Every year in January people set resolutions. They plan to eat better, exercise more, get fitter or thinner or stronger.
By February, most people have lost momentum on their resolutions. There are many reasons why this may be the case and many blogs on how to set resolutions and stick to them.
This post is a little different – we are here to ask you to NOT set grand resolutions or plan to completely change your habits. Instead we are going to set out the case for doing something so simple absolutely everyone can do it.
Commit to having a walk.
Physical activity is essential for good health. We are designed to move, yet society has evolved so that overtime we spend a large portion of our days being sedentary. If you are reading this blog, chances are you are either working or studying at university or thinking about doing so in the future. Academic work often involves long periods of sitting – in lecture theatres, in seminars, in libraries or at desks (though this will vary by discipline). Simply by breaking up your day, standing up and moving around a little, and adding in a short walk, you can make a difference to your health.
Being more active can significantly reduce the chance (by up to 60%) of having to live with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It promotes mental health and wellbeing, improves mood and sleep quality and reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. An active break from work or study can help you feel more alert and improve concentration.
Walking is something almost everyone can do. You don’t need to go to a special location or buy special equipment or the latest running shoes. Evidence shows that walking can provide as many health benefits as running the same distance.
It doesn’t have to be a long walk – research shows that a 15-minute walk immediately after eating was more effective at reducing diabetes risk than a single 45-minute daily walk.
Walking is something that can be done alone or with friends or family. It can be done as a walk for pleasure or as active commuting. It can reduce social isolation, improve health and combat climate change.
This simplicity makes it easy to incorporate into your existing daily routine. And, no matter how much you want to change that routine, it’s in existence because it fits your life and your daily tasks currently. It is far easier to make changes by adding something small and gradually increasing it, than it is to completely overhaul a routine.
Step 1 – Think about what you currently do, your daily routines and decide where you can add in some walking.
Step 2 – Set goals that make sense for you, and that you are confident (rating at least 9 on a 10-point scale) you can achieve most days.
Step 3 – Identify some cues to trigger walking towards your goals.
Step 4 – Some people find it motivating to keep a record of when they have met their goals. But most importantly, enjoy your walk(s).
If you are doing this consistently (at least 70-80% of the time) you can repeat this process as many times as you like to add in another walk, or a longer walk, or some other form of exercise.
It may not seem like much, but by taking this simple step, you are well on your way to reaping the benefits of moving more and sitting less.
Ronie Walters, PhD researcher, health literacy and behaviour change in cardiovascular patients
Trish Gorely, Professor, physical activity for health (pictured)
Department of Nursing and Midwifery
University of the Highlands and Islands
Images from unsplash.com