Five questions…about health and fitness

Exercise is good for your mental health and wellbeing

Exercise is good for your mental health and wellbeing

In this new series, we will be asking a wide range of experts, five questions, in order to share useful insight and tips with you. This month, our CEO, Mark Guymer, asked our Health and Fitness Ambassador, Dr Nancy Priston, five questions about health and fitness.

Q. If someone wanted to lose weight as part of becoming healthier and fitter, can they do this by just exercising and not worrying about diet?

A. When it comes to weight loss, diet is king. I encourage people to separate the two – focus on exercise for mental and physical wellbeing, and concentrate on the food side of things to lose weight.

Q. So, if people need to consider what they eat, as well as exercise, does this mean they are going to have to give up all the treats they love like chocolate?

A. Absolutely not! You can eat anything you want, but you just need to consider how much of it you eat. It’s really important to ensure you’re still including the foods and treats you enjoy. Remember, if you want to lose weight and then maintain that weight loss, it’s got to be something you can keep doing for the rest of your life. So include those treats within your daily calories, but just be aware of portions.

Q. If someone wants to start doing exercise what advice would you give? This could be anyone who wants to get fitter, maybe after a challenging period of cancer treatment or someone who hasn’t been very active and wants to make a start?

A. First of all, check with your GP/Consultant to make sure you’re ok to start exercising. Assuming they’ve given the go ahead, then pick something you think you might enjoy starting with. It could be anything – walking, cycling, swimming, a dance class etc. Try to find something you enjoy so you’ll have fun. If you’re unable to do much, then consider introducing exercise snacks . Even if you can’t do formal exercise, you could just try gentle walks or some chair sit ups/table push ups. You could even use a Nintendo Switch/Wii etc for some activity. Whatever you decide to do, take it slowly and start with short periods of time – say ten minutes – and then build up as you feel stronger.

Q. When someone is embarking on trying to get fit and healthy what is the most important thing that will help them be successful?

A. I think it’s about focusing on the small wins – we get very focused on the big end goal, or an all or nothing approach, but the reality is that life will often get in the way and when it does that’s ok. So, focus on the small wins – walking when you used to drive, saying no to the dessert you didn’t really want or need, not throwing in the towel when you go off track, and remembering that maintenance is as much a success as achieving weight loss.

Q. When people face difficult challenges in life how do they stay on track with healthy eating and exercise?

A. Rather than being either ‘on’ or ‘off’, instead think of it as being more of a dimmer switch. You can dial the intensity of your effort up or down depending on what’s going on in your life. Recognise that sometimes it’s ok to indulge or to not exercise and dial down your expectations during that time. Practice a little self-compassion and understand that progress isn’t linear – being able to incorporate these times in your life is progress itself. If you are making things too restrictive then it won’t be a long-term sustainable plan for you. Focus on consistency, not perfection and with a little patience you will reach those goals. Remember if life gets in the way – dim the lights, don’t turn them off completely, so you can still see your goals.

If you are struggling to move forwards with your life post cancer treatment, then our Cancer Coach programme offers peer group support and a structured approach to learning how to understand and manage your emotions. Find our more about Cancer Coach or get in touch now to join a group.