Steptember – will you putting a spring in your step?

Yippee, just one more sleep until spring and Steptember. Nope, its not a spelling error, Steptember is just an innovative way of repurposing the first month of a new season in an energetic way.

Steptember has been initiated by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and they are asking us to take 10,000 steps a day for 28 days straight to assist people with cerebral palsy – a condition that affects movement. I love that they are asking Australia to get stepping because the positive side effects of moving more are so many.

Imagine that you are in store looking at a label with the following benefits listed:

This product can assist in the prevention and management of heart problems, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and lung problems including asthma. It can also aid in keeping the joints and muscles mobile, increase strength and balance and is a great way of putting bone in the bank. You will be more productive in the two hours after you take it with a 24-hour improvement and if you take it for 20 minutes every second day, it will halve the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. And last but not least, it makes you look and feel a million dollars.

If this were a description of a drug, everyone would be falling over each other to get it. Here we are describing a multi-faceted performance enhancer called exercise and the benefits are obvious immediately, impressive in their magnitude and wide reaching. Despite this, although backed by irrefutable clinical evidence, little or no cost and a glowing rap sheet, around 70% of Australians are not getting enough of it for optimal health.
In the world of health promotion, exercise is continually on the agenda and yet in many first world countries the rates are well below ideal with dramatic negative impact on almost all major diseases.

Regular exercisers are familiar with the feeling of endorphin release during exercise and many people report this as being a major factor in increasing their motivation for wanting to do more. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain medication and are neurotransmitters found in the pituitary gland and around the nervous system. Endorphins interact with human opiate receptors, which reduce your perception of pain. Serotonin, an endorphin associated with depression, is usually produced in response to pain and stress but there is increasing evidence that this also occurs during exercise. The good news is that the amount of exercise does not need to be excessive and around 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity can cause endorphin release. Exercising to exhaustion can cause endorphin levels to drop significantly but on the upside new exercisers may experience stronger effects of endorphins than someone who has been exercising regularly.

The Australian Government has some practical advice for those contemplating an exercise routine:

  • Think of movement as an opportunity not an inconvenience -opportunities to improve your health include walking the kids to school, parking your car further away from your destination
  • Be active everyday in as many ways as you can
  • Put together 30 minutes of exercise each day – you can accumulate 30 minutes of exercise across the day when the opportunity arises
  • If you can, enjoy some vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness

But back to Steptember. On the back of a long and cold winter, spring seems the perfect time to kick-start a new exercise routine doesn’t it? Gunning for 10,000 steps each day for 28 days in Steptember, also seems like a perfect way to get yourself started.

There are a few different ways to keep track of your daily steps – you can try a Fitbit or similar device or most smartphones come with an inbuilt tracker you can use too. Measuring your daily stepping action can be a powerful way of being accountable and can provide the motivation you sometimes need to have to keep your health at the forefront of your mind.

But here’s the kicker. Its one thing to think about doing 10,000 steps every day but quite another to actually do them. Research shows when it comes to achieving goals, the chance of success increases by 33% if it is shared with others and by up to 72% if money is put on the line. A super cool concept called Promise or Pay combines these two approaches to help you stick to your goals by donating to charity if you don’t follow through and encouraging others to donate if you succeed. To me, Steptember and Promise or Pay seem to be the perfect marriage.

Are you joining me in stepping it out in Steptember?

Lacing up with the Perth Run Collective

I have become part of something that is pretty darn special. This ‘thing’ is all about having fun, staying healthy and fit and joining a bunch of other people all on the same page. Last year, lululemon athletica started up a Perth Run Collective in the city, designed to encourage people to run for fitness while having fun at the same time. A novel concept some may say but this collective has been a huge success and continues to grow like a beautiful weed. On the back of this, it made perfect sense to get this baby out into the ‘burbs and last weekend the northern suburbs got the lululemon Perth Run Collective cranking, with over 30 peeps from beginners to competent runners taking part in the first week of the Winter Reset program.

