It takes a lot to shock me, but I can’t deny I was literally taken aback yesterday to read that in a recent survey (conducted by Damart and Heart Research UK), 90% of women do not reach the recommended level of exercise each week. So only 1 in 10 females here in the UK are moving their body for the recommended 30 minutes per day, every day. I was shocked and to be honest saddened at this cold, hard truth – even more so when I read on to see than 8 out of 10 cases of coronary heart disease are preventable by avoiding smoking, an unhealthy diet, and a lack of daily exercise. In an age where exercise options have never been greater, nor healthy food more widely available, how can this have happened? In an effort to try to inspire women to get more active and help to change this shocking statistic, here are my top tips for females everywhere to boost not only their overall health, but specifically their heart health.
Photography by Anna Rachel.
These boots were made for walking
Or trainers, or ballet flats, or even flip flops if you prefer! Doesn’t matter what you’ve got on your feet – just use them. Walking is free and can be done literally anywhere and any time. It is one of the most under-rated forms of exercise which is such a shame when it burns calories, improves cardiovascular endurance and is accessible for everyone thanks to being low-impact. If finding 30 minutes a day to get on your feet is tough, then try to think of ways you can incorporate it into your daily routine. Do you drive to work? Why not park 15 minutes away from your office? That way you’ve got a 15 minute walk to and from your car every day. Have to drop your kids at school in the morning? Why not walk together rather than getting the bus? Or if the morning routine is tight, why not head to the park after school together and walk a few laps on the way home? If you get public transport to work, think about getting off a few stops earlier on the bus or tube and walking the rest of the way. And if you are on the tube or taking the train then forget escalators and lifts – take the stairs and use your feet! A lunchtime walk is a great idea if your job means you’re seated for much of the day. A half an hour stroll outside will get you away from your desk, allow you to be more mindful as you take in your surroundings, and energise you for the afternoon of work ahead. If your evenings are packed with social catch ups, consider making some of them on foot – you can still hear all about your friends new man or moan to them about what a slave driver your boss is as you walk and talk together. Why not get some matching T-Shirts printed so you even feel like a little team? Bulk t-shirt printing could be the answer!
Get fit in the comfort of your own home
Yes it’s true – in this digital age you can work out with some of the worlds’ best trainers…. without even stepping outside your front door. YouTube, Instagram and Facebook Live mean it is easier than ever to get access to literally thousands of different workouts from our laptops and phone screens (check out some of mine here) – so you don’t even need a gym membership or access to a swanky boutique studio to try out some of the latest fitness trends. From yoga to HIIT to boxing to Beyonce Booty Shaking – there’s an online workout video out there to suit you – start searching through YouTube to discover some channels and presenters with content that you like, and make your own YouTube playlist adding all your favourite workouts and classes – then you have your own workout library ready to go, without having to go anywhere!
Try Try Trial Again
So you don’t have the room to workout at home, or you’d just rather your flatmates didn’t hear you doing burpee after burpee on your bedroom floor? There are still plenty of places you can go and train, and the vast majority of gyms and studios will offer you a free trial class or period for you to check out their facilities and see if they work for you. So you can still get access to some of the best gyms and classes in your area, without the upfront financial commitment. Some studios will offer the first class for free, or a bundle or 2 or 3 classes for a special introductory price, so you can shop around, find out what works for you and get fit at the same time. Or why not check out your local leisure centre? Many are lucky to have had huge council investment meaning they have excellent facilities and a range of classes – but without the boutique studio price tag. They also usually offer a pay as you go option, so if you fancy Body Pump one day and a game of badminton with your boyfriend the next then your local leisure centre will offer that flexibility.
It Ain’t What You Do
To most people, when they think of exercise or physical activity, images of 5am bootcamps in the mud, gruelling 10k runs, or spinning classes where you end up drenched in sweat and unable to stand up after dismounting the bike tend to come to mind – but being active doesn’t have to mean pushing yourself until you need to vomit into the bin. Hitting the target of 30 minutes of physical activity every day could be done in a pilates class, swimming, playing tennis, salsa dancing, riding your bike…. and in hundreds of other ways. Of course in order to see improvements in fitness, strength and stamina you need to start to push yourself and your body – but for many this seems such a long way off, which is why it is important to realise that you don’t have to push yourself to the point of collapse for it to count towards your daily activity. In fact going from doing nothing to high intensity training is risky – and even gold medal winning athletes had to start somewhere. Moving your body is moving your body – so do it in a way that works for you – and that way you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
In order to maintain motivation, it can be really helpful to have something to work towards. When it comes to fitness, often goals tend to be weight related, but I think the best goals are more about physical achievements – e.g. hitting 10k steps every day, being able to run your first 5k, performing full push ups etc. Why not set yourself a target to work towards so that your training has a focus? It is easier to track progress which in turn can help to keep you motivated, not to mention the satisfaction when you hit your target – and all whilst getting active for the recommended 30 minutes every day.
I truly hope that this tips will help to inspire you to get more active, and to help incorporate activity into your daily routine, not least because heart disease can affect anyone at any age, but they sadly women are more likely to develop heart disease than men. Heart disease CAN be prevented, and Heart Research UK advise that healthy eating and an active lifestyle are two of the best ways to do this. We may live in a world obsessed with statistics (number of Instagram followers, what celebrities earn, the number on the scale) but I truly hope that with simple changes in lifestyle that we can help reduce the 90% of women who currently don’t reach the recommended activity level. If you know someone struggling to hit their target, please share these tips with them, and get behind them to encourage them to get moving. It may just save their life.