How to Be Active and Fit
You know now that being active benefits the whole body and should be a part of everyone’s daily life, regardless of age or medical history. You can help to protect the health of your friends and family by encouraging them to be active, too. Involving your friends and family makes it easier for you to get going and keep going. You understand why you should be active and how it should feel after a heart event. Now you must understand what to do and how to do it. A lot of information exists about exercise and plenty of people want to tell you what to do. It can get confusing, which can put you off. To make it clearer, you can follow three steps, which are listed in the activity pyramid in figure 5.1.
Some people may find it difficult to achieve all three steps of the activity pyramid because of ill health or physical restrictions. Increasing your activity levels even slightly will improve your general stamina, strength, flexibility and balance. Any improvements in any of these areas are beneficial. Simply ‘sit less and move more’, aiming to do as much as you can. You may be able to do more than the three steps of the activity pyramid, and that’s great too. The more, the better.
The top of the activity pyramid encourages you to sit less. Many people are sedentary (sitting or lying) for more than 7 hours a day (not including sleeping). This statistic is even worse for older people, many of whom can sit for longer than 11 hours a day. Generally sedentary time increases with age. The longer the sedentary period without standing up, the worse it is for your health. What does ‘bad for your health’ mean? Well, spending your life with long periods of sitting makes you much more likely to develop heart disease, obesity, diabetes and some cancers. It therefore shortens life expectancy. Studies of people in the United Kingdom and the United States have found that many people sit for 4 to 5 hours without standing at all. Much of the sitting time is spent watching television, using computers, driving, talking on the phone, reading or listening to music. Aim to break up this pattern of behaviour. Just stand up and move, walk about a bit or climb the stairs. In other words, just move.
To increase your chances of success, make yourself a plan for sitting less and moving more. Think of all the times when you sit for longer than 1 hour and think of ways to break the pattern, such as the following:
- When watching television, get up and move when there are adverts or when each programme ends. Walk to the kitchen, get a glass of water or wash a few dishes.
- Put a brightly coloured sticker on your computer or set an alarm to remind you to get up and walk for a couple of minutes every hour.
- When driving long distances, stop your car in a lay-by or a quiet road and walk round the car 5 times.
- On a train, stand for the last few stops so that you are not sitting for the whole journey.
- In a plane journey, get up and walk to the back of plane every hour if it is safe to do so.
Now, make your plan. Write your own list of ideas and stick it to your telly, computer, fridge or notice board. It might feel silly, but visual reminders really work. Make a commitment and share it with someone who will support you to do what you want to do. Get a family member or friend to witness it. It’s much more fun to get healthy when you and your loved ones support each other.
Always Choose the Active Way
The middle of the activity pyramid encourages you to improve your health by building activity into your daily routine. Like we mentioned in chapter 3, people didn’t have to think consciously about being active in the days when they had active jobs and fewer cars. They just did it as part of their lives. However, in modern times you must make a conscious choice to have an active life.