Exercising on a budget

Getting started with a new exercise routine can seem daunting and expensive especially when you’re on a budget. There are a lot of pressures to spend your hard-earned money on exercise gear, equipment, memberships and trainers or coaches. But you don’t need a big budget to get active, improve your fitness and reduce your health risks.

Throughout history people have coped quite well with little or no special exercise equipment. So what IS the best way to improve strength, flexibility, endurance and cardio health when you’re on a budget? In this article I share with you how you can make walking your go-to exercise of choice and how you can vary your walking routine so that you stay motivated and keep your fitness progressing along ….. all on a budget!

bushwalking with family

Money, money money!

Australians spend billions of dollars a year on exercise – memberships of gyms and clubs, exercise classes, clothing, equipment, massages, personal trainers and more. Can you believe that about a third of the population pay for gym memberships but almost half of these people only occasionally use the gym, maybe 1-2 times a week? That’s a huge investment for minimal health gains!

Gym memberships are only one way to get your exercise in. There are many other ways you can spend your exercise budget – sports clubs, specialised gear and clothing, race entries, travel and accommodation to participate in races, training programs, and renovations and equipment to make your own home gym.

If you’re just starting out and want to get an exercise program going, this can seem daunting and expensive. Maybe you won’t like that sport, or maybe you won’t enjoy the gym environment. What if you purchase all the gear and equipment and then decide it’s not really for you?

Don’t fall into the trap of spending big in order to exercise. You have other options if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, or if you don’t want to spend any money at all. There are plenty of pressures out there to hand over your hard-earned money on everything in life including exercise. It’s easy to get hooked into marketing campaigns and the latest health fad which often leads people into comparisonitis, FOMO (fear of missing out) and an unhealthy focus on changing your body’s appearance. You can easily get sucked into believing that you HAVE to spend up big to get fit and healthy.

bushwalking boots

Get back to the basics with exercise

I love going to the gym and I find some of the modern technical clothing very comfortable. These things can certainly enhance your enjoyment of exercise but throughout history people have coped quite well with little or no special exercise equipment. Remember, the aim of exercise is to improve strength, flexibility, endurance and cardio health by putting a load on your body. And that doesn’t have to cost anything!

Generations before us didn’t need all the gear and memberships! Exercise was part and parcel of a hard day’s work fixing fences, chopping fire wood, baking bread by hand, walking or riding to the shops, and doing the laundry with a boiler and wringer!

Functional activity like this can provide you with plenty of exercise but today’s housework generally doesn’t cut it in terms of exercise. If you’re going to increase your physical activity without overspending, you’ll need to get back to the basics and make the most of opportunities all around you.

Start with a good pair of shoes

In my opinion, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need is a good pair of sports shoes. If you don’t have any, get yourself properly fitted out so that you protect your feet and minimise any injuries from poorly fitting shoes. Once you’ve got your shoes sorted, the rest is pretty easy. Pull on some comfy clothes, slop on some sunscreen, grab a hat and a bottle of water and you’ve got all the makings of one of the most accessible forms of exercise we have on the planet today – walking!

Walking is ideal exercise for most people wanting to improve general health and fitness. But if you have any concerns or medical issues, make sure you check with your doctor or health practitioner before beginning.

one step at a time

Walking is your ideal exercise on a budget

Walking is an ideal form of exercise because …..

  • You can set your own pace
  • There’s less opportunity for comparisonitis when you’re walking outdoors than when you’re in a group class or gym hall
  • Walking is convenient – you can walk almost anywhere no matter where you live or work or travel
  • You can walk alone or in a group
  • You’ve probably already got everything you need to go walking
  • If you don’t have everything, you still don’t HAVE to spend a lot to get started
  • You don’t need any special equipment
  • Walking is low impact exercise – perfect if you’re just starting out, coming back after injury or have joint pain.
  • Walking is free (please note that there are day entry fees or car parking fees to some National Parks and recreation reserves)
  • Walking is not boring if you change your routine regularly. Find a new place, pace, direction, gradient or length of walk. Ask someone to be your walking buddy or go alone. Walk at different times of the day including at night and explore different areas in different seasons. Adopt a different theme for each day to make it interesting – look for animals, clouds, sounds, colours on your walks.
  • Educate yourself while you walk by listening to podcasts and audio books
  • Listen to music as you walk and keep the pace
  • Walking keeps you grounded. The process of making forward motion with each repeated step can get your mind and body in sync with the world around you.
  • Spending time in natural environments can be settling when you feel anxious, down or stressed. Combine this with physical activity and you’re onto a winner!
  • Meet up with others to stay motivated. Join a walking group or try your hand at Park Run.
  • Vary your walks by including different elements and scenery. What urban walks interest you? Seek out as many flights of stairs as possible. Try a bush walk, wetlands walk or beach walk. Go barefoot at the beach and feel the sand between your toes. Pace out your steps around the farm paddock or check out your local park.
  • Walk with a purpose – walk to work, school, a friend’s place, bus or train station, shops
  • Have a go at orienteering using a map and compass
  • Use a navigation app or GPS device to pre-plan your walk or record statistics of your walk for your own purposes or to share with others.
  • Wearable devices with pedometers, smart phone apps and other data trackers can help with motivation to reach your goal (eg number of minutes walked, numbers of steps each day)
  • Wear a backpack for added weight training whilst walking
  • Schedule ‘walking meetings’ and ‘walking catch-ups’ into your week
  • Go for a lunch time walk or an end-of-day walk to wind down and de-stress
  • Earn as you walk – deliver newspapers or pamphlets along your way
  • Go ‘window shopping’ – meander along a street with retail stores after business hours and enjoy your time to look around a part of town that you usually rush through
  • Take your kids for a walk after school while everyone chats about their day
  • Add value to your daily walk by incorporating a session at the local outdoor gym, a sprint along your favourite section, carry some hand weights along the way, or pause for a few yoga stretches midway.

take time out for a night walk

Make walking your ‘go-to’ exercise

Walking is my go-to exercise. I can go walking almost anywhere, any time that fits my schedule, and with minimal gear. You can spend heaps of money on exercise, but for most of us, we don’t have to. Walking is a fantastic opportunity to move your body and improve your health, fitness and your mental health. Did you know that walking is in fact the most popular form of exercise in Australia? Don’t miss out on the everyday opportunities to be kind to your mind and body! Begin your walking adventures with any of the ideas above and let me know how you go.