In the world of exercise and health being part of a collective is something that I feel super passionate about.

Our first lesson in preventative health happens in kindergarten when we are allocated a ‘buddy’ to do an activity, go to the bathroom, walk between classrooms or cross the road together. Buddies keep an eye on each other, look out for danger and yell for help if it is needed.

Fast forward to life as an adult and many people in first world countries need help with their health. Although the prevalence of obesity and lifestyle diseases is skyrocketing, just 2% of the Australian state and federal budgets is spent on preventative health with the bulk of the health budget spent on the treatment of disease. Treatment of disease is vital and often urgent but far more costly than prevention. It is interesting that this type of imbalance also occurs within our own group of friends and family. When someone that we love or care for becomes seriously unwell or incapacitated everyone mobilizes to get them better or out of hospital and this is key to their recovery and the crowded hospital system. Yet, how much time do we spend encouraging or enabling the same people to prevent sickness in the first place? The buddy system that we had as kids could be a very effective strategy to improve and maintain our health as adults.

I love to exercise and while I invest time on a daily basis, I also know that I am not as good left to my own devices. Regardless of my best intentions, my alarm clock and I are not the best of friends. I know that for my exercise routine to run smoothly and without incident, I need to have a weekly schedule of exercise sessions locked in and matched up with a buddy. Rachel, Belinda, Karin and Dave all have a special place in my week and they enable me to improve my fitness (hopefully I am doing the same for them too). Having an exercise buddy means increased motivation, faster progression (especially if they are faster or fitter than you), increased experimentation and knowledge, new and enhanced friendships and a good dose of fun.

Having an exercise buddy is a powerful motivator for me because I don’t want to let them down. My buddies and I agreed from the outset that rain is just water and unless hail or lightening is streaking across the sky, we are going. The added bonus of kicking off at the crack of dawn is that nobody else needs us. This is harder for those with young kids waking early but it can be an opportunity to combine strength training and cardio by pushing them in the pram.

Choosing an exercise buddy should be considered with great care. If you get the initial check right, it could be a long and healthy relationship but if not, your health and friendships could suffer.

What to look for in an exercise buddy:

  • Exercise goals that match
  • Commitment – when exercising alone, it is too easy to take your foot off the pedal. Without a buddy it is easy to tell yourself “Having one day off won’t hurt” or “I don’t feel like it.” If your exercise buddy is already on their way to meet you or is counting on you, you’re far less likely to do something like that.
  • Fitness level – it is essential that you choose someone at the same or slightly higher fitness level than you. My exercise buddies continually push me to go faster and harder which means improved fitness, strength and flexibility
  • Time available – ensure that you meet at a time with minimal distractions that suits both of you

I have come to realize that the value of an exercise buddy lies not just in health and fitness but can be so valuable in other areas of your life. Exercise buddies can spend a lot of time together over the journey and often talk about things other than exercise. Solving the issues of the world while enjoying the fresh air are medicine for the soul and, let’s not forget one of the greatest benefits, fun.

If you would like to be part of the inspiring lululemon athletica Perth Run Collective and find not one but a heap of buddies, you can join us Tuesday nights at 5.45pm at the Perth city store and/or Sunday mornings at 8.00am at Clarko Reserve, Karrinyup Road in Trigg.

What are you waiting for?

3 ways to make exercise fun again

Making Exercise Fun Before I start complaining about my lack of motivation to exercise based on the wet, cold and dark, I will acknowledge that I do live in Perth and that our cold weather is not exactly the same as other colder, wetter places. However, it’s all relative isn’t it?  At 5.30am my fingertips and ears still lose all circulation the minute I hit the frosty air and I can’t see where I am going through the inky darkness that surrounds me. So I am guessing that you get where I am at right now with propelling my body into action?  And yes, you would be correct in thinking that I have lost that loving feeling on every exercise front. Part of my job is to motivate other people, so I have been casting around in my own head as to what tactics I can employ to spark that flame of exercise excitement. In the process of doing this, I realised that the inspiration was right in front of me.  My three kids. They get their heart rate up all the time through so many different activities, but they don’t think about it as exercise, just fun. As they are the role models for fun, the next logical step was to consult with them to brain storm how I was going to start making exercise ‘yay’ again.  Drum roll please…the team came up with Three Ways to make exercise fun again and they might just appeal to you too:

