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The Benefits of Being Active

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It's National Fitness Day on Wednesday 27th September, the UK's largest celebration of the fun of fitness and physical activity. So what better time to highlight the importance of staying active and the benefits it can bring to your life? From increasing life expectancy by seven years to decreasing the risk of heart disease, here's why getting active is the best thing you can do today...or any day.

Walk your way to fitness

Walking for just 25 minutes a day can add a whopping seven years to your life, according to the European Society of Cardiology Congress. Seven years! And the even better news is you don't necessarily have to complete the exercise in one go. If you're strapped for time, three lots of 10 minutes will give you the same benefits as 30 minutes' continuous exercise. So, try and squeeze in three 10-minute sessions before work or study, at lunch, and in the evening. 

Grab a buddy

We know that working out with friends is one of the best ways to stay motivated, so find a fellow fitness fan to join you on your walks. Not only is it more fun exercising with friends, research suggests we work out for six minutes longer with friends than when alone, plus we burn an extra 40 calories. That's because time flies when you're having fitness fun with friends!

On small step, one giant leap for fitness

You don't have to make huge changes to your lifestyle to reap the benefits of exercise. Here are a few of our favourite healthy habits that are easy to implement and will make a big difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.  

Every step counts. Never forget that some movement is better than no movement. Even if you don't have 30 minutes free for a full workout, short bursts of movement throughout the day will bring immense health benefits. The problems of sitting for long periods are said to include an increased risk of diabetes or heart disease, and shorten your lifespan. So, try setting an alarm to go off hourly but keep the alarm in another room or away from your desk, forcing you to get up and stretch your legs just to turn it off. Walking also makes us happier as it releases feel-good endorphins, so your three sets of 10 minutes will leave you with a natural high throughout the day.

Say goodbye to shortcuts. Sure, when you're in a hurry, shortcuts are your best friend, but there are no shortcuts to getting fit. So, where possible, when going somewhere by foot take the long way round so you're moving for longer. Sure, it might take a little more time to get to your destination but all of the extra steps will turn into healthy benefits.

Stairway to fitness. We're all guilty of jumping in the lift rather than taking the stairs but here's a reminder of why your body will thank you for ditching the lift once and for all. Climbing stairs increases your core muscle strength, helps lower your bad cholesterol level, and burns 15 calories for every three flights of stairs, according to research by The University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center.

Free parking. Not everyone lives close enough to work to walk all the way, but one way to sneak extra movement into your day is to park your car slightly further away from your destination. One other benefit of parking further away from work or the shops is you might be able to park for free rather than pay through the nose in a multi-storey car park.

Stand up for fitness. Try and sneak more reasons to stand into your day. For example, use a smaller cup or water bottle so you have to get up more to re-fill it. Rather than email someone who sits on the same floor as you, get up and talk to them instead. Or, if you have a work meeting, suggest having it standing up or (if the weather's nice) outside so you can walk and talk at the same time.

Step it up a gear. Once you've introduced regular walking and movement into your life, take your fitness up a gear by increasing the speed of your walk or take two stairs at a time instead of one. If you've got a few errands to run by foot, speed walking them will not only get them done as quickly as possible, your elevated heart rate will also supersize the cardio and fat burning benefits.

So, this National Fitness Day, why not try and sneak more physical activity into your day using one of these methods. After all, a more active lifestyle is the secret to a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life.

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