Do you have some other ideas about how to exercise on a budget? I’d love to hear from you!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Tips to getting motivated to exercise

If you ever have difficulty getting motivated to exercise, then you need to read these tips!

Motivation is like a part-time friend

“I know I should exercise, but I just don’t feel motivated” is a very common problem. There can be a big gap between knowing what’s good for you, and actually doing it. It’s easy to allow excuses to creep into your life. They become blocks or obstacles to your own health care – it’s a form of self-sabotage. The point is you can’t wait till you feel motivated, and you can’t rely on motivation to keep your exercise routines in place. Motivation is a fickle feeling! It comes and goes like a part-time friend who is sometimes there in your hour of need, but is often nowhere to be seen or heard.

getting motivated to exercise

Commitment, not motivation will see you through

If you can’t rely on motivation, then what can you rely on? What’s going to keep you on track to living the health-filled life you want? You need to get real, cut to the core and examine your values, your priorities and the choices you’re making.

If health is one of your values, if it’s very important to you, you’ll make sure that it’s a priority and you’ll take actions that reflect that. For example, when you have to make a choice between exercising and something else such as staying in bed, watching TV or scrolling through social media, you have an opportunity to prioritise what’s most important to you.

So, what’s on your priority list for today?

What’s on your priority list right at this moment?

Where does exercise rank on your actual (not theoretical) list of priorities?

If you’ve identified that health is high on your priority list you need to be committed to it. Commitment, not motivation, will get you to take action. Keep your commitment to exercise as your focus whenever you need to choose how you spend your time and energy.

Are my actions in alignment with my values when working from home?

Tips for staying committed to exercise

  1. Remind yourself that exercise benefits not only yourself (your physical health and mood) but also those around you. Be the role model you’d like your family and friends to have.
  2. Have a good look at your daily routine and identify the best time and space for your exercise. It has to be doable and work for you in your situation. Don’t give up – changing routines and creating new habits can take a few weeks to settle in.
  3. Find or create a tribe of other people who also value exercising. Join a club or online group that shares your goals and can help you stay on track when things get tough.
  4. Get an exercise buddy so you’re accountable to someone else.
  5. Schedule your exercise into your diary and let others around you know your plans.
  6. Organise yourself by getting your clothes and equipment ready the night before and making sure your plans (eg child care, maps, meeting points) are all sorted.
  7. Pay ahead for your exercise program eg buy a multi-use pass for a swimming pool, gym or yoga classes.
  8. If your day doesn’t go as planned, don’t opt out of exercise altogether – a 10 minute walk is better than nothing. Doing nothing one day easily leads to doing nothing the next day.
  9. Reward yourself for being consistent with your commitment but make sure your reward doesn’t sabotage your efforts. You could reward yourself with some new exercise kit rather than with a cream bun and coke.
  10. Use a calendar, chart or exercise journal to document your commitment and progress.
  11. Use technology to plan, record (and share if you like) your efforts. There are many apps and devices that can record your steps, mileage and heart rate for example. But if you find yourself stressing or obsessing over them, give them the flick. They’re intended to be an aid not a burden.
  12. Exercise can become a bit ho-hum after the novelty wears off or when your body has adapted to the intensity and type of exercise you’re doing. Make sure you change it up occasionally to keep your physical and mental health progressing not stalling. See a personal trainer for a new workout, aim for a mix of indoor and outdoor exercise, go walking with a friend, swim in the ocean instead of the pool, dig a new garden bed or do some fencing as a change from lifting weights.
  13. See yourself as someone on a progressive health journey who values exercise and nutrition rather than focusing on weight loss or physical weakness.
  14. Use an indoor exercise training plan throughout the week to prepare yourself for a challenging outdoor adventure on the weekend.
  15. If your exercise session seems too long, too hard or too boring, break it up into segments or sets. Tell yourself “Just get to that next big tree then you can have a rest” and repeat it till you get to the top. Or if you’re swimming, change your stroke every 10 minutes. Or simply stop and give yourself a pat on the back at intervals.
  16. Set yourself a fitness goal such as entering an event, scaling a mountain you’ve had your eye on for ages, or going on one bush walk every week. Then take little steps towards your goal.
  17. The best type of exercise is the one you enjoy because it’ll have you going back again and again. Put your worries about what other people might think out of your mind and do what works for you.
  18. On those days that exercise seems really hard, focus on something enjoyable or pleasurable in your experience. It might be some little flowers growing in the grass, wispy clouds, a soft breeze, the rhythmic beat of your heart, or the strength you can feel in your leg muscles.
  19. Sign up for a community challenge such as a charity fundraiser or an online challenge to walk or ride or swim a certain number of kilometres in a month.
  20. Take notice of any injuries and seek expert help before they become a problem.
  21. Be firm but gentle with yourself. If you’re tired and carrying extra stress, review and adjust your exercise program to suit. If you’re just a bit tired or feeling blah, remember that exercise gives you energy and improves sleep and attention.
  22. Use visual reminders about your commitment to exercise. Display them as a wallpaper for your computer or phone, stick one on your bathroom mirror, or hang a printed photo or quote in your workspace that keeps you inspired.

