The start of a new year is often when we set exercise-related goals for ourselves. Gyms are busiest during January as people are motivated to begin their fitness journey with vigour. Fast forward six weeks and 9 out of every 10 people who set a New Year’s Resolution have fallen back to old habits.
So how can you build sustainable habits to ensure movement becomes part of your daily routine?
In this week’s blog, I’ll get into why movement is vital for your health, aside from just looking good. If we can connect the ‘why’ or the ‘benefits’ to our actions we are far more likely to consistently do them. I’ll also touch on different types of exercise for different people and situations, as well as how to get more movement into your day-to-day life.
Like most things in our individual health puzzle, exercise is one important factor. You can’t expect optimal health if you improve your exercise while still eating processed food. Similarly, you can adopt a nutrient dense diet comprised of whole foods but you will still need movement to improve energy and wellbeing.
For a long time I tried to manage my health through diet alone but it wasn’t enough. I needed to exercise to maintain my body composition, keep my energy and mental health at good levels and to support physical health and mobility. It was amazing to observe how good I felt once I combined the two critical pillars of health; diet and movement.
Exercise is important for healthy body systems. It activates the lymphatic system to help the body’s detox pathways, it’s critical for mood and can help increase insulin sensitivity. For men, exercise is important for two reasons. The first has to do with improving the function of their liver and the second has to do with improving hormone balance, particularly testosterone.
Exercise clears the liver by removing fats and sugars out of the bloodstream which then allows the liver to release some of the stored fats and glycogen. This frees up space, stabilises blood sugar levels due to decreased insulin production and can help with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Exercise also helps to burn testosterone. This is very very important because testosterone is used in men’s fight or flight response, that is when their body perceives danger in times of physical or psychological stress including exercise. If testosterone is not used it converts to oestrogen which promotes fat storage and in men this can result in “man boobs” or a spare tyre around the midsection. If too much oestrogen is in the body, you become oestrogen dominant. You can read here about the effects of oestrogen dominance and what to do about it.
For women, including weight-bearing exercise is crucial for maintaining muscle mass - and supporting healthy hormones - as you age. Muscle mass naturally starts to decline from 35 onwards alongside key sex hormones such as progesterone. Incorporating some strength training, such as walking while carrying bags or pushing a pram, or specific weighted exercises at the gym will help maintain your muscle mass.
Watch Ben's short video below to learn more about the benefits of exercise.
Striking the right balance of consistent exercise is key for long-term health. Stress is stress whether we perceive the action to be stressful or not. Chronic intense exercise is incredibly stressful on our bodies.
Intense exercise has its place. High-intensity interval training can improve mitochondrial function and improve your metabolism, but it needs to be short, intense and relatively infrequent with lots of recovery time. Think twice per week for twenty minutes or less, not boot camp every morning for one hour.
In a person with optimally functioning adrenals, high-intensity exercise can be a helpful addition to their wellness regime. For those of us with compromised adrenal function scaling back our exercise routine is critical for recovery. Contrary to conventional thought, doing less may actually result in weight loss as your hormones normalise.
It's important to keep moving, but if you’re recovering from injury, are highly stressed, low on sleep or recovering from adrenal fatigue opt for breathing based exercises such as walking, yoga or pilates. You don't need to stress your body right now with intense HIIT or weight training. If you still want to continue with weights, scale back the intensity - maybe focus on body weight exercises - and lift less frequently with more recovery.
Learning how to balance out your stress levels with exercise requires practise. It can be helpful to know how your adrenals and your body are responding to stress currently before you choose what type of exercise you do. We have a handy adrenal fatigue questionnaire to help you determine your current level of adrenal function and how your body is coping with stress.
There’s a quote that says “the best type of exercise is the one you actually do.” It’s something I wholeheartedly support. We’re all different. Some people love running, while others push through a run thinking it’s good for them but hate every step. In this scenario you’re unlikely to stick to a running programme if you don’t enjoy it.
So how can you include movement into your day-to-day life? Below are our top tips for consistency and enjoyment.
Exercise doesn’t have to be conventional to be effective. We think of slogging it out at the gym as exercise but that’s not realistic or enjoyable for everyone. Activities like pushing a pram, walking to the butchers or vegetable store, gardening or swimming at the beach all count as exercise, too.
Do what you enjoy. This extends from the first point. Go to the gym and do a class if it’s what you genuinely love doing. If not, don’t. Find a type of exercise that suits you. Personally, I love surfing and activities that include my family.
Build it into your day. We seem to think of exercise as being confined to 30 minutes or 1 hour in the day. If you build it into your routine it will happen automatically. I’m a big fan of active transport. I cycle into work several days a week. I get my movement in as well as being out in nature, getting space to think before starting work and enjoying the beautiful part of the country I’m lucky enough to live in.
Include incidental exercise. Movement all adds up. Try parking a little further away from where you are going. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Get up and go for a brisk walk for 5 minutes every hour. If you’re a person who is motivated by goals and results a pedometer or fitness tracker can help you see how much incidental exercise you get every day.
Get an accountability buddy. Doing exercise with a friend is always more enjoyable! Go for a walk instead of catching up at a cafe or over the phone. Pick an activity you both enjoy such as yoga or boxing and do it together.
Exercise appropriately to balance your stress. This is key. Nothing will derail your efforts towards consistency more than doing too much. If you are tired or run down tune into your body and rest. You could try some gentle breath-based exercises instead.
Lastly, it’s important to be realistic and flexible in your approach to movement. We can have the best of intentions and set goals to work out 6 days a week, but some weeks it won’t happen. Learning to be ok with this and not viewing it as a failure is critical for building long-term habits and health. Small changes reap bigger results over time if you are consistent than four weeks of intense, vigorous changes.
If you’re ready to make movement a regular part of your life this year, join us in our simple challenge this week which is to move in any way you like for at least 30 minutes each day.
Be sure to check in to our BePure - Ben Warren Facebook page as we will be posting helpful tips and inspiration for this challenge as well as a weekly prize.
We’d also love to see how you are bringing exercise into your day. Share your pics with us on Instagram using #bepurebenwarren.
This blog is part of our 10 pillars of health series. Each week we will deliver content, recipes and challenges relevant to each pillar of health that we believe are the foundations for living a healthier, happier, more energised life. The idea is that if we focus on making progress in one area each week it will be easier, and more sustainable, over the long-term.
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