It's been lovely to hear so many patients expressing a plan to do more exercise this year. But if you're starting from scratch (pointing at myself here), how on earth do you choose something you can do without collapsing in a heap, having to squeeze into bordering-on-obscene lycra, and that doesn't require you to remortgage your house or sell a kidney to cover membership fees?
Hmm. Decisions decisions. Folks let's break it down (gotta say this in an American accent) into bite-sized energy boosting chunk-shaped options. Yum. There are plenty of different ways to give your heart a virtual hug, as well as shifting a few kg, plus reducing your risk of breast and colon cancer, hip fractures, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not to mention the benefits for your mental health and sleep patterns. Do I need to tell you that exercise releases endorphins, those happy hormones (you can also get these from chocolate. Other foods are available, ahem) that give you a fuzzy glow? It could improve your blood pressure and lift your mood, reducing the need for some tablets like blood pressure medications and antidepressants. All good for you and the planet - remember those pills have their very own carbon footprint! Like to sweat it out with weights? We are spoilt with over 35 gyms in York, plus personal trainers. Prefer to play with others? Then maybe team sports are your thing. How about swimming pools, running clubs, dance, trampolining, or exercise classes like pilates? Or maybe like Mr Incredible, you prefer to work alone? In that case how about a YouTube-based workout like Zumba or high-intensity interval training?
Let's go back to the benefit of having others around you - it can be a great way to make some fluffy new friends, or use the competition as a motivational factor to help you continue, or even improve. And speaking of large organised exercise events locally, we have (drumroll please) Parkrun. Sailing majestically into the Saturday morning harbour at York Sport village (there are also others locally e.g. on the Knavesmire and Castle Howard), it really is a sight to behold. Hundreds of adults and also some children all snaking round the 5k course towards a finish line of camaraderie and sweaty congratulatory hugs all round. Am I selling it to you?
I'll admit I was recently tempted by the running bug. Cost free, emission free, convenient, at one with nature, me in control: sounded easy. Man was this naive. Having excitedly scheduled in an hour for dedicated cardiovascular nurturing, the first 30 minutes was predictably spent choosing clothes, playlist, setting up a route on Strava, and generally procrastinating about when to go. My junior editor inventively whipped up a makeshift phone-armband-holder thing by cutting the end off a cherished winter sock. There could be no further delay. 5k was a decent aim, though turns out this was hugely overreaching (I'm crying laughing about it now, but there were tears of pain at the time). Initially I was striding and smug, though this soon turned to exhaustion as my muscles embraced anaerobic respiration with a resignatory shrug.
Evidently, it's more sensible to start small and build up the exercise goal; I'm told Couch To 5k is very good. There are plenty of excellent links available on the NHS choices website. It's particularly important to be sensible and set manageable goals if you have existing health issues that might cause pain, such as arthritis, diabetes, and back pain. Pop in and chat to our friendly nurse and GPs who can give you more advice. Remember exercise is for everyone, from toddlers to older adults, so it can be great for entire families or why not set up a group in your workplace? Our friends over at Priory Medical Group have done a Parkrun Takeover to encourage staff and patients in the running quest. We're also lucky to have local groups like Goodgym York, who are a group of runners doing community projects and helpful missions for older adults in need.
So grab your trainers, your whitest sports socks and something hi-vis, and you're ready! Just don't forget to proudly report back to your GP for extra brownie points. And I also give out planet points...