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To gym or not to gym, that is the question...

It is widely accepted that keeping fit and active is an important aspect of our health and well-being. The debate is not IF we should keep fit, but rather HOW we should keep fit. As with most things in life, there’s no simple answer. Each of us needs to find what works best for our personal lifestyles.


New Year resolutions often lead to people signing up for a gym membership, but is that the best way to reach a good level of fitness? Certainly some people find that it gives them the motivation they need to be active. It provides the push to get your money’s worth and maybe the pull to join a community of like-minded gym addicts.

For those that find the gym too claustrophobic, cycling and running are popular fitness pursuits that may suit better. There’s a chance to enjoy the great outdoors and there’s no fixed subscription costs, although you will still need to invest in some equipment.

brisk-walking-imageIf none of these options appeal, is there an alternative? Is it possible to cheat your way to fitness? Well recent research suggests the answer to this is YES. Health experts recommend that we partake in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity. So here’s the thing... what counts as moderate activity?

Level of activity is measured using the MET value, the Metabolic Equivalent of a Task. The resting metabolic rate is given a value of 1.0 and other activities are measured relative to this. So, an activity of 2.0 MET would be twice as strenuous as the resting equivalent. Anything which gets a score above 3.0 MET counts as moderate activity. Above 6.0 MET and you are in the realms of vigorous.

Scientists have carefully monitored people undertaking a range of everyday tasks to understand which activities fit the bill...and the results might be a surprise. Combine household chores with your love of walking and the 150 minutes a week might be easier to achieve than you first thought. All the activities listed below count as moderate activity.

Brisk Walking: 3.0 to 4.0 MET (depending on how briskly you walk)

Washing Windows: 3.1 MET

Washing the Car: 3.6 MET

Hand Washing Clothes: 4.0 MET

Mowing the Lawn: 4.4 MET

Vacuuming or Mopping: 3.0 MET

Shovelling Dirt or Mud: 5.5 MET

Weeding and Cultivating: 4.5 MET

Painting and Wallpapering: 3.3 MET

Making Bread: 3.0 MET

(Data Sources: Trust Me I’m a Doctor, BBC Two, 29 Oct 2014 and Compendium of Physical Activities, Dr Bill Haskell, 2011)

Whatever you decide to do, scientists say it is better to sprinkle your activity across the week rather than trying to get it all over and done with in one go. So what are you waiting for...time to plan your next brisk walk. Doctor’s Orders!


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