1. Get Skippy My own Dad has always been an avid skipper and taught my siblings and I the techniques and tricks with the rope as soon as we could jump. I even won the 100m skipping event in my primary school sports carnival so I am ALL over skipping.  That is, I thought I was until I picked up the rope again.  I was immediately reminded that it is a great cardio exercise that engages your arms, core and legs and can improve bone density, coordination and balance.  Try and throw in a couple of two-minute bursts of skipping each day and you will benefit hugely. It is worth investing in a decent skipping rope and don’t forget to keep your knees slightly bent to avoid jarring knees and backs but there is no need to hurdle over the rope either, small jumps and good form are the ticket. 2. Be a tramp Like so many families with young kids, we have a trampoline in the backyard and I literally have to walk no more than 10 steps from the back door to get on it. NASA claim that the health benefits of trampolines significantly outweigh the benefits of running in that we can burn calories 15% more efficiently doing the bounce instead of pounding the pavement. Great news. But that’s not all. The action of using a trampoline helps to strengthen the tendons, ligaments and muscles around the joints and really helps engage our core muscles. And let’s not forget the increased blood flow to brain and body, firing up our mental alertness and assisting us to get warm when the days are a little on the brisk side.  Even in Perth. 3.  Hello Hula Keeping the old hula hoop where it should be on ones hips is really not one of my fortes, which I have been told many times by the ones who do know how. It is certainly a playground favourite but research shows that hula hooping compares with boot camp, aerobics and cardio kick-boxing in the fitness stakes.  Studies have found that flinging that hoop around has the potential to strengthen the muscles in your back, arms, abdomen and legs and improve balance and flexibility.  I figure that the less skilled you are at keeping that hoop in the right place, the more energy you will burn.  That bit is my own research and I am standing by it.

Lets hope these playground exercises get me going – I do think they will. What about you?  Do you have any playground activities that you use to put the fun back into exercise?    

Your Health and Weight Story – what are you telling yourself?

What story are you telling yourself? Have you ever had one of those moments when something you have been pretending is so fine is actually not? And until someone calls you on it, you were quite happy to continue to sail along the sea of denial? I had one of those moments this week when my beautiful dog Lulu, unfortunately pulled one of her claws out of her paw.  Akin to ripping off a nail, I knew it would be painful and took her straight up to the vet. After tending to the problem at hand, the vet gave her a general check-up and proclaimed that Lulu was in good health with the exception of one thing.  At this point, the vet started to look a little awkward. She said, “Lulu appears to be carrying a bit too much weight and I am struggling to find her ribs, have you looked for them lately?” Well. Lulu is a Miniature Schnauzer and alternates between extremely fluffy or shorn like a sheep. Given that the weather is getting a bit chilly, I have decided to keep her fluffy for a bit and have been telling myself that while she does appear rounder than usual, her fur must be quite voluminous. But, back to the vet who has me pinned under her watchful gaze, waiting expectantly for some kind of explanation.  I am wildly casting my mind around for some good answers and clearly coming up with none, so she starts firing questions at me.  Are you giving her too many treats? Is she being fed from the table? Is she being exercised regularly? Are her portion sizes too big? While I am doing my best impersonation of a rabbit in the headlights, I then start hoping fervently that the vet does not look at Lulu’s medical file which lists my occupation.  As a Dietitian. The anonymous quote that I love to share with others now floats through my consciousness, “Knowing and not doing, is the same as not knowing.”

“Knowing and not doing, is the same as not knowing”

Of course, I wanted to deny all of the obvious reasons as to why Lulu was ballooning. But, whether you have two legs or four, the inescapable biological fact is that if your weight is increasing, there can only be two possible avenues.  Too much going in (food) or too little going out (exercise). It’s simple yet so complicated.

