Why our world is ‘inactive’.

It’s great to see Governments and World Health Organisations championing the benefits of physical activity. A lost part of our lives that has been swallowed up by time constraints, work and modern conveniences. The internet, automobile and built environments designed for mass transport. Not only that but physical activity has become, well just too much effort.

We have heard it all before but believe it or not we are designed to move. Even though sport is a great way to engage people it misses the more ‘general’ population. The part of society that has forgotten about physical activity, brought up in environments where outside play as a child has been stifled by the lure of ipads, tablets, the internet and sedentary based activities remain the challenge for World Governments.

As we progress through life our working environments have become more adept to convenience and less physical in nature. We need to adapt to this change, become creative in how we build more movement into our lives. Our unpredictable climate isn’t always conducive to exercising outdoors but there are many opportunities to become active.

Many Cities around the UK are trying to get their citizens more active, setting goals such as Sheffield’s ambition to become the most active City in the UK. But with these ambitious targets we need investment and ambitious ideas. Factors such as our built environment, family cultures, personal barriers should be acknowledged and addressed. Encouraging ‘low level’ physical activity opportunities is essential such as simply walking more.

Behavioural change prompts that make us stop and think placed around our suburban concrete jungles. Visual signs that encourage us to take the stairs instead of the lift.

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Signs around Cities and walking routes that display time to various key locations through walking rather than distance. We need to take a leaf out of the private sector and market physical activity so that it resonates and appeals to its intended audience.

Time is always an excuse to becoming more active. But what is time – we live and die by the clock with deadlines and constraints. By incorporating physical activity into our lives and seeing the World around us as full of opportunities to become more active – frees time. Work against the perception, sell the benefits.

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Then there is the ‘biggy’ of becoming more physically active which is often overlooked. The benefit to your mental health and sense of emotional wellbeing. That sense of fufilment or achievement by becoming more active. The endorphines – the body’s feel good chemical that lifts our mood.

I guarantee you by walking more in the Countryside, or enjoying the outdoors you will become more connected to nature. Time to breath, enjoyment of the space and the soaking up of the natural environment has huge benefits to us. I always take time to wind down using walking as not just exercise but as meditation. A break from the break neck speed of life.

So to become more active, doesn’t necessarily take sporting skills, just a splash of creativity and planning. Know that the little things make a difference – those few extra steps a day, stairs instead of lifts or walking those short journeys instead of using the car.

We have some great initiatives such as the newly launched ‘One You’ Campaign through Public Health England. An attempt to personalise health promotion messages and advice based on a health quiz you complete. It’s a great website and FREE – check it out here – PHE ONE YOU

But the NHS and Health Authorities can’t do it alone. They can support us, but to really turn the tide of obesity in the Western World we need to play our part. I participated in a half marathon last weekend. I had more respect for the participants I saw, who were clearly overweight, than us seasoned runners.

Of course we don’t need to all be running 10k’s, half marathons and marathons. But to some of us that purpose is the driving force for embracing change and keeping motivated. For others it maybe eating healthily with a treat day on a weekend for example. There are so many enjoyable family activities such as walking and cycling to get involved in.

So the real battle is changing the perception of exercise. If gyms are your thing thats fine, but they aren’t for everyone. To really get the nation moving we need clever health promotion campaigns aligned with businesses and public sector bodies working together to increase physical activity opportunities and eventually changing the culture of inactivity that has embedded itself within our society.

Andrew Picken

 

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