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Stride To Fitness

 

Getting out walking, cycling, or jogging leaves most of us feeling refreshed and invigorated.

 

We probably feel tired as well, but that should soon pass if we've not overdone it. And we don't just feel better - the exercise is actually good for our health.  With so many labour-saving devices around us, and the amount of time we spend working at a desk, watching TV, playing computer games and travelling by car, regular exercise can easily disappear from our daily lives.  Then when we have to run for something we soon get out of breath!

 

We need to include a certain amount of physical activity in our daily lives to keep fit and healthy.

 

There are plenty of research studies to back this up and the NHS has set recommendations for the minimum amount of activity we should undertake.

 

NHS Recommended activity levels

 

Adults: 30 mins of moderate-intensity physical activity at least 5 days a week

 

Children: 60 mins of moderate-intensity physical activity each day

 

Targets can be achieved in 10-minute bursts.

Lots of people are not managing this currently and may be advised by their GP that they need to lose some weight to avoid future health problems.  The reference to "moderate intensity" is important - you should get a bit breathless and feel you are getting warm (that's the calories being burned).  If it's just an easy stroll or gentle bike ride, it's good for your mental health but it's not doing much to make you physically fitter.

 

Active travel is a big step in the right direction.

 

In fact, you can start with small steps and build up gradually.  If you walk or cycle once or twice a week, and each week try to go a bit faster, and then add another trip or two, you’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to feel fitter.

 

It helps if you set yourself a target

 

If you're not very active just now, your target might be to reach these minimum activity levels after two months of building up the number of trips.  You can record your progress towards your objective on your MyStride page.   After a while you might even set yourself a more ambitious target of, say, walking up Balgay Hill to the Observatory or Auchterhouse Hill to enjoy the view.  Or you might take up jogging and aim to enter a 5K race in a couple of months’ time, or a 10K race later in the year.

 

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Go to the Resources section for more advice on routes, training tips, and to calculate the calories you’ll burn up.

 

You’ll also find details of clubs you can join which will give you support, advice and good company.

And if you’re already a member of a gym or fitness centre, and you drive a mile or two to get there, WHY?  You could run or cycle up there as part of your workout then run or cycle back (or maybe get the bus or a lift from a friend, after a shower).

 

Increased Activity + controlled diet = weight loss

 

It's important to remember that physical activity is just part of the equation if you're trying to lose weight.  You will also need to control your diet - it's all to easy to think that you can indulge in an extra cake as a reward at the end of a pleasant walk.  Yes, if you have a gruelling bike ride, a strenuous hillwalk or a hard run, you should take on some extra "fuel", but you shouldn't overdo it, especially as you get older and your metabolic rate drops.

 

Mental health benefits

 

Many of us have already found that walking helps us to relax and clear our heads, or resolve some problem that has been bothering us.  Some of the latest research shows that walking may also help to protect the brain against the onset of dementia.  One study suggests that 9 miles a week is the optimum distance, after which there are no additional benefits detected for the brain.