Have you ever joined the gym in January with the best of intentions, and yet not kept up your exercise routine?  I often think that actually March is a better month to start because you are giving yourself a better chance to succeed.  Our brain always wants to succeed, so if we are failing at something we often re-focus onto something else and best laid plans fall by the wayside. However, you might wonder why you digestion needs you to move in the first place? Well read on, in case this is the motivation you need to get back on the horse and start over.

We were designed to move…

Exercise and movement are vital for every aspect of our physical and mental our health – doh nothing new there Lyn, you say!  However, what exactly does that mean?  Well, we were designed to move back in the day when we had no mechanical transport and had to hunt for our food.  Some would say that pushing a trolley around the local supermarket can feel like a hunt when they have had the cheek to move the stock around, but it’s still not quite the same thing! 

What happens when we don’t…

Our sedentary lifestyle means that our metabolism (how we convert food into energy) slows down, our muscles and bones become weaker (including our heart) and every other function is affected negatively.  All of this leads to a depressed physical state which naturally can increase the risk of also feeling depressed mentally.  There are two reasons why as a nutritionist, I need to encourage clients to move around in addition to eating a healthier diet.  The first is because movement and exercise will increase energy levels and it is much easier to make changes to our habits when we have more energy.  The second is because lack of movement can lead to a whole range of digestive issues such as bloating, constipation and flatulence. 

Peristalsis, which is the muscular action that moves food through our digestive tract, depends on healthy muscles and nerves which are also governed by hormones.  Any issues relating to gut health CAN be as a result of problems with muscles, nervous system or hormone imbalances, all of which are improved with regular movement and exercise.

March (or any month) is a great time to start…

So, getting back to why March might be a better month to start embedding some good exercise regimes, I was chatting to a client the other day and we came up with a few reasons why it might be easier to succeed now:

  • Longer daylight hours removes the excuse that it is too dark to go for a walk before or after work 
  • Getting fed up of cozy fires and feeling like getting outside more
  • All of the Christmas gifts of shortbread, chocolate kimberly, sweets, etc are well gone so there is less temptation in your kitchen
  • Summer is coming (hopefully) and so motivation to be a little more toned for those short sleeves

Start where you can…

You will be glad to hear though that it does not have to be overwhelming and so start with a manageable improvement and build on that.  For example, a 20 minute walk every day (10 mins out and 10 minutes back) while the dinner is in the oven for example, is not too onerous.  Just review your schedule and decide what time of day is most likely to work for you.  Strength training is important particularly as we age, so you could have some light weights in the kitchen and take 5 minutes to do some arm exercises while you are watching TV or waiting for the kettle to boil (that’s a slow kettle!) always check to make sure you are doing them properly though and there are loads of free resources online or on apps. There are some more tips from the HSE here

Of course, joining a gym or exercise/yoga class even once a week, would be beneficial when you can, for the professional guidance and also the social aspect. The important thing is just to start and do something!  Movement is one of the pillars of our health and will contribute to better sleep and better nutrition choices, in addition to helping us to feel happier. Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

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