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Yes, you guessed it. Take more exercise..

It is the time to make those resolutions which will hit the fan almost as soon as they are made. This particular resolution takes a few days to be achievable so may appear to last longer (think fags or alcohol).

Who needs more exercise?

Nearly everyone. If you don’t take any exercise (unlikely if you are reading this) it is time to start. There are any number of possible ways to  do this but the most popular might be to take up serious walking or sign up at the local Sports Centre or join the couch to 5k movement. If it is to be the Sports Centre, see if you can get a prescription for exercise from your GP. This is possible in most areas of the UK.  You can get a limited number of weeks or sessions for reduced price – but sooner or later you must fork out. Walking or running are cheaper.

But why?

Everyone knows that they should take regular exercise but few understand the enormous benefits for those who do. These include better quality of life, less obesity, lower blood pressure, less likelihood of a variety of diseases such as diabetes,  cancers, Parkinson’s, mental illness and frailty of old age, longer life …I could go on and on.

How much exercise?

If you are already an exerciser, could you increase? The official advice is to take 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. And don’t forget the muscle-strengthening exercise on two days a week. If you think that you meet this target you are probably deceiving yourself. When exercise taking is measured and compared to questionnaire responses, a big disparity is revealed – people take about one third to one half as much exercise as they claim (see previous blogs).

Even if you do meet the guideline target, you could almost certainly benefit by doing more . The NHS Guidelines do point out that there is substantial evidence that more vigorous-intensity activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate intensity activity. Health benefits continue to accrue up to tens times the recommended levels of exercise. The Guidelines bar has been set low to encourage people to get active – on the grounds that any amount of exercise is much better than taking no exercise at all. The target is a compromise between what might be acceptable and what are more effective but unrealistic levels which put people off.

Who benefits most?

One more wrinkle – as we get older the benefits of exercise get greater and greater but we take less and less of it. In the US, average walking time for 20-29 year olds is about 30 minutes per day which has fallen to about nine minutes per day by the age of 70-79. In the UK, based on self-reported data,  39% of men and 29% of women meet the exercise recommendations but Increasing age and increasing body mass index are associated with decreasing levels of activity. At age 16-24, 52% of men and 35% of women meet the recommendations but the numbers fall steadily over the next three decades of life to 41% and 31%. Thereafter the fall is more precipitate to 9% and 6% for the over 75s.

It is futile to advise the elderly to triple their exercise – they just won’t do it. The target for everyone should not be a fixed amount of exercise but an increase which is within the bounds of possible attainment.

Your New Year Resolution

So for your new year resolution:  If you take no exercise just make a start. If you are an exerciser, increase by perhaps 30%? – unless you really do a lot already, in which case resolve not to be too smug about it!

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