In my case, reflection on ‘how did we get here,’ forced me to realise and admit that Lulu’s food intake was not being measured (and visual judgement is NOT the same as actually measuring), the kids were giving her their leftover bits and pieces and if she put on her puppy dog eyes whenever food was near, she might just get some. From little things, big things do indeed grow.

Have you been in that position where the blinkers are on and you’re telling yourself one thing but doing another? It might be what you are eating (or not), how much exercise you are doing, how you manage your stress levels or even how much sleep you are clocking up.

Within moments of my revelation with the fluffy one, the vet had several of her staff in the room brandishing written material and providing verbal advice. It’s the same with our own health and well-being, sometimes it takes someone else to point out the obvious to us.  And sometimes you need support to turn the ship around.

 Do you need to check the story you are telling yourself?

 

Will you be my buddy?

Our first lesson in preventative health happens in kindergarten when we are allocated a ‘buddy’ to do an activity, go to the bathroom, walk between classrooms or cross the road together.    Buddies keep an eye on each other, look out for danger and yell for help if it is needed. Fast forward to life as an adult and many people are literally yelling for help with their bodies. Despite the prevalence of obesity and lifestyle diseases skyrocketing, just 2% of the Australian state and federal budget is spent on preventative health with the bulk of it spent on the treatment of disease. Of course, treatment of disease is vital and often urgent but far more costly than prevention. It is interesting that this type of imbalance also occurs within our own group of friends and family. When someone that we love or care for becomes seriously unwell or incapacitated everyone mobilizes to get them better or out of hospital and this clearly is key to their recovery and the crowded hospital system.  Yet, how much time do we spend encouraging or enabling the same people to prevent sickness in the first place? The buddy system that we had as kids could be a very effective strategy to improve and maintain our health as adults. I love to exercise and while I invest time on a daily basis, I also know that I am not good left to my own devices.  Despite my best intentions, my alarm clock and I are not the best of friends. I know that for my exercise routine to run smoothly and without incident, I need to have a weekly schedule of exercise sessions locked in and matched up with a buddy.  Rachel, Belinda, Karin and Dave all have a special place in my week and they enable me to improve my fitness (hopefully I am doing the same for them too). Having an exercise buddy means increased motivation, faster progression (especially if they are faster or fitter than you), increased experimentation and knowledge, new and enhanced friendships and a good dose of fun. Having an exercise buddy is a powerful motivator because I don’t want to let them down.  My buddies and I agreed from the outset that rain is just water and unless it is hailing or lightening is streaking across the sky, we are going.  The added bonus of kicking off at the crack of dawn is that nobody else needs us.  This is harder for those with young kids waking early but it could be an opportunity to combine strength training and cardio by pushing them in the pram. Choosing an exercise buddy should be considered with great care. If you get the initial check right, it could be a long and healthy relationship but if not, your health and friendships could suffer. What to look for in an exercise buddy

  1. Exercise goals that match
  2. Commitment – When exercising alone, it is too easy to take your foot off the pedal.  Without a buddy it is easy to tell yourself “Having one day off won’t hurt” or “I don’t feel like it, I will give it a miss”. If your exercise buddy is already on their way to meet you or is counting on you, you’re far less likely to do something like that.
  3. Fitness level – It is essential that you choose someone at the same or slightly higher fitness level than you.  My exercise buddies continually push me to go faster and harder which means improved fitness, strength and flexibility
  4. Time available – Ensure that you meet at a time with minimal distractions that suits both of you
  5. Compatibility.

Of course, the buddy system can be easily applied to any aspect of your health that you are wanting to improve not just exercise. I have come to realize that the value of an exercise buddy lies not just in health and fitness but can be so valuable in other areas of your life.  Exercise buddies can spend a lot of time together over the journey and often talk about things other than exercise. ?Solving the issues of the world whilst enjoying the fresh air is medicine for the soul and lets not forget one of the greatest benefits, fun.

Dynamic Duo
Dynamic Duo