When I went to the Doctors about 4 months ago and was put on Sertaline, the Doctor asked me a number of questions about my habits, diet, alcohol intake. She also asked how active I was. I said that whilst I wasn’t particularly active, I probably walked the equivalent about 2 – 2.5 miles during a normal day. Not intentionally as exercise but just as a result of typical day to day activity (it turns out I was overestimating this quite a lot)
I didn’t think this was too bad but my GP told me that actually I needed to be a LOT more active and went on to explain the benefits of exercise on mental healthh and that it can have in some cases as much impact as medication. I was vaguely aware of this but didn’t realise quite how significant the impact could be so resolved to start getting more active.
As a starting point I decided to invest in a Fitbit so I could easily track my progress. I initially went for a Fitbit Flex 2 as it was cheap and seemed to do want I wanted as my starting aim was to get more steps in on a daily basis.
I’ve found tracking my walking activity to be really useful and it has definitely motivated me to walk more. Below is my activity from the last couple of weeks (People who work in the same industry as me will probably find it amusing that my miles count for last week was 4.04 but I swear I did them!). I would say realistically that beforehand I was probably walking more like a mile to a mile and a half a day so definite improvement.
I’ve been on holiday from work for the last couple of weeks so daily numbers fluctuate a bit depending on what I’ve been doing. My goal number of steps at the moment is 10,000 which looks to equate to around 5 miles a day. My averages over the couple of weeks have been between 7 to 8k a day so still some work to do there. There are a couple of things I am trying to do to increase this including:
- Trying to spend less time on the computer at home and more time pottering around the house
- Changing my method of getting to work (I don’t drive) to include more walking so getting a couple of trains instead which means walking between stations
- Getting up and walking around more at work. My Fitbit has an alert on it that buzzes to let me know when I haven’t been moving around enough during a given hour. It’s very annoying at times but useful as well.
- Changing my route when doing day to day things like walking to the shop to make the journey longer
- Making sure I actually take my lunch break at work and go for a walk! I actually discovered the other day that in the middle of the business park I work in, there is a pond with a path around it and grass and trees so will be going for a daily walk around that!
Next Steps (pun intended) to Increase Activity
Whilst I feel like I have definitely made progress and felt some benefit from being more active, I feel that there is a lot more I can do and am planning to introduce further activities over the next few weeks including the following:
Cycling (partly) to work
I am very lucky in that the company I work for are enrolled in the cycle to work scheme. I won’t go into too much detail on it here but you can read more at the link provided. Basically it means being able to get a bike and equipment up to the value of £1000 which you pay back via your wages over the following 12 – 18 months. I don’t fully understand how it works but basically you save money due to not paying tax on the repayments.
I have just submitted my request for my bike and equipment (helmet, lights, hi-vis jacket etc). Below is a picture of the new MikeMobile! If the shape looks a bit odd it’s because it’s a folding electric bike (although you still have to pedal!)
My plan is to cycle to the gym on a morning (more on that in the next section) and then from there the fairly short distance to the train station in town and from there to the office. It’s partly because of this that I have decided to get an additional Fitbit and my current one doesn’t recognise activities such as cycling or increased heart rate which are important for reasons I’ll mention later.
Resistance / Weight Training
I’ve been looking at various different types of physical activity and found resistance / weight training frequently cited as being one of the most beneficial activities, particularly for people with depression and anxiety. There is an article on the subject and some interesting additional links to follow here I’ve also been told by others that have similar challenges that they have found it massively beneficial.
I am (again) incredibly fortunate to have an employer who values the health and well being of their employees so have private health insurance through Vitality which means I get 50% off membership at certain gyms. I really like Vitality as they have a rewards program that means the more active the more freebies / discounts you can get from their partners. For example for walking a certain number of steps in a week I get a free ticket and Starbucks for that week You can see more info about this on their rewards page
I’ve picked the one I am going to join and will be signing up tomorrow and looking for some advice on putting together a weight training program and hopefully should get my bike at some point next week. Never thought I’d say this about starting a health regime but I am really looking forward to it!!
So, in summary my plan is thus:
- Aim to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day
- Cycle to the gym (2 – 3 times a week) and work out before cycling to the train station
- Make sure I use my lunch break and take time out to go for a walk or a bike ride