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Exercise Realism


Never mind the poor weather and dark evenings, here are some great ways to be more active despite the challenges of winter. In fact, start now and you’ll be a different person by Spring. Many wonder, “how to begin?” But the right question is, “why to begin?”. Find the right reason by seeing the benefits for you (and you only), and imagining how you’ll feel about yourself. When you have done this and found your reason, it’s the right day to start.


Before we go anywhere near ‘activity’, let’s make sure it’s sustainable. So many people take out a gym membership in January and have stopped going by February. I suspect that guilt has driven them, and guilt is not a healthy motivation. A much more positive reason is needed to make changes stick.

STEP 1 is to decide why you would commit to being more active. A good way to decide is to envisage the outcomes. For example, the physical health benefits, sense of worth, changes to your body (and the prospect of shopping for a new wardrobe), mental health benefits and having the capacity to keep up with the kids. These are all great outcomes, but whatever outcome you value, make sure it is both positive and centred on you!

STEP 2 is about practicalities. Being more active can require time, money and support. If time is short, be honest about how much of yours is spent on social media or flicking through screens. This isn’t time investment in YOU. Simply decide that you deserve a few minutes a day. Money can be an issue, but gym membership isn’t essential for a walk and nor is expensive gym apparel. Walk, dance or move for free and, if you need the social aspect, do it with a friend. Which brings us to support. Family or friends can provide the time, space, encouragement and company to help you stick with it; and if those things are in short supply, do it anyway.


You’ll have your own reasons to be more active. Every reason is valid so long as you benefit.

There are many health rewards to be gained from being more active – physical, mental and metabolic.

PHYSICAL Here, I’m thinking joints, muscles and respiration. No joint ever got less stiff unused; no muscle got stronger with inactivity; and no breath got easier through a lack of fitness. The body only needs a little stimulation and it gives back in spades; so, any activity that is more than you do now will produce positive change.

MENTAL If 10 minutes of activity provides 10 minutes of peace, escapism, fresh air or mindfulness, that is 10 minutes very well spent. A lot of people wonder what mindfulness is, exactly, but it’s simply being ‘in the moment’. So, if the beauty of frost on a cobweb captures your full attention, you are ‘in that moment’. It is really, really good for mental health.

METABOLIC This is the use of various chemicals in the body to regulate bodily processes: burn energy, regulate blood sugar secrete hormones or create an inflammatory or immune response – moderate physical activity benefits them all. More activity than you are currently doing improves the ‘metabolism’ of fats under the skin, around the organs and within the blood vessels. In turn, this reduces inflammation and our reliance on sugary foods. It also stimulates the immune system and betters sleep quality, helping your defences, energy levels and mental wellbeing.

It is now known that metabolism doesn’t wain so much in middle age as it does beyond the age of 60 or so. If you need an extra hand, Kelp tablets contain iodine, which supports metabolism and normal thyroid function.


If physical activity hasn’t been your thing in the past, it’s important to find something accessible and fun. Tap lessons are easy to find, inexpensive and hilarious, as most in the class are hopelessly uncoordinated. Walking to share a coffee with friends or to the post-box are worthy contributors to your step count, as is buying a dog – and they will reward your walks with endless love. Frisbees won’t love you back but frisbee does take two! As does throwing a ball with someone (perhaps over the fence?). Hula-hooping is better done alone, and if you want to rediscover the bike, consider an e-bike for adventures a little further afield.

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Exercise Realism