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The Four Pillars of Wellbeing – Week 3

The Four Pillars of Wellbeing – Week 3

When half term arrived as a teacher or school leader, I always had the great intention of getting out each day for some form of exercise to try and undo some of the late night meals and the odd glass of something nice during term time. Yet by the end of half term, the week had gone, and I’d often done very little. In truth, binge exercising is not good and what I needed was little and often.

Since September last year I have been going to an electronic gym twice a week which guarantees you losing weight and gaining muscle mass. It has done exactly what it says on the tin and combined with other strategies for exercise has seen me lose weight and gain muscle mass. The gym has also allowed me to see how important it is that different muscle groups work together to develop good posture and avoid injury.

In truth movement (or exercise) whatever we want to call it is critical for all sorts of reasons. For example, movement/ exercise help to create cells which fight infections, it can reduce gut inflammation, lower blood pressure and even help to fight the onset of things like Alzheimer’s.

Exercise can help to develop mitochondria which in turn helps to give us more energy. So, when people exercising say they feel more alive they are right. Developing muscle mass creates more space for mitochondria and therefore helps to give you more energy. More muscle mass means more space for insulin receptors within the muscles which means more stored insulin which in turn can reduce your chances of type 2 diabetes.

My own epiphany came when visiting the gym for the first time and I was given a biological age of 69 at the age of 54. The years of caring for my school, my family and maybe not thinking about my own wellbeing combined with thinking that I was indestructible meant that my body was ageing faster than I was. In truth, more is known about Sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss than ever before. Beyond the age of thirty we all begin to lose muscle mass and as we age, it accelerates unless we do something to stop it. Unfortunately, the data also showed me that I need to take some action to reduce the visceral fat, or the fat around my internal organs if I wasn’t going to have problems.

For me it meant starting to take my own health seriously. As a head and dad, I started to understand that if I were to be able to help others, I needed to put my own oxygen mask on first. I cannot stress enough how important this is. There is one of you and you deserve to be fit and well and live long beyond retirement but unless we work on ourselves now, we foreshorten our lives. We know from research that strength training helps to slow down ageing in skeletal muscle. Excitingly, there is a growing evidence base to suggest that strength training has an improving effect on brain function including increased powers of attention and even conflict resolution!

Creating opportunities for exercise is a great deal easier than we may think and its not about planning for two hours in the gym but on two sessions per week of strength training and then looking for opportunities to exercise as we go. The gym I attend twice a week says that half an hour twice a week is all you need to make a real difference. However other things that would make a difference, we can do as we live our lives. For example:

  • Take the stairs rather than use the lift
  • Park the car away from the entrance to the supermarket and walk to the shops
  • Use the stairs at home as part of your training regime
  • Exercise while we wait. For example, waiting for the kettle to boil, do heel raises to strengthen your calves, or lunges to exercise quads and glutes.

Strong glutes are also really important as they help to maintain good posture. Poor posture can lead to back and neck problems. If you sit down for a long time, try to make sure you get up and walk around and exercise the muscles that help to keep you upright.

There is also growing evidence to support short burst high intensity training but as with all these things you need to develop slowly and take your own level of fitness into account before launching into SBHIT. For me I tend to jog between 2 lamp posts, then run fast between the next lamp posts. You can do the same with almost all forms of exercise or movement and walking is probably the entry level exercise for most but is really effective.

The benefits of strength training are huge from better body composition, to reversed ageing to better health to improved self-esteem. What’s more you deserve the time to ensure your body is fit for the life you have now and the one beyond retirement.

For more information and some great ideas for exercise both at home and work, you should read Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s book “The 4 Pillar Plan.” It’s £16.99 and could literally change your life.

Have improved health and wellbeing as a result please let me know and let’s share what works for us and continue the debate on twitter by clicking here to tweet me!