The ‘getting motivated to exercise’ trap

Above all, don’t fall into the ‘getting motivated to exercise’ trap. Stay committed to your values and your priorities. Make intentional choices and take deliberate action. Then you’ll savour the benefits of exercise and you’ll be able to let go of your attachment to motivation.

Personal coaching to stay inspired and committed

coaching for womenWould you like support to tap into your values, work towards a personal goal, overcome the messy obstacles that get in the way, and live your best life? My personal coaching program may be just what you need. Contact me for more information.

daisy spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

What does self-care look like?

I’m writing this article during the month of July in the year 2020 and I’m asking all sorts of questions to get you thinking about your own self-care. Recently I wrote about how to stress less in nature. Nature offers a rich and beautiful set of self-care tools that you can easily and affordably access. In the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast last week I shared a guided mindfulness practice that you can do outdoors – once again this is a valuable self-care tool.

But today I want to get back to exploring the true meaning of self-care including what you most need to focus on so you don’t get distracted or led up the wrong path when it comes to self-care. Next week you’ll get some tips on managing one of the most common obstacles that women stumble over with self-care, and that’s time – juggling all the things, the competing priorities and responsibilities.

self-care month

Self-care is never skin-deep

Self-care is never skin deep. If you believe the advertisements trying to sell you a glossy image of self-care, it might look like having your nails done, having a holiday in Bali or spending a whole day shopping for new clothes and handbags and shoes. And these activities can be part of self-care. But if we only focus on buying luxury and often expensive activities, services and products to make ourselves feel good, then we’re missing out on the vital aspects, the very foundations of true self-care.

Finding a common thread between Child Care, Aged Care and Self-Care

Let’s look at it another way. If I asked you what’s child care, or aged care or neighbourhood care, what do you think of? What are the tasks, the activities you actually do when you’re caring for children or older people in poor health or your neighbours?

Child Care – tasks and values

When I think of child care for example, I think about looking after children’s physical and emotional needs like:

  • providing a safe environment for them to play
  • giving them plenty of running around time outdoors
  • preparing food
  • buying the groceries and bringing them home
  • getting the house in order
  • making sure the kids have educational activities like great books and games
  • setting boundaries on their bedtimes and use of devices
  • cooking nutritious meals
  • packing their lunches with care and attention (sometimes leaving a special treat or message in there for them)
  • making sure they get to sports practice and get their homework done
  • supporting them to rise up to challenges and celebrate the joys and successes
  • helping them settle down to sleep with a good evening routine
  • listening to the children with compassion when they’re upset, giving them some gentle advice and checking back in with how they’re going later on
  • organising medical advice and treatment when they are unwell

Caring for children, aged and sick people, and our neighbours generally starts with making sure that physical and emotional needs are met. Care also goes beyond those basics because our actions align with values such as love, kindness and compassion.

Self-Care – tasks and values

When it comes to self-care how many of these tasks do you routinely do for yourself, and when you do, are you doing them with love, care, kindness and compassion?

Which of these tasks or values get left out?

Where are you at with your self-care?

Here are some reflective questions you can ask yourself to identify where you’re at with self-care right now. These questions are intended to be a prompt to identify where you might be able to focus some extra energy and attention. They’re not meant to be a judgement or comparison between yourself and anyone else. Self-care looks a bit different to each individual so there is no right way of doing it. But you’ll know when you’re doing self-care better because you’ll have more energy, attention and compassion for the other parts of your life – your relationships, the people you care for. You’ll feel like your cup is full enough to be able to share your time and energy being with others and helping others at work or in your personal life.

Self-Care Audit and Reflection QUESTIONS

• Am I choosing carefully and lovingly what I feed myself with, what I put into and onto my body – food as natural as possible, water, cosmetics, and anything else?
• Am I looking after myself by moving my body throughout the day? This is the single biggest factor that will improve your health prospects.
• Am I getting outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air, or sunshine, or rain, the garden, the clouds, the breeze?
• Am I exercising? Exercise is physical movement for a specific purpose for example to improve cardio-vascular fitness, flexibility, endurance, strength.
• Am I nurturing myself with social activities that feed my mind and soul? Am I connecting with people who lift me up and add great value to my life?
• Am I getting enough sleep?
• Am I self-disciplined with using devices and how I spend my time including getting to bed and getting up in the morning?
• Do I listen to my body and my mind and my heart?
• Am I compassionate and caring towards myself in ways that I’m compassionate and caring towards others?
• How am I speaking to myself today? Am I speaking to myself as I would speak to a friend?
• Am I spending time in nature? Do I check in every week to find my place in the natural world? 2 hours a week is good amount of nature time to aim for to enjoy its benefits the most.
• Do I gift myself time and space to reflect, to think, to pause, to just be?

self-care nutritionself-care sleepself-care move more
Are you neglecting or nurturing your self-care?

These questions dig down into the very foundations of self-care that we often neglect. These are the aspects of self-care that build your health and energy, your sense of vitality and self-worth. They don’t sound super-exciting or dazzling but they are essential. If you neglect these foundations, and spend your time, energy and money constantly seeking other activities to fill your self-care cup, you’ll never be content.

What parts of self-care do you most need to focus on?

What aspects of self-care are you currently practising and feel satisfied with?

