A body that is moving is headed in the right direction. That’s because moving daily is vital for mental health, strength, vitality, emotional well-being, a good metabolism and even for healthier skin. By moving a bit more every day, bodies simply function better. It begs the question: “Why are so many people inactive?”

“People who don’t exercise can get overwhelmed by the idea of exercising. Perhaps they feel they have left it too long and they don’t know where to start. Maybe they are a little overweight and don’t have the confidence to get out there. Perhaps they have time constraints that are stopping them from exercising.

“There are many reasons, or excuses, for not exercising. But, for every reason not to, there are many more reasons to exercise. It starts with the decision to take the first step and then it is like a ripple effect. As you begin to feel better, more energized, you will want to move more. Moving then becomes a daily habit,” says Juanita Bouwer, a Biokineticist at Ubuntu Family Health Centre in Sandton.

Perhaps the most compelling reasons to exercise are that it boosts energy, stamina and improves mood thanks to the release of endorphins. In today’s frantically paced world, good energy levels and emotional well-being are crucial to managing stress and coping with the daily demands of life. These effects are felt with every exercise session. Then there are the biological reasons to get moving, which perhaps aren’t felt immediately – or even noticeable – such as improved circulation and better flow of lymph.

“And of course there is weight loss, improved muscle tone, enhanced mobility, better heart function, improved digestion and elimination. These may take time to show, but if you keep moving, you will get there,” says Bouwer.

She says people should make time to move every day, even if it is a 20-minute walk with the dog after work, taking the stairs instead of the lift at the office and parking further away from the entrance to the mall.

“Family obligations or a busy work schedule might make you feel like you don’t have time to exercise. But all it takes is 20 to 30 minutes a day. Set the alarm earlier in the morning and walk or attend an exercise class at the gym before you leave for work or before the rest of the family wakes up. Make the decision to make time,” Bouwer encourages.

She offers some tips to get moving – and keep moving:

  • Diarise your exercise sessions and keep the appointment. If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.
  • Find an exercise partner. You are less likely to ditch your exercise session if you know you are meeting someone.
  • Remember there are different strokes for different folks. Find an activity that you really enjoy. If you hate running on a treadmill indoors, there is no point in forcing yourself to do it. Joining a group that walk or run outdoors might be more up your alley. That way, you are more inclined to stick to a regular routine and reap the benefits. Weekends are loaded with different events, from trail running to obstacle course runs. Find what makes you tick!
  • Set a (realistic) goal. When you have a goal and you set out the steps you need to take to achieve it, it evolves into a plan. Maybe there is a bucket list event that you have always wanted to take part in. Determine what is needed to achieve it and get going. Goals will be different for each person but the feeling of accomplishment in achieving a goal, regardless of what it is, is the same for everyone – awesome!
  • Take notice of how you feel. Regular physical activity brings about such a wide spectrum of benefits – a better quality of life, weight loss and stress management. The world is your oyster in this regard. When you notice welcome changes, write them down. When you feel averse to exercising, go and look at the changes for the better that you have noted since you got active.
  • Listen to your body. A dreaded muscle strain or a distant niggle that has become much more pronounced, can halt your progress in its tracks.  Seek professional advice quickly if you have pain or a strain that is stopping you from moving. Visit a physiotherapist or biokineticist to address the cause of the problem as soon as you can. You might need to focus on more specific strength training to prevent it from recurring. On the upside, this approach might just improve your performance of your chosen activity, leading to even higher levels of enjoyment.
  • Don’t overdo it too quickly. Build up slowly, to exercising for longer periods or more often during the week. If you suddenly start exercising six days a week after years of inertia, you will become overwhelmed and might give up altogether when you realize it is not sustainable.
  • Remember to include rest days in your weekly routine. Rest days are critical to replenish fatigued muscles, preventing burnout and injuries and it makes for a happier (athletic) version of you. Come to the next training session, you will have plenty of energy to push yourself a little bit further and achieve more. 

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