Exercise. Even the thought is enough to bring some of us out in a breathless sweat. Faced with near daily bombardment about the need to make healthy life choices, rather than take the message in good part, I’m more likely to growl and change the channel than take a lecture, however well intentioned, about not doing what I already know I should be.
It wasn’t always thus. Shamed by my lack of athleticism in a game of 5 a sides one night, I decided it was time to get to the gym more regularly. For a while, it became part of the routine - an hour at lunchtime two or three times a week on the rowing machine and cross trainer, seeing if I could row more than 2km in the time it took AC/DC to play ‘Thunderstruck’ and ‘Shoot to Thrill’ back to back on my iPod.
However, a few changes in circumstance and it became all too easy to fall out of the habit. There probably comes a point in life for most of us where if you’re not careful, your exercise comes from dodging salads and precious little else. Regrettably, once you do, it’s easier to keep up unhealthy habits than it is to get back to your older, more virtuous ways.
However, having a baby on the way has made me think about what I need to start doing to look after myself a bit better. After all, exercise is good for energy levels and for stress relief. I’d also quite like in a few years time to still be able to run around after them without being left out of puff.
But of course, there’s the vision, there’s the reality, and there’s the yawning gap in between. Which is why I was intrigued to read this week about some new research which claimed that just 3 minutes of high-intensity exercise each week could deliver the same boost to health as hours of conventional exercise.
Ever the sceptic, I decided to delve a bit further. While it was true that studies had shown some people had benefited from a massive improvement in aerobic function, there were similar numbers for whom it had made little or no difference. The explanation, it seems, comes down to genes - either you are predisposed to benefit from this type of intensive exercise, or you are not, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.
So, the message seems to be that you should do what you can, and let Mother Nature do all the rest. In a way, I’m pleased that a last-minute dash for the bus can do some good, yet strangely, I’m also pleased that it’s no quick fix. After all, if it turned out that there was a shortcut to good health, it might very well turn into a shortcut to the bakers shop more often.