And which ones would you like to work on?

How are you going to do that?

What might get in the way?

Share your story with me!

I love having conversations like these with the women in my communities and I’d love to hear from you too. Let me know how your self-care practices are going, what the challenges are and what’s working well. You can also request a complementary 30 minute video chat (for a limited time, maximum numbers, Australia only).

If you haven’t already, join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Community where there’s lots of sharing of inspiring ways to practise self-care in the outdoors. You can also sign up to receive my fortnightly Grounded Inspiration email newsletters filled with snippets of information and inspiration to keep your self-care, health and happiness rolling along.

Listen along to the podcast episode “What does self-care look like?”

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups, workplaces and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Improve Your Sleep By Spending Time Outdoors

Use the outdoors to improve your sleep

Did you know that you can improve your sleep by spending time outdoors? In this blog post, I’m going to break the research down into practical bite-sized pieces of information so you can take the steps you need to get a better night’s sleep.

The connections between sleep, the outdoors and mental health

Sleep is closely linked to mental and physical health but nearly half of adults report not having adequate sleep. I’ve written in other blog posts about the complex nature of sleep so I won’t delve into the details here. But it’s important to understand that there are many factors that affect sleep quality and quantity. This means that the research about sleep can be pretty tricky. For one thing, it’s difficult to separate out all the different factors and identify exactly what causes what for different people in different situations. One of the factors that we know impacts sleep is spending time outdoors. So let’s have a closer look at how you can use this all-natural treatment to improve your sleep and feel better.

Day to day stresses affect your sleep

Day to day stresses affect your sleep so you need to develop effective stress management strategies not only to deal with your stresses when you’re lying awake in bed at night, but more importantly managing your stresses throughout each day so you don’t carry them to bed with you. There are many ways you can use nature to help with stress management:

  • The fractals of nature can be soothing. Fractals are the patterns that you can see and hear repeated in nature such as tree branches, ripples on a pond, the shape of snowflakes and the way they fall, ocean waves, the patterns on tree bark and animal skin, the sound of a running stream or a waterfall.
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices are known to be very useful for managing stress among other things, and the outdoors is a great place to practise them. Using your senses, bring yourself into the present moment – what do your see / hear / taste / smell / touch? Meditation and mindfulness practices can also help you refocus your attention and let go of stresses that you’re carrying around with you.
  • Physical activity and exercise are great ways to manage stress. Moving your body triggers changes in your bio-chemistry so that you feel better and manage your stresses better. When you get outdoors you’re more likely to be active than when you stay indoors. The point here is to be intentional about giving yourself outdoors time every day and to be as active as possible.
  • If you can’t get outside, for whatever reason, find ways to bring nature in to you that brings you joy and a sense of calm. You could try opening a window, growing indoor pot plants or flowers, displaying sea shells or even hang up a landscape painting or a photo of a natural setting.
  • Your imagination is another tool for managing stress by connecting you with nature even if you’re not outside. If you’re having difficulty sleeping or want to relax, you can visualise yourself in a natural setting. Invite all your senses to help out so that you truly feel as if you’re in a tranquil location surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells that help you de-stress and relax. I like to visualise myself lying on the sand at the beach and letting my stresses drain away into the sand as the sun warms my skin, the waves softly lapping the shore and the she-oaks waving their branches.

Nature setting - beach

Physical activity and exercise reduces stress levels and improves sleep

When you spend time outdoors you’re more likely to be physically active. Your body was designed to move, to be active, so it’s important to move a lot throughout the day. Activity and exercise also tires you out so you’re more likely to get a better sleep.

Medical conditions and pain can affect your activity levels and your sleep. My advice here is to focus on what you CAN do rather than what you can’t. Seek advice from your health professionals about the best and safest ways for you to be active. In general, something is better than nothing.

According to the research, moderate to vigorous physical activity is the best intensity of exercise to improve your sleep. When you are engaged in moderate intensity activity, you’ll feel your heart rate and breathing rate increase. You’ll feel like you’re working but you can still have a conversation with someone. Step it up a notch to vigorous intensity activity and you won’t be able to carry on that conversation any longer. Measuring intensity is all about your personal experience, so make sure you don’t compare yourself with others.

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines are a useful guide to improve general health and wellbeing including sleep. Some other countries have similar guidelines developed from recommendations published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) including USA, Canada and UK. The Australian Guidelines state:

  • Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
  • Accumulate 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Exercise in the afternoon can disrupt your sleep, especially if it’s vigorous exercise, so for most people the recommendation is to exercise in the morning if possible and preferably outdoors with the morning light (see my next point!)

The research also shows that time spent outdoors at any time of the day may assist with sleep but afternoon exercise is possibly best kept at a gentle level.

Bushwalking

Light exposure can help or hinder sleep

You can use your exposure to light to help improve your sleep. Go outside first thing in the morning – the blue light that is dominant in the morning wakes you up and triggers your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin which is released after dark and causes you to feel sleepy. Remember to follow the health guidelines for protecting your skin from damage by the sun.

Every morning when you go outdoors into the sunlight, you re-set your body clock. This is why it’s important to avoid blue light after dark. Put your devices away (remember to mute them!) and do some other activities instead. Think about the sorts of activities that previous generations may have done in the evening such as playing or listening to music, reading, playing board or card games and even going to bed earlier!

A consistent daily routine sets you up for a better night sleep

The research suggests that people with a consistent daily routine that incorporates exercise, time outdoors, meal times and relaxing activities in the evening are more likely to sleep better. Does your daily routine consistently include all these things? If not, how you can you re-arrange things so that it does?

