Health & Wellness

Let’s get physical!

Small changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference to your health
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You don’t have to join a sports club to improve your fitness levels.

Experts say you can make a big difference to your wellbeing by making small changes like walking to fetch your lunch instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

“Physical activity is probably a better term to use than exercise,” said Bruno Teixeira, the director and physiotherapist at PhysioActive on Par-la-Ville Road, Hamilton.

“People can encompass physical activity more easily than rigid exercise programmes. It’s about getting microdoses of exercise throughout the day, whether that’s a few push-ups here, a couple of squats there or just parking your car a bit further away so you have to walk a bit more.”

New figures show 78 per cent of Bermuda residents meet the World Health Organisation’s recommendations for physical activity, an improvement on the 73 per cent reported ten years ago.

Despite this, three-quarters of the island’s population is either overweight or obese. According to the Ministry of Health, commonly stated barriers to physical activity include lack of time, motivation, confidence or resources, fear of being injured and even the weather.

That’s why Mr Teixeira encourages people to think differently.

“Getting your physical activity is really important, especially for people who spend a lot of time at their desk,” he said.

“In Bermuda, you make a quick nip across town on the bike. But it’s more pleasant to walk. Maybe you can take a colleague with you, so that you can chat on the way. There are all sorts of opportunities to get exercise.”

Mr Teixeira said physiotherapists get to know their clients so they can develop an individualised plan.

“It can be detrimental to just expect everyone to follow the same exercise programmes, because people just don’t like the same kind of activities, or they can’t remember how to do it, or they can’t find the time,” he said.

“We try to find out about someone’s motivation, social background, whether they’re an extrovert or whether they prefer to be alone.

“It’s better to educate and have lots of options, for when they have those setbacks. It’s OK if you mess up. Get back up. We are here to support and help the individual.”

Physical activity reduces your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, dementia and numerous other conditions.

While individual needs vary, Mr Teixeira said people should aim for 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk. If you prefer something more vigorous like a game of squash or spin class, you need 75 minutes. A physiotherapist will help figure out a plan that works for you.

The health ministry has run several initiatives to encourage people to get fit in recent times, including Move More Bermuda Seniors 5K, the Bermuda Seniors Games, Quarterly Dance Walks, Fitness in the Park and Celebrating Wellness.

Move More Bermuda aims to promote the importance of incorporating physical activity into our lifestyles.

Minister Kim Wilson said: “It emphasises the necessity for individuals to embrance daily physical activity and to partake in activities that bring them joy.”

Ms Wilson practises what she preaches by getting up at 5am every day to take part in a CrossFit programme.

“We have to take personal responsibility,” she said. “We have one body. When you look at all the diseases that are preventable by moving and exercising, it’s terribly important.

“When I’m leaving my CrossFit class at 7.05am, I feel this great sense of accomplishment that I’ve exercised, I’ve moved. I’ve done something for me.”

Yet it doesn’t have to be as intensive as CrossFit.

“People may think that you have to pay for a gym membership or a personal trainer, but all you have to do is buy some trainers and you can just walk,” she said.

“It’s baby steps. Incorporate what you can.”

Ms Wilson said movement can make your life healthier and more fulfilling. As well as weight management, regular physical activity positively impacts mental wellbeing, reduces the risk of chronic diseases and enhances overall quality of life.

“If you are feeling sluggish, unmotivated, or just lacking that extra spring in your step, the answer might be simpler than you think – physical movement,” she said.

“Discover what brings you joy and gradually build on it. Remember, the journey to a more active lifestyle is about progress, not perfection. Embracing exercise is a gift to yourself – a commitment to a vibrant and resilient future.”

But what if you have an injury or condition that makes physical exercise very difficult?

According to Mr Teixeira, you still need to find a way to get that activity.

“It’s important to find something that you can do. It’s not often that you won’t be able to do anything at all,” he said.

“Say you have a knee injury. Maybe some things are no longer possible, but you could still use an exercise bike. You may have back pain and everything feels uncomfortable – you have to find the threshold for the pain and see what you can still do. If you stop everything, it becomes an uphill battle.

“Maybe you’ll be able to go swimming, or throw a ball, or do some weights. It’s just about modifying what you do until you find something comfortable.

“If you are obese, you start with easy stuff. It may be tough on the hops and joints, so get yourself in the ocean for aquatic exercise.”

Right now, many people are in the relatively early days of their New Year’s resolution exercise programmes.

Mr Teixeira warned: “By February and March, it will be tough, especially if you are picking up something new and different.

“Often people are not really interested in exercise, they are just doing it to try to fit this mould. You need an option to fall back on if it’s a rainy day or a meeting has come up and you don’t have time to do it.”

Other fads, such as pickleball, will come and go.

“Ultimately, if those fads are helping people get active and take part in physical activity, that’s fantastic,” Mr Teixeira said.

“If the fad is creating more injuries and issues then you need to speak to a professional that can help.”

The Ministry of Health is set to embark on a Steps Survey to gather health-related information, which will shape its future campaigns.

Ms Wilson said she hopes 2,000 households will take part, providing details on their health-related behaviour, and be measured for key details such as blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels.

“We don’t have a lot of data in Bermuda,” she said. “If people get called, we hope they’ll participate in it.”

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