May 1, 2018

My left leg quad strain has improved these past couple of days. I only feel it on the downhill sections now. As I mentioned last week, it’s caused me to use my right leg more predominantly, which has had the effect of building up the muscle strength in that leg – strength that has been lacking since the SI joint problem. Now both legs feel almost of equal strength, which has greatly improved my ability to run uphill. I feel like I’m breezing up the hills now, which hasn’t been the case for more than a year.

For all the runners out there, and for those who aren’t, I thought the following article I found on a news feed was very relevant. Try to take the time to read it, as it’s not only interesting, it’s also very important.

If some genius invented a wonder drug that helped you lose weight and keep it off, slashed your risk of chronic disease, prevented and treated mental health issues, extended your lifespan, and could be obtained for free — you would definitely take it.

But that wonder drug already exists. It’s called physical activity.

“The term ‘wonder drug’ seems like an overstatement, but it’s not,” says the Heart Foundation’s national spokesperson on physical activity, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton.

Regular physical activity a day is linked to significant reduction in the risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer, and depression and anxiety. It benefits both the old (shielding against cognitive decline and dementia) and the young (bolstering early brain development).

“If that’s not a wonder drug, I don’t know what is,” Shilton tells Coach. “Physical activity is the single most important thing to do on a daily basis to improve your health… there’s nothing else that gives you all those benefits.”

Most of us have an impression physical activity is good for us. Yet few of us understand how good, according to a recent survey undertaken by the Heart Foundation. Only 7 percent of more than 1,000 respondents could pinpoint a chronic disease prevented by exercise.

“There’s a big gap in our survey between just how good physical activity is for you and how good people think it is for you,” Shilton says.

Low awareness of the benefits of moving is one reason half of us fail to meet the physical activity target: 30 minutes or more of moderate- to vigorous-intensityevery day.

The survey teased out a number of other reasons people aren’t more active. The biggest is time, or lack thereof. Another is feeling “too fat” or too old, as well as the perception you have to “really bust your boiler”  — Shilton’s words — to earn those health benefits.

None are true.

Sure, few of us have much of the day left over after we’ve dealt with our work and social commitments, but “you make time for the things you value”, Shilton says.

“It’s true we’re short on time but building 30 minutes or three lots of 10 minutes [of physical activity] into your day isn’t a stretch,” he argues.

(And, let’s be honest, how many times have you complained you’re just too busy to exercise then spent two hours on the couch watching TV and scrolling through Instagram?)

If you believe you’re too overweight to exercise, Shilton explains you’re likely to be among the people who will benefit most from it. He adds that, no matter your age, “it’s never too late to start being active or to start recommence being active if you once were”.

And while high-intensity exercise is great, it’s not the only level of physical activity that will help: you can work towards that 30-minute goal by parking the car a little further from the supermarket, getting off your bus or train a stop early, doing active housework like vacuuming, eating lunch while you take a walk instead of at your desk, and so on.

“The important thing to realise is that it all counts,” Shilton says. “For most people it’s about getting off the couch and onto the footpath … The benefits you gain start to accrue very quickly.”

If you’re keen to up your physical activity ASAP, start by roping your partner or a friend or family member or a colleague or a distant cousin or literally anyone you can find into your quest.

“We know from research that you’re twice as likely to look forward to exercise or physical activity if you have someone to exercise with,” Shilton explains.

Aside from transforming exercise from a potentially joyless chore to an excuse to catch up on the latest gossip, a workout buddy will also keep you accountable.

“If I say to you, ‘I’m going to go for a walk at 7am’, that’s a different commitment to saying, ‘Let’s meet at 7am and go together’,” says Shilton.

The Heart Foundation organises free community walking groups around Australia that have recruited around 30,000 people, a number Shilton wants to increase fourfold.

“That’s a really good example of social support,” he says. “[Those involved] will almost always say they joined because ‘I wanted to improve my health, or lose weight’. But when you ask why they continue, they say ‘Because I’ve made friends’.

“You can see how those two things go hand-in-glove.”