But what if you have children or a baby!?

Disruptions to sleep are inevitable when you have children or are caring for someone else. It’s a 24/7 job and it doesn’t go on forever although it might feel like it at the time! The general recommendation is to sneak sleep in when and where you can and to get support or practical help with your responsibilities. If you don’t have a tribe (or a village) around you, create one for yourself and your family rather than striving for independence. Ask for help.

A healthy daily routine is vital for everyone no matter their age. Australia has developed the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines which complement the Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. You can model these guidelines for your family by setting healthy boundaries and routines for everyone that includes outdoors time, physical activity, exposure to natural patterns of light and dark, meal times and bed times.

Tropical Rainforest Adventures with Children

Bring nature into your bedroom

It’s important to have a safe, comfortable sleeping space. You can use nature to enhance your bedroom environment and improve your sleep.

Studies on people who go camping show that many campers sleep better and longer. They also tend to go to bed with the sun and wake up with the sun as our ancestors did. There are probably many factors contributing to this, so I’m not suggesting you move into a tent to improve your sleep, but it’s worth exploring how you might be able to tweak your sleeping environment, evening routine, behaviours and habits to replicate what happens in a camping situation. You could try the following:

  • Dim your house lights after dark and minimise exposure to blue light. You could mute your devices and put them in another room.
  • If you have bright street lights or car lights shining through your bedroom window, think about window coverings that will block them. Change the arrangement of furniture in your room to lessen the problem. Can you grow some plants or install an external window shade that blocks the light?
  • Many people like to keep a light on during their sleeping hours to provide comfort or safety when getting up to the bathroom. Try using a light that has a soft, warm glow rather than a bright light.
  • Air temperature and air flow, or lack of it, can disrupt your sleep. Your body needs to drop in temperature to have a good sleep. Unless you live in the tropics, the temperature normally drops at night time, so be careful not to rug up too much. Likewise, if it’s a hot night, you might need to find ways to cool down such as leaving the windows and internal doors open to allow for air flow.
  • Gazing at the night sky from the comfort of bed can be relaxing for many people, but not for others. Adjust your window coverings and rearrange your furnishings to suit your needs.
  • Waking up with the sunrise and going to bed just after sunset can be a wonderful way to start and end your day. Of course this is different at different times of the year and in different parts of the globe and isn’t always practical. But it’s definitely a habit worth considering.
  • What about the sounds you hear when you go to bed? Many people eventually get used to the sounds in their own neighbourhoods including cars, trains and sirens. But it can also take a while to get used to the sounds of nature at night if you’re not familiar with them. What nature sounds do you find soothing, and which do you find unsettling? How can you intentionally bring soothing sounds into your sleep environment? You could play music that incorporates the sounds of nature or download a ‘nature sounds’ app.
  • Aromatherapy can be used to improve your sleep too. Think about which aromas (or smells) you find soothing in nature and how you can safely bring them into your sleeping space. For example, you could have some fresh or dried lavender in your room if you like that scent, or use essential oils or incense (but for safety reasons don’t keep anything burning or heating when you go to bed, and follow recommended instructions carefully.)

Campsite at Elsey NP

What to do if you need more help to improve your sleep

If your sleep doesn’t improve after trying these strategies, have a chat with your doctor or health professional who can help you explore what you need to do in your situation. There are some medical and psychological conditions such as sleep apnoea, certain chronic diseases and stress disorders that may need more specialised interventions to get you the super sleep you deserve!

It’s up to you now to take action.

What can you do, what’s in your control right now that you can experiment with to improve your sleep? How can you use the outdoors to get a better sleep?

  • Manage your stress levels each day by getting outside or connecting with nature in some way
  • Get outside each day, be more active or increase the intensity of your exercise
  • Spend time outside first thing in the morning to get a dose of natural light that re-sets your body clock and helps you to feel sleepy later in the evening
  • Create a consistent daily routine that includes getting up and going to bed closer to sunrise and sunset, spending time outdoors, getting plenty of movement and exercise, avoiding blue light in the evening and doing some relaxing activities instead of scrolling through your device
  • Model a healthy routine for your children and set boundaries around their activities
  • Bring soothing aspects of nature into your sleeping environment by checking in with your senses – what can I see, hear, touch, smell that is calming and is associated with rest and sleep

Whatever you do, don’t give up too quickly. Stick at it because it can take a while to see the results. We know that even when you implement a new healthy habit, it can take a few weeks or months for it to really kick in.

Download the free printable!

improve your sleepI’ve created a handy hint sheet for you to use to remind you about all the actions you can take to improve your sleep by using the outdoors.

When you click on the image you’ll be taken to the RESOURCES tab on my website where you’ll find this handy hint sheet, along with many other printables which are free for you to download and print for your own use.

Listen to the audio version of this blog on the podcast!

As I write this blog post, our “Outdoors is my Therapy” podcast listeners are growing in number every day. I have many fabulous topics planned for the podcast including some interviews and stories about outdoor adventures.

I’d love to know if you have a topic about the outdoors that you’d love to hear more about. You can let me know via Facebook, Instagram or email. And join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group for plenty of inspiring chat and photos about the outdoors.

Daisy SpokeDiscovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic

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In this article I’ll be sharing 20 ways to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you are able (and allowed) to get outdoors or whether you have to stay indoors while you’re isolating, there are plenty of ideas here to keep your body moving and your mind feeling at ease.

Isolation around the world during the coronavirus pandemic

No matter where you live in the world as I write this blog post, you will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the health and government directives to manage its spread. Many people are isolating themselves at home or in hotels, and options to spend time outdoors and to exercise and socialise have been restricted.

