I wasn’t particularly sporty at school, in fact I wasn’t sporty at all. We had to do sports on an almost daily basis – hockey, lacrosse, netball, athletics and tennis depending on the season. But I somehow thought it was a very uncool thing to do so I did it most begrudgingly and when we weren’t obliged to do any sport as we got older and nearer to leaving school, I just didn’t do any at all apart from a bit of tennis.
And this was pretty much the case through college, although I did cycle in every day because I couldn’t afford the tube. But that was the extent of my exercise routine. And it didn’t change much until I was in my early twenties and decided I should join a gym – my friends were members of a gym and it seemed like the right thing to do. I cannot remember exactly how often I went, but I think it was about 3 or 4 times a week and was mostly based on aerobics (it was the 80’s after all).
At one point, when moving between countries (I lived abroad for a while) I went cold turkey on the exercise as I adapted to a new city. Within weeks, I started suffering from migraines on an ever increasing frequency until it got to the point where the doctor sent me for a brain scan (!). All the tests they did revealed no issues but I started to analyse what had changed so much in my life to induce these migraines and could only really see that I had stopped going to the gym. I found a local gym, joined and started to go to classes again. Thereafter my migraines started to decrease and rapidly disappeared.
This is when I realised how important it is to remain active and carried on with my gym sessions, wherever I moved to, which was the case until about 2 years ago when my local gym closed down. I took the opportunity to become a slob and did absolutely nothing for about 9 months during which time my muscle tone completely disappeared and I started to suffer from all sorts of aches and pains. I decided I had to take action, found another gym to join and, as if by magic, my aches and pains disappeared and within no time at all my muscles re-appeared.
I know there are endless articles out there about the benefits of physical activity and suggested exercises routines, but it doesn’t just have to be about pumping iron. Maybe a brisk walk for an hour every day will work for you, maybe Zumba or spinning classes will be your fix or maybe you will prefer to nourish body and soul with regular yoga sessions. Even a work-out DVD might be your thing. Personally, I prefer to mix it up with Body Pump, spinning, TRX and yoga. I also play a bit of tennis and ski. The result is that I am now more flexible than I have ever been and arguably stronger.
More than anything, as we age, exercise becomes important because:
- it is good for muscles and improves bone health
- it will reduce your risk of chronic disease by up to 50%
- it increases your energy levels
- regular exercise will make you feel happier
- it reduces the risk of high blood pressure and boosts good cholesterol
- it helps brain health and memory
- it improves mood
- it promotes better sleep
Yes, it really does promote better sleep and if you are anything like me, that is reason enough. I enjoy being strong. I enjoy being toned and having a more pert bum than it might otherwise be. I also feel better in a bikini. And if recent research is anything to go by, I will stay more mentally alert and my immune system will be remain effective long into old age.