking a call is an easy way to squeeze in some activity.

“It’s something I do all the time, and I go back to work and then think, ‘Actually I am a little bit more energised, I feel so much better’ – then it’s just about building that into someone’s daily life and routine,” says Lambert.

2. Make use to ad breaks while watching TV

There are mini-exercises you can spend a few minutes on while waiting for your favourite programme to come back on. Lambert recommends push-ups using your coffee table, or even standing up and sitting down repeatedly.

“It could be chair squats, it could be two minutes of crunches, or maybe jumping jacks. It’s about giving people options depending on their fitness levels and finding something they’re able to do,” says Lambert.

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3. Multi-task while brushing your teeth

It’s a mindless activity that you do twice a day, so why not use that teeth-brushing time to get a mini workout in?

Whether it’s pacing around the bathroom or doing squats on the spot, Lambert says even 20 seconds of movement that raises your heart rate will be beneficial in the long run if done regularly.

“The whole thing when it comes to behaviour change is making those habits sustainable, and something that we do automatically is brushing our teeth at night, so it’s all about us making exercise as easy as possible,” says Lambert.

4. Get moving while making a cup of tea

How many jumping jacks does it take for the kettle to boil? Every bit of movement you can get in the day adds up, even if it’s just for a matter of minutes, and Lambert says that making use of activities you already do on a daily basis could be the key to making it stick.

“Sometimes, people tend to fixate on exercise and physical activity or sport, all about the end goal of maybe changing how they look. But ultimately, what you’re helping to do [by making activity bursts part of your day] is reduce your risk of cancer, and helping you live longer,” adds Lambert.

5. Start a kitchen disco

Pop on your favourite playlist and spend a couple of minutes of the day dancing.

“You don’t have to be drenched in sweat, and you can just be on your own,” says Lambert. “Put a song on and dance for a couple of minutes. It’s about making it accessible, easy, friendly, fun, and enjoyable.”

Lambert adds that one of the most important things when it comes to changing your lifestyle is consistency. And remember: “Doing something is always better than doing nothing.”

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