But, you need to continue to nurture your health including your mental health. You may need to be creative in how you get your regular exercise fix, your outdoors time, and how you socialise.

Mental health risks during isolation

For myself, one of the biggest fears I had about isolation practices was concerning my mental health and the mental health of other people. Vigorous exercise, time in nature, and deep connections with others form the foundation of my ability to function. Without them, I’ve really struggled in the past. And I know I’m not alone. Exercise and movement also boosts your immune system which is incredibly important now too, and it provides protection against future disease.

Stay active and stay connected when you can’t get about freely

I’ve collected together some ideas to help you stay active, stay connected with the outdoors, and stay connected with others during periods of isolation. These ideas are just as useful for other times in your life when you can’t go out as freely as you’d like to such as:

  • when you have to stay home to care for young children or someone who is not well
  • during times of injury, sickness or limited mobility
  • when your non-working hours are after dark
  • when you’re travelling

Caution: check your local regulations about isolating during the coronavirus pandemic

Of course, you need to pick and choose, or innovate your own ideas based on your own circumstances, what your local regulations require and what resources you have access to. Not all these ideas will suit everybody or every situation. Naturally keep your physical distance from others during the pandemic, and don’t take any unnecessary risks that might result in injury and the need for medical assistance. Another thing – be mindful of the level of noise and disturbance you might make if you share a house with others, live in an apartment building, or if you live on a small block.

We’re all in this together!

Let me know if you have other ideas to add to mine and we’ll include them in a follow post! Remember, we’re all in this together and supporting each other is the best way to overcome challenges like this.

fear and possibility

20 ways to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic

  1. YouTube videos provide a wide selection of workouts for you to do in your own time at home. Look for ones that have been created by accredited instructors or recommended by exercise physiologists or physiotherapists.
  2. Virtual gym classes enable you to participate in a class in real time. Generally virtual classes are streamed live and everyone participates at the same time from their own location. Check if your local gym is offering these (most gyms have closed their face to face services at the time of writing), or search for online businesses and exercise apps which offer this.
  3. Home equipmentMake use of what you have at home such as weights, skipping rope, Swiss ball, steps, and old exercise DVDs . You can adapt everyday household items too such as water bottles or cans of food for weights, and don’t forget the stairs in your house can add value to your workout too.
  4. Virtual accountability buddies can check in with each, hold each other accountable to daily activities, and support each other to problem-solve issues as they come up. You can probably find an accountability buddy amongst your contacts, friends or work colleagues.
  5. Get out where and when you can. Look for opportunities and make the most of them while you can. If your local park is open and it seems quiet around dinner time, that might be a good time to get out there because you never know when places like that will close, or when your household will be quarantined.
  6. Plan and track your exercise in a journal to keep yourself committed and valuing your daily exercise on an ongoing basis. Take it another step forward by tracking how you felt before and after your workouts as well as your recovery experiences.
  7. Callisthenics, stretches, and body weight exercises were probably part of your school Physical Education classes. Do you remember star jumps, lunges, squats, jogging on the spot, push ups, and planks? If in doubt about injuries or medical conditions seek advice from an exercise physiologist or doctor first.
  8. Put on some music and dance and move to the rhythm! This isn’t about your style or skill – it’s about moving and having fun! Invite your household to join in.
  9. Chair yoga is great if you are not feeling well, have balance problems or limited mobility. Look on the Internet for workouts by yoga instructors who have adapted traditional yoga for use in seated positions.
  10. Street dances / classes are happening around the world in some suburban areas. Check if this is allowable in your area, and if so, organise a designated time for you and your neighbours to come out into your front gardens or patios for a dance-off or workout. Remember to maintain your physical distance!
  11. Backyard workouts are as varied as your imagination. Is there a job in the yard you’ve been meaning to do ‘one day’? You’ll get a great workout lifting logs, moving rocks, pruning trees and digging in the garden. You can also create an outdoor workout space in which you can jump obstacles, climb a pole, move through an obstacle or slalom course, practice bike handling or skate boarding skills, run around with the kids, or play games with your pet dog.
  12. Birdwatching from home is an activity that can have you moving gently and quietly around your garden, or if you are not able to go outside, watching from your balcony or window. Grab a bird identification book from your shelves or research your finds on the Internet or using an app such as eBird. There are also plenty of online forum and social media groups sharing birdwatching experiences.
  13. Mindful walks are another gentle activity that can be done in your own yard, footpath, or even indoors. Bring your attention to the sensations of placing your foot down and slowly moving your weight, lifting your foot and placing it forward. You can also bring your attention to the sensations in your legs and the rest of your body as you walk.
  14. Be a kid again! What did you do when you were a kid? Active kids don’t need dedicated exercise or outdoors time because their activity tends to be spontaneous and spread throughout the day. What did you do when you were a kid? I played elastics, tiggy / chasey, Red Rover, trampoline, balance games such as balancing on a log, backyard cricket and soccer, and hitting a ball against a wall. Don’t leave it only to the kids – these activities are perfect for any age!
  15. If you have children living in your household, get down on the floor and play! Games like wrestling (gentle of course!), kneeling chasey and indoor hockey can give everyone a great workout.
  16. If your National Parks, regional parks and State Forests are open and are not busy with other people exercising, go for a walk or a bike ride being careful not to stretch yourself past your comfort zone by taking any unnecessary risks or going off track.
  17. Make your own workout space at home by creating a dedicated exercise space (if you have the room) in a spare room, a section of the living room, the garage or the verandah. If you don’t have enough space for this, you can get yourself organised by creating a dedicated storage area for the equipment you use in your workouts.
  18. Use an App to track your activity levels, and if you’re into it, you can share your stats with your friends.
  19. Create circuits or stations with a variety of exercises, moving from one station to the next every minute (or longer or shorter if you prefer). Keep moving around the circuit to complete your workout.
  20. Use active indoor games like indoor hockey, quoits, and freeze as an alternative to your usual workout whilst having fun with your family or housemates.

