There are a few things in life that can assist someone in their quest for balance and well-being as much as an active lifestyle. Living an active lifestyle is important to staying healthy. It not only reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke but staying active has been proven to reduce stress and improve well-being. An active lifestyle does not have to mean training 7 days a week, 2 times per day, for 3 hours each session.
Active lifestyles can be as simple as going for an extra half an hour walk each day, riding a bike to work, parking your car an extra block from where you are going, going to a yoga class once or twice per week, even just the 10 minute walk to get the paper each morning. In case you missed it, the general theme here is “little changes make big impacts”.
The trick is to find a routine and an activity that you enjoy doing. The moment you start enjoying being active, the moment being active stops being a chore and becomes a lifestyle. I myself am one to change things every few months. I get bored of doing the same thing, day in and day out, so changing routines from walking to swimming, from swimming to bike riding, from bike riding to strength training is what helps me stay motivated personally.
How To Get Started.
1. Don’t rush into hard and extensive training.
Take it slow. There is no rush, no race to win. The best way to start being active is to honestly evaluate your fitness level and aim to increase it over a period of time. Most people who are currently inactive are not going to be able to walk out their door on day 1 and run 20km per day, every day without injury or major muscle soreness. It takes time. Start with a 5-10 minute walk and gradually build that up to longer and/or more intense sessions over time.
The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18-64 years) outlines that a target of approximately 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity training per week. This means you should work towards a goal of 40 minutes of physical activity per day. However, every minute you spend being active is a minute well spent!
2. Define a goal. Then REACH IT.
Depending on your personality there will be different methods you can use to motivate yourself. Having a clearly defined “long-term” goal as well as several short term goals is highly important for personal development. You should always set S.M.A.R.T Goals. S.M.A.R.T stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Specific. Goals are where you clearly define what you want to achieve. An example might be to “lose 10kg in the next 20 weeks”.
Measurable. To be considered measurable (at least in this context) it must be easy to determine if your goal has been accomplished. An example of a measurable goal would be to “reduce my body fat percentage by 20% within the next 9 months” where as a goal that is not as measurable would be “to lose some body fat from my belly” as it is much harder to define the outcome.
Achievable. Goals need to be set to a realistic level whilst still being a challenge to complete. Setting goals that are unobtainable is a recipe for disaster as you are unintentionally setting yourself up for failure. Set goals that push you to becoming better but that can be achieved in their relative time frame.
Relevant. Your goals should resemble what YOU want to achieve. Setting a goal that is personal to you will ensure that you remain motivated to achieve it. Goals that other people, be it family, friends or even a coach have may not suit what you want to achieve.
Time-Bound. With every goal you set, you must set a time frame for completion. For example your goal may be to “lose 10kg in 20 weeks” therefore 20 weeks becomes your time frame. This is important as it allows you to set smaller short-term goals like “lose 0.5kg per week” which help you stay on track.
3. Work your muscles.
Add some light resistance and strength training to your program. Including resistance training helps to strengthen your bones and muscles whilst increasing balance and coordination. This type of training reduces the risk of Osteoporosis and also helps to prevent injuries and falls. It is important to note that resistance training is not a total substitution for cardio or light exercise training like walking or running. To achieve balance in your fitness and ultimate well-being you need some form of both.
Not sure where to start? Book into a gym for a personal training session or introduction. A lot of gyms offer this for free and it is great way to start whilst being under the watchful eye of a professional.
4. Stretch! Mobility and flexibility is key to balancing an active lifestyle.
Mobility and flexibility are similar yet different. Having good mobility means that you are able to move into and out of positions fluidly and easily without restriction whereas flexibility is being able to reach an end point of a movement in a controlled manner.
One of the best practices to encourage flexibility and mobility is to move. The more you move into a position the more you become accustomed to it. The more you stretch after training the greater your flexibility will become. Join a Yoga or Pilates class. There are very few downsides to practising Yoga and Pilates, they increase strength, flexibility, mobility and also immensely reduce stress. While you should stretch every day even a class 2-3 times per week can provide outstanding results.
5. Keep it FUN!
Try something new. Go dancing, swimming or play a sport. Being active is supposed to be fun. The vast majority of people are not attempting to become elite athletes, merely trying to be the best me. Laugh, smile and enjoy your training as that is what will get you coming back. I cannot emphasise this enough. When you have fun while working out you don’t feel like you are working.
6. Eat food that fuels not fails.
Diet is king. Regardless of your goals your diet is the major impact on how well you succeed. Diet is not about sacrifice and hardship, starving yourself until you cant bear it anymore, eating nothing but broccoli and chicken. A healthy diet, in our opinion, is taking everything in moderation and making smarter choices. There are 1000 ways to approach this subject but the way that we feel is the most appropriate is this, if you are going to have pizza and cake for dinner, have a light healthy lunch like a salad and keep your portion sizes small. It is that simple.
The biggest factor is that you consciously make a decision to change to a smarter meal choice at some point during your day. You will feel better, have more energy, perform better in all aspects whether physical or mental and you will provide you body with good appropriate nutrition.