Regular physical activity can help keep us physically and mentally fit, as well as healthy and happy. It also plays a vital role in keeping our weight under control. Daily life is full of opportunities for putting our energy to good use, so why not take advantage of it.
Reshaping your figure
Regular physical activity is an important part of any weight loss plan. The best type of activities for fat loss include ‘weight bearing’ exercise like power walking, dancing, tennis, badminton, rollerblading and aerobics. Weight supported exercise like swimming and cycling are less effective in shifting unwanted fat.
Moderately intense physical activity, for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week, will help you to:
- Improve your fitness and stamina.
- Increase your metabolism.
- Burn up kilojoules from the food you eat.
- Reduce fat stores in the body.
- Increase and maintain muscle strength and tone.
If you want bigger muscles and better muscle definition, then you should follow a weight training program. For a safe and effective weight training program, see a gym instructor or a personal trainer rather than designing your own. They can tailor a weights program to your needs and provide instruction on how to handle the weights without injuring yourself.
Unfortunately, you cannot shift fat from one part of the body (e.g. the hips) to another part of the body (e.g. the bust) through certain forms of exercise. If you are pear shaped, with shapely hips, then regular physical activity and good eating habits will help you to lose weight from all parts of your body, including your hips.
If you are not used to physical exertion, then you should have a check up with your doctor before planning an exercise plan or embarking on an exercise program.
Here are some practical pointers for starting with physical activity.
- Get the right gear – a comfortable pair of shoes and loose-fitting clothing will ensure you are comfortable during your workouts.
- Stretch both before and after exercise to reduce the risk of injury, increase flexibility and prevent muscle soreness.
- Taking on too much too soon is unsafe. Start with small amounts of exercise and gradually build up to a rate that you feel comfortable with.
- Expect to take weeks or months to build up your stamina and fitness.
- Set yourself some exercise goals and keep a weekly log of your efforts. Update your goals as you become fitter.
- Find yourself an exercise buddy to get you motivated and keep you motivated.
- Keep the fluids up. Carry a drink bottle with you and make sure you drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise.
Tips on how to get more active
- Clock up some ‘incidental activity’ time. This includes things like walking around the office, taking the stairs instead of the lift and getting off the couch to change the TV channels instead of using the remote. The more incidental activity you do, the more kilojoules you will burn during the day. Remember – every little bit counts.
- Block out some ‘me’ time. Make a one hour appointment with yourself, three to four times a week. And consider this appointment as important as any other work-related appointment or meeting. It’s important not to let other things override your exercise time.
- Think beyond the gym. Throwing a frisbee to your kids in the park or taking the dog for a walk or jog counts as physical activity. If the gym is not your scene, think of what you really like doing and just do it. The most important thing is to move your body, get the heart pumping and have fun while doing it.
- Find an exercise buddy. An exercise buddy can help you get motivated and keep motivated. You will both benefit from the partnership.
How important is physical activity when trying to lose weight?
It takes two to tango. A good diet without physical activity will make losing weight and gaining fitness more difficult. Physical activity helps to burn up kilojoules from the food we eat and build up muscles, which in turn increases our metabolism and assists in weight control.
What types of physical activity are recommended for getting back in shape?
Aerobic activities like power walking, jogging, rollerblading, squash, tennis and aerobics will help you to lose body fat. Weight training helps to increase muscle tissue, which in turn can reward you with a body that is well toned and looks great.
Can I do any type of exercise I like without endangering my health?
Unless you are young and in good health, it is recommended that you have a medical check-up before embarking on a new form of exercise. This is especially important for intensive exercises or fitness for seniors.
I have no time for structured exercise. What can I do instead?
Our daily life offers many opportunities for working out – working around the house, gardening, taking the stairs instead of the lift and getting off the bus one stop before your destined stop and walking the extra distance. These activities add up and can contribute to your recommended 30 minutes (or more) of moderate intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
My ten year old is gaining weight. How can I help him/her become more physically active?
Look for opportunities before and after school to get your child moving. The key is to encourage and support things that they like doing, such as playing with a frisbee in the park, playing cricket in the back yard, riding their bike or swimming at the local pool. Perhaps you could ask your child to give you a hand with some chores around the house, like sweeping the verandah or mowing the lawns. Or you could walk your child to and from school – it will help you keep fit too.
This fact sheet contains general information. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.