Plan of Action

Now it’s your turn – what will YOU do?

Now it’s your turn to put these ideas into practice so that you look after your health, including your mental health in spite of the limitations you have during a period of isolation. Which of these ideas would you like to try? Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers? I’d love to hear from you and include your ideas in a future post. How will YOU keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic?

You can listen to this article on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast!

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Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to keep exercising outdoors in the drought

“How CAN you keep exercising outdoors in the drought????”

I’m writing this blog post because over the past year lots of people have said they just don’t know how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. We typically think of nature as nurturing and health-giving, a place of solace and retreat. Being confronted by a shockingly dry environment with frequent bushfires, brown landscapes that used to be green, National Park closures, and dry waterways, it’s clear that nature has a shadow side as well.

flowers before the drought

“It’s REALLY tough!”

To be completely open, I’ve also questioned how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. The whole climatic situation has been tough. Really tough! The ripple effect of the drought has swept up farmers, wildlife, local businesses, ‘town’ people, and those in the cities. We’re all affected in various ways either directly or indirectly. There’s a pervasive and damaging sense of hopelessness, and like any emotion, it’s contagious. Yet a sense of hope is exactly what we need to survive difficult or traumatic situations. Where there’s hope, there’s life. Without it, we spiral into a self-fulfilling doom and gloom mentality.

Exercising outdoors has been very confronting. I can’t walk on my home trails without seeing or smelling death. The brown dust colours my view as if I’m looking through a sepia filter. Ticks are in plague proportions. Swarms of good ole slow country flies are driving me nuts. The heat is unbearable. And there’s not enough water for washing your hair after a workout.

My stress tank is overflowing! How about you?

My connection with nature runs very deep, as does my yearning to be active. But in this tough time, I also came down with shingles. My stress tank began to overflow. I had to do something differently. Bushwalking and bike riding whilst constantly thinking about the drought and feeling unwell was contributing to the stress.

So what CAN you do when being in nature is SO stressful?

You have to put your creative thinking hat on to find a solution when things get tough. What worked before is no longer effective. The questions people keep asking me (and that I wanted solutions for too) are:

  • How can I reconnect with the side of nature that heals and nurtures and teaches?
  • How can I enjoy my time outdoors without feeling overwhelmed?
  • What mindset shift do I need?
  • What actions do I need to take?
  • How can I keep exercising everyday?
exercising in the drought
Exercising in the drought has it’s challenges

So I set you to explore this new territory and experiment with the possibilities!

Here are 6 solutions that I’ve discovered. I hope they work for you too!

1. Podcasts

If you haven’t got on the bandwagon yet, then you really need to! Podcasts are audio shows, a bit like a radio show, that you can either stream from the Internet or download onto a device to listen to later. I download episodes from my favourite shows onto my phone, plug my ear phones in, and listen to inspiring, energising interviews while I walk. Instead of focusing my attention on my surroundings, I lose myself in the show and arrive back home with excitement for life and new ideas to put into action. Watch out for a future blog post about my favourite podcasts suitable for Android or Apple.

2. Set an Intention

Before heading out on a walk or ride, I often choose an intention – something I want to focus on or get out of my experience. This is a personal choice, so it can be anything at all. Some of the intentions I’ve set for myself go like this:
“Today I will notice new growth”
“Today I will focus on the sensations in my legs”
“Today I will find fun”
“Today I will discover colour”
“Today I will notice sounds”

3. Mindful Walking

With mindful walks I like to focus on one sense at a time and when I notice my mind has wandered away from my body, I gently bring it back to rest on my senses. I’ve especially enjoyed focusing on my sense of hearing – noticing the many different bird calls, the sounds of the breeze in the trees, my footsteps on the ground, insects buzzing around, wallabies bounding along. I usually focus on one sense for a few minutes, then move onto another one. With my sense of touch, I focus on how it feels to have clothes on my skin, feet in my shoes as I take a step, muscle movement, sunscreen on my face, leaves brushing my skin. When I focus on my sense of sight, I challenge myself to find colours and light and patterns that I don’t normally notice. You can also use a meditation app with a guided practice for mindfulness of walking.

4. Photography

I’ve discovered that taking photos along the way really helps me to bring my attention to the beautiful things. Sometimes I combine photography with an intention or a mindful walk so that I can collect images that bring me joy, and at the same time it helps my brain to collect evidence that there is hope.

5. Make it Social

Walking or riding with other people can be really helpful because the focus is on that invisible connection between myself and someone else. Give me a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend any day, plenty of laughs, a chance to debrief the stuff of life that drives me crazy, and to celebrate the rest. Sometimes, too, there’s a sneaky competitive edge that sees me running or riding faster when I’m with others. Inevitably that ends up in a heap of laughs too, gasping for air, heart pounding out of my chest, and the satisfaction that I’ve done my weekly interval training.

