Top Santé columnist GP Dr Rangan Chatterjee, star of BBCOne’s Doctor In The House, talks exercise and how important it is to move our bodies daily.
We are all aware of the importance of exercise but what exactly counts as exercise? Does it have to mean sweat-enducing gym sessions?
It’s recommended you do 30 minutes five times a week, minimum, but yet lots of people get put off because we’ve been conditioned to believe the only valid form of exercise is one that involves pushing your body to the limit, whether that’s pounding the pavement for miles or doing a tough spin class.
While I’m not against those things per se – and sweating does have huge, detoxing benefits – anything that gets your body moving counts towards your exercise quota.
Think of your health like an energy bank account: you can add to or take away from your innate resources by the lifestyle choices you make.
Women tend to be juggling a job, kids, housework, social commitments and even elderly parents, all of which use up energy. So, adding lots of long, high-intensity cardio sessions on top could further deplete the energy bank account.
If you’re already tired, an hour-long run could be the thing that tips your health bank account into the red.
Slow can be effective
But yet we do all need to keep moving. This is why I think it’s better to focus on more restorative exercises such as yoga or tai chi. Plenty of my female patients have benefitted from switching their hardcore gym workouts for more gentle forms.
And yoga can still tone your muscles if that’s your goal. Many of the moves are challenging. What I love about yoga though, is the focus on breating and relaxation.
You can be strengthening your muscles and rejuvenetaing your body while breathing more deeply and slowly, which helps lower stress hormones.
Tai chi is often called a moving meditation as it too comprises a series of controlled movements and breathing. Although it looks easy, it’s really not! I recently did a class and found it very challeneging to root myself to the ground and clear my head.
In our busy, modern, go-go-go world, taking a bit of time to nurture your body and move it in harmonious ways, rather than overly strain it, can yield huge dividends.
Rangan’s exercise prescription
Do 10 minutes of yoga stretches after getting up each morning. A few rounds of sun salutations wakes up every muscle in your body.
Track your daily steps. Each day try to add 1,000, which is only about five extra minute of walking – some of these can be done in your lunch break (see pGG for inspiration).
Sign up to and pay in advance for six-week Pilates, tai chi or yoga course as you will be more likely to attend.
If you have a pool nearby, go for a gentle swim. The water supports your joints while working your muscles, especially your heart. It’s a great, full-body workout.
* Find out more at www.drchatterjee.com and visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rcjdb
* Email your question to Dr Chatterjee to firstname.lastname@example.org.