Friday, 31 May 2019

Jane Austen and exercise

The weather the last few days has been bloody awful - we've been catapulted from a relatively mild autumn to something redolent of the first days of Ragnorok.

Rain, fog, more rain, and the only decent day we had in the middle of it was cold and windy, all of  which means of no exercise, or certainly no going outside, and somehow on a cold damp day I couldn't face going to J's studio for an early morning half an hour on the cross trainer, even though I know I should.

Cycling is out, as is any serious walking. Too wet, too cold.

But it's not as if I've done nothing.

Like many people, I have a fitness tracker on my phone and it records the number of steps taken (more or less).

Like many such programs the app has selected 10,000 steps as a daily target even though the desirability of 10,000 steps is built on poor science. In fact there's been another study that suggests that in some cases 4500 steps could be enough to confer some benefit. But the benefit of the fitness tracker app is that it can give you a sense of scale as to how much, or how little exercise you're taking.

And what has this to do with Jane Austen?

Earlier this month there was a slightly silly piece on Radio National about how some writer became fit by living like a Jane Austen character for two years.

It wasn't a great revelation - basically walk everywhere and eat a good diet of fresh vegetables and meat - no packaged or prepared meals - but it did contain a germ of sense.

Eating a good diet is a no brainer - we buy fresh as much as possible, and where possible buy local.

This involves a certain amount of planning - our local supermarket doesn't get a delivery of fresh fruit and veg every day, and sometimes things stay on the shelves so long, so sometimes we end up driving to a local Coles (60km round trip) or Woolworths (75km round trip) to stock up, but then we try and buy all the extras we need - clotheswash, cat food, toilet paper in megapacks to minimise the total number of kilometres driven - in fact despite having two cars and living in the country we've done less than 8000 km since Christmas.

The rest of the time we walk. It's 1400 steps to the supermarket and back from our house, 2000 if I go via the post office to collect our mail, or 4000 if we combine collecting our mail with a half hour walk to the lake and along the creek.

And that I think is the key to exercise. By all means go to the gym a couple of times a week, or go for substantial bushwalk at the weekend, but to support healthier lifestyle walk or cycle as much as possible - to the shops, to the post office, and that way it becomes part of your life, rather than being something special that involves lycra.

It's not always practical I know - having to wear business clothes does not always work well with cycling, and sometimes your shopping is too bulky to carry home.

Well, we're lucky, we're retired and we live in a small village where it is perfectly possible to walk up to the shops and buy stuff as we need, but we also have invested in a cheap shopping trolley to carry home heavy or bulky items - after all no one really wants to carry a load of shopping and a couple of bottles of wine.

And I'm sure that if you're busy mum with kids to pick up, or on your way back from work, driving and stopping off at the local shopping centre can seem to make sense - I know, we've been there, but equally, by making some small adjustments in your routine, you can make some big changes in your health and fitness regime ...

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