Healthy Living: Be kind to your heart and exercise

Sonia completing a mile in under 10 minutes for the first time
Sonia completing a mile in under 10 minutes for the first time
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Sonia Mathieson from Slimming World in Corby writes about the effects of lack of exercise.

The results of an Australian study were released recently.

The researchers found that lack of exercise is a bigger risk for heart health in women aged 30 or above than anything else – including smoking and obesity.

The study found a link between lack of activity and heart disease cases and said if people followed government activity guidelines thousands of lives could be saved.

It’s always amazing to think that lives can be affected so dramatically – and even cut short – by the decisions or actions we take, or this instance don’t take.

However, it’s empowering too to know that we can take control of our own health.

Regular moderate activity can reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart attack, and reduce the risk of diabetes.

It can keep depression at bay, strengthen bones and joints and even give better posture (making you apear slimmer!).

For some, exercise is part and parcel of everyday life, but for others, the idea of exercising can seem daunting and entering a gym or swimming pool is the stuff of nightmares.

Often, for lots of people who’ve struggled with their weight since a young age, feelings around activity are wrapped up with bad memories of PE class at school.

Most people will be aware that Slimming World has the most amazing eating plan, helping people to lose weight while eating healthy every day satisfying meals.

But what they may not be aware of is our brilliant Body Magic programme.

It works to dispel all these feelings and help people to rediscover (or discover for the first time) the joy of getting moving and feeling energised by exercise.

So, instead of talking about exercise, we talk about activity.

Activity can include walking, gardening, jogging, swimming, anything that gets your heart beating a little faster.

Instead of giving immediate goals that might seem unobtainable we help people to become active slowly and gradually increase their levels until they’re meeting government recommendations of 150 minutes of activity each week.

Our whole aim with Body Magic is to help members develop new active habits and reap the rewards for life.

That’s why, as members take their first Body Magic steps, it’s crucial that their efforts and successes are recognised with praise and awards.

When members feel positive rewards from every step forward, no matter how small at first, they’ll be more inclined to stay motivated and to keep going.

As members begin to feel the benefits that come with enhanced fitness, such as increased self-esteem, a greater sense of wellbeing and the comfort and confidence of knowing they are in firm control, this will be what motivates them to maintain their healthy new habits for life-long success.

For now, though, our aim is to help each and every member build up to their ultimate goal over time and at their own pace.

But in the meantime, the Slimming World activity awards scheme will help boost members’ motivation and commitment to keep their new-found active routines.

Sitting in group as a member, listening to other members’ activities, inspired me to start running (I never thought I’d see the day!).

On the back of a recommendation from someone who started running with Jog Northants, I joined Corby Parkrun on a Saturday morning at West Glebe Park.

It fitted into my hectic schedule between work and raising two children.

I started off slow and sporadic, then after a few weeks I was able to run the whole 5k without stopping.

It is an amazing feeling to know I can do it and I have built on that by going out midweek too!

I love seeing the results both in terms of my increased energy levels and the reduced figure on the scales! I’m well and truly hooked!

Take the lovely Slimming World member Joan, who thought that exercise was something other people did.

She felt walking any significant distance was beyond what she was capable of.

But during a recent visit with her daughter, also a Slimming World member, Joan realised on a family day out she had walked nine miles.

Armed with the realisation that she could do it, and encouragement from her group, she now uses her lunch break to walk around her work building.

And the results are encouraging – each week she reduces the time it takes!

The biggest change was that belief that she can do it and improve upon it. Over the coming weeks and months the group are excited to see how she progresses.

Activity is for everyone. Just don’t frighten yourself into thinking you have to run marathons or swim the Channel.

Any activity that gets your heart beating faster, makes you breathe harder or makes you warmer counts, so make it something you love doing, then you’ll do it again.

Before you know it, you’ll be reaping those health benefits.