The recession has had a negative impact on the number of people taking part in sport, according to the annual Irish Sports Monitor report conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) for the Irish Sports Council. The report indicated that active participation in sport fell to 30.8% in 2008, from 32.9% in 2007 and the evidence strongly suggests that the drop can be attributed to people no longer being in a position to pay gym or club membership fees.
According to Sarah O’Neill, Occupational Health Advisor (RGN, RM, OHA) with Quinn-healthcare: ‘Many people are put off physical activity because they believe that only vigorous exercise, actively attending a gym or playing sport counts as healthy activity. But, in fact, substantial health benefits can be achieved from regular activity without the need to pay gym membership, or have sporting ability.’
She continued: ‘Moderate intensity physical activity– equivalent to brisk walking for 30 minutes per day on most days of the week – is enough to bring about real benefits in terms of promoting health and preventing illnesses. Regular activity can also improve the way you look and feel. In combination with a balanced diet, regular activity can help to maintain a healthy weight. It can even boost self-confidence and reduce the risk of depression.’
By making simple changes to your everyday routine, it is possible to achieve your 30 minute target without joining the gym or paying club membership fees.
According to Sarah, ‘’For an adult, regular, moderate intensity activity means using up about an extra 200 calories per day, most days of the week. This equates to about 30 minutes of activity – such as a two-mile brisk walk that should make you feel warm and mildly out of breath. If you have previously been inactive and 30 minutes of activity per day sounds like a tall order, the good news is that separate sessions of ten minutes can count towards the total.‘’
Despite the strong case for staying active, many people find it difficult to adapt their daily routine to incorporate physical activity. Staying motivated is often a problem as not everyone sees exercise as fun, and doing something you find boring just because it’s good for you is difficult to sustain.
According to Sarah O’Neill: ‘The key to getting fit is finding an activity that you enjoy. Arrange to exercise with a friend or try activities which are set to music such as dance or aerobics can help to motivate you.’
Evidence shows that regular exercise can:
• Increase levels of “good” cholesterol
• Lower high blood pressure
• Help improve body composition by burning fat
• Promote healthy blood sugar levels
• Promote bone density
• Boost the immune system
• Improve mood and reduce the chance of depression