Put a spring in your step in the brighter evenings

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The clocks springing forward last weekend will give us the chance to get more active in the brighter evenings.

There are many ways to kick-start your journey to better health and wellbeing and the Public Health Agency (PHA) says that doing smaller bouts of activity, of 10 minutes or more, will soon add up and can improve your health.

Pull on a pair of comfortable shoes and take those first steps to better health. Don’t forget that any activity is better than none.

Colette Brolly

Colette Brolly, the PHA’s lead on physical activity, said: “The stretch in the evenings means we have more time to get involved in physical activity, whether it’s getting out on the bike, having a kick-about in the park or taking the dog for a walk.

“Over the dark winter months, it is easy to get stuck in a rut, watching TV, playing computer games and generally being less active, but with the arrival of the brighter nights, we have a perfect opportunity to get out and exercise more.

“Being more physically active and reaching the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended target of a minimum 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week can help you manage your weight, reduce your risk of developing many chronic conditions and reduce anxiety and stress. Being active can help us lead healthier and even happier lives.

“One hundred and fifty minutes can sound daunting, but you can break it down into smaller chunks to make it more manageable. Thirty minutes on at least five days is a good approach, and you can break that down further into 10-minute bouts of moderate activity that will fit in well with a busy schedule. Basically, move more and move more often.”

With 66% of men and 56% of women in Northern Ireland now overweight or obese, it is now more important than ever that we look at how we can adapt our behaviours to make healthier, more sustainable choices.

With a few simple steps, you can build some activity into your daily routine:

- Try walking or cycling for either part of or your entire journey to work;

- If you have to drive or take the bus, park the car a little further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way. Hop off the bus a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way;

- When you’re out and about or in work, take the stairs instead of the lift to get your legs moving;

- During your lunch break, go for a walk rather than sitting at your desk. A 10- minute brisk walk adds to your recommended physical activity target;

- When you get home in the evening, instead of slouching in front of the TV, go for a walk. Get the kids involved too and go to the park with them on their bikes or for a kick about with the football.

Colette continued: “Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise for most people and walking in a group can be a great way to stay motivated and enjoy it more. Pull on a pair of comfortable shoes and take those first steps to better health. Don’t forget that any activity is better than none.”

There are free walking groups arranged by your local Health and Social Care Trust and the details of the Walk Leaders can be found on the PHA’s website www.choosetolivebetter.com. The website also offers lots of tips on the best ways to get active and also advice on healthy eating and setting targets for getting healthier.