Moving more doesn’t need to involve an exercise class or anything complicated: simply move your body in some way for 1-2 minutes every 1-2 hours.
Caveman didn’t jump in a car and sit in a two-hour traffic jam on the way to an office, where he sat for seven hours before going home to slump in front of the TV. Put simply, in Great Britain, we don’t move enough. Even 40 years ago, I can remember my mother carrying half a dozen heavy grocery bags in each hand, the handles cutting into her fingers, half a mile from the nearest shop. Today, what do we do? Just so we don’t have to push the shopping trolley too far, we drive around the supermarket car park multiple times trying to find a space as close to the entrance as possible! It’s terrible to think how inactive we have become.
If you are overweight or obese and just beginning to live more healthily, it is important to pay a little attention to that old saying, ‘don’t run before you can walk’.
In the Move More phase, it’s crucial for our health, especially if currently you live a very sedentary lifestyle, that you start to move about more on your feet. Get outdoors in the fresh air: walking, gardening, hiking, rowing. It really doesn’t matter what it is, just get moving! Get involved with that gets you moving, but not so much that you’re out of breath.
Even 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates - the father of western medicine - told us, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine’. If you live a couple of miles from work, try to walk there occasionally. If you live too far away, then park a mile or so from your destination and walk the last part. You will be amazed by how you feel.
What The Experts Say: Dr Shan Hussain
One foot in front of the other. A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2015 showed that 25 minutes of brisk walking a day could add up to seven years to your life and halve the risk of dying from a heart attack.
What The Experts Say: Dr Campbell Murdoch
Sedentary behaviour, which simply means spending prolonged periods of time not moving, is an independent risk factor for poor health. So, even if you are doing some regular aerobic activity every day and lifting weights a couple of times a week, remaining stationary, not working the big muscles in your arms and legs for long periods (more than 1-2 hours) may have a negative impact on your health. A study published in 2015 highlighted that sedentary behaviour could double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One reason for this is that when we are sedentary for long periods, the antioxidant level in our cells reduces. Reduced antioxidant levels mean our cells are more prone to damage from free radicals. And damage from free radicals leads to ageing. How often should we move? Seeing as there is no minimum recommended sitting or lying time, it makes most sense to recommend a minimum time dedicated to movement. A reasonable suggestion is to move in some way for 1-2 minutes every hour. This could simply be getting up and walking or doing some chair-based arm or leg exercises. Desk-based work is now very common. You may find yourself seated for hours on end, staring at a computer screen. Additionally, you may have developed the habit of lying on the sofa for hours watching the television. It is important that you find ways and habits that work for you to break up your sedentary time, and just make sure you move more. It could be as simple as making sure you walk around for a minute or two between TV episodes. A popular solution among office workers is to get a sit/stand desk, so you can mix up how you spend your day: you could make sure you stand for meetings or phone calls and sit down to work, just as long as you are never spending too long in one position.
James Cracknell’s Views on Physical activity – the state of play
Physical inactivity is one of the most important public health problems of the 21st century. The World Health Organisation places inactivity as the fourth leading cause of death globally and one of the major health threats affecting developed countries.1 Even our own government admit, ‘the country is less physically active than any time in all human history’. Here are some statistics that we must improve:
- 25% of the population is active in moderate intensity (brisk walking) activity for less than 30 minutes per week.
- 20% adults walk for 20 minutes at a stretch once a year or less.
- By 2030 the average Brit will be so inactive that they will use only 25% more energy than if they spent the whole day sleeping.
Childhood inactivity is endemic across the globe2
- Only 33% of boys and 21% of girls 4-15yrs meet minimum levels of physical activity (one hour of activity per day) for basic health benefits.
- In 1970 48% walked/cycled to school; in 2015 just 13% walked/cycled to school
There are several combining factors which have caused this worrying trend, including:
- A report by the WHO in 2019 revealed that only one in five children aged 11-17 are getting enough physical exercise (1 hour of activity a day).
- The report looked at 1.6 million students from 298 different schools, across 146 countries, territories, or areas.
- Focus on academic success means 7-8 hours a day (obligatory) sedentary behavior – sitting at desks in lessons.
- Busy roads mean parents are less likely to allow children to walk or ride their bikes to school.
- Safe access to recreational activities is governed by financial, socio-geographical and political factors – all beyond a child’s control.
The issue of physical inactivity is still not being taken seriously enough by policy makers, the health community, and practitioners at both a local and national level.
There is a wealth of evidence supporting the claim that active kids are happy kids. As well as improving physical health, exercise improves wellbeing and confidence, which has a direct impact on their ability at school. Despite this, being physically active is still seen as an ‘optional’ part of life rather than the focal point of a public health strategy with its own focus, resource, and distinct attention.
However, we don’t want you getting hung up on the numbers when it comes to kids – we’re not expecting you to set a stopwatch and count 60 minutes of activity a day! For most families, there are plenty of easy and low-cost or even free ways to boost activity levels. If you don’t live close enough to walk to school, park further away so you have to walk 10 minutes or more to school. Doing this will easily add 20 minutes of walking each day. For those with younger children, head on down to your local playground. You could introduce a new habit to spend just 10 minutes there during or after the school run, before heading home to help with any homework or prepare the evening meal. 20 minutes walking to and from school plus 10 minutes at the playground is an easy way to get you halfway to the recommended 60 minutes per day.
Of course, the best way to encourage children of any age to enjoy exercise is to lead by example. You could create a weekend habit of a family walk – a great way to spend screen-free time together while exploring new parts of your area or further afield. For those with older children, you could all start the NHS Couch to 5k, or perhaps you have bikes doing nothing in the shed that you could get out and brush up on your bike riding skills together. Get together with another family for a kids vs adults football or frisbee game at your nearest park. The more you make keeping active a habit rather than a chore, the more enjoyable it becomes. By taking part as a family, it means you’re keeping your whole family healthy too!
James Cracknell: The misconception of being able to out-run or out-exercise a bad diet
Keeping active is something you do as part of a healthy lifestyle – you can’t rely on moving more to manage your weight. At Health Results, we firmly believe you can’t out-train a poor diet. I recently completed the London Marathon in sub three hours. But you’ll never guess how many calories I burned after running for 26.2 miles… less than 3000 calories! This would equate to one large stuffed crust pizza with dip, wedges, and a large coke. While of course this would not be recommended as a post-marathon meal, I could very easily have eaten this amount in one sitting. One calculation suggests that ‘A runner who weighs 155 pounds and goes at a swift pace of 7.5 mph burns 465 calories per half-hour; it'll take him 2 1/2 hours of running at this intensity to burn 2,000 calories.’3
Above all, though, we don’t want anyone getting hung up on calculating calories and active minutes. We want exercise to feel fun and to naturally become part of your everyday life: after all, exercise does more than just burn energy. Moving more creates endorphins, which boost your mood; you might start spending more time outside, which means more exposure to vitamin D; it’s even a great way to spend more time together with family and friends.
The most sustainable approach is to adopt a human diet complemented by a commitment to moving more (and adding resistance training when we are physically fit enough). The best way to make sure you move more every single day is to add more movement bit by bit, and to find a way of moving that you enjoy. It needn’t involve joining a gym or buying new equipment… gardening, spending more time walking, bike riding if you have one, even stretching while waiting for your kettle to boil. We’re not expecting you to run a marathon, but going for a walk is a great start.