6. Mix it up

I’ve always said “I’m not a gym person”. I’ve built a business and identity around my outdoor adventures. BUT, being unwell and being in the drought has helped me re-set my rigid thinking about exercise. Instead of going outdoors everyday, I went to an aqua class with a friend, did loops of the river walk in town where it’s a bit greener, and took up an irresistible offer to join a gym. I’ve extended the variety of exercise I get which is a fantastic thing! It will help me enjoy and have greater success with my outdoor adventuring which I’m still doing at least a couple of times a week. Going to the gym also gets me focusing on my sadly neglected strength training (one of those things I really ‘should’ be doing at my age!), all whilst staying out of the flies and heat. I get to make new friends and pace myself sensibly (sort of) as I recuperate. At home I’ve also begun a more regular yoga practice – something I’ve been wanting to do but it’s been a lower priority until now.

To Sum Up: Choose Your Focus!

It’s really all about CHOOSING WHAT YOU FOCUS ON. When we feel like we have What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?no control or influence over a situation (like the drought), it’s important to push the pause button, think about it creatively, and choose your focus. Like many people, I’ve struggled with exercising outdoors in the drought. The ideas I’ve shared in this article have made a huge difference to me, my mental state and my physical health. My hope is that they help you too.

Let me know what works for you! Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to get motivated to exercise

How do YOU get motivated to exercise? It’s cold, blustery and misty outside today. I spent most of summer yearning for the cool Arctic breeze to greet me so I can go walking or riding any time of the day without feeling like I’m going to pass out from the heat. After our long, hot, drought-ridden summer, winter has finally arrived. And here I am, huddled in my flannelette pyjamas, fluffy dressing gown and hand-knitted knee rug dreading the thought of going outside.

It’s a tricky head space to be in – knowing that I advocate for an outdoor adventurous lifestyle, and yet here I am, cocooned in my layers, inside my house, and trying desperately to find another thing to delay me before I go outside.

Being very conscious that my actions and values are simply not in alignment, I’ve given myself a stern talking to this week. Motivation is a pretty fickle thing. You can never rely on it. It’s a feeling that comes and goes and is affected by many different things – both positively and negatively. Sitting around waiting for motivation to arrive is fruitless. You need to take ACTION, and motivation will follow in its own good time.

motivation is fickle

I figured I’m probably not the only one who’s struggling at the moment (tell me that is so!!), so I’ve put together a list of tried and true strategies to get us exercising, no matter the weather, and no matter our motivation levels!

18 ways to get motivated to exercise

  1. Be accountable! To someone else, like a friend that you’ve agreed to meet for a walk. Or simply write your planned exercise activity in your diary and let others know ahead of time about your commitment.
  2. Something is better than nothing! Don’t get caught in the all-or-nothing type of thinking. If you’re running short on time, do what you can – 10 minutes is better than nothing.
  3. Make exercise part of your daily routine so there is little room for debate about what you’re going to do and when.
  4. Choose your reward! External rewards work well for some people – think of stickers for your exercise chart, or buying that new piece of gear when you’ve kept to your commitment. Or do you prefer to acknowledge that you feel great on the inside, knowing you’ve chosen well despite it being difficult, or noticing that you feel better?
  5. Celebrate your achievements! Be joyful for the hard work you’ve put in. But be careful you don’t self-sabotage your efforts by spending the rest of the day on the sofa or munching on a box of doughnuts.
  6. Change it up! Any activity that you repeat over and again can lose its gloss. Change your activity, route, place or even the time of day you’ve been exercising.
  7. Change how you see yourself! When you identify with a “healthy me, happy me” mentality, you’ll focus on healthy choices. Conversely if you see yourself as lazy and unfit, your actions are likely to reinforce that attitude.
  8. Break it down! If an hour of exercise seems like an eternity, then you’re going to dread it again tomorrow. Break it down into time portions, or ‘sets’. When I swim laps, I work on 10 minute sets each of kick board, freestyle, backstroke and so on. You can break your walk or ride up into sets too, aiming for a certain number of minutes, steps, mileage or landmarks in each set.
  9. Set goals! Register for an event and use it to keep you on track with your ‘training’ exercise. Or set a new goal each week, for example to walk 25 kilometres or to go to 3 classes by the end of the week.
  10. Do what works for YOU! Get a routine going that works FOR YOU. It’s your life. Your family. Your work situation. Your community. Whatever exercise routine you choose, make it do-able for you.
  11. Focus on something enjoyable! It could be the way the grass is blowing in the breeze, the smell of the wattles flowering, how awesome your new t-shirt feels, the increasing strength in your legs as you pound the pavement.
  12. Sign up! Check out what programs, challenges and memberships are available in your area or online.
  13. Pay your way! Does financial investment motivate you? Some people feel an extra commitment to get out the door after purchasing a membership, training program, new shoes or other equipment.
  14. Get expert support! Exercise physiologists and personal trainers can customise exercises and training plans that gradually build up as you do.
  15. Do what you love to do! If dancing around the lounge room to loud music is your thing, then do it! If digging holes in the paddock to put new fence posts in is your thing, then do it! If running marathons is your thing, then do it! You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
  16. Be realistic! Know what is do-able for you and set your expectations and goals accordingly to boost your confidence, sense of achievement, and motivation.
  17. Do it for yourself! You’ll feel better, you know you will!
  18. Do it for those around you! Exercise and nature has incredible benefits for the way our brains work, the way we feel, and the behavioural choices we make. Generally, we’re nicer people to be around when we’ve looked after ourselves.

You owe it to yourself as well as others!

And if that’s not enough reason to motivate me to get outside on a blustery day, then I remind myself that I’m accountable to the community of women around me. The women who get involved with my projects, counselling and mentoring programs. I constantly encourage these women to get outside and get active, yet I also know how challenging it can be at times. I owe it to my family, friends and the community of women I work with to shut up, show up and practise what I preach.

Women exercising outdoors

In the end, a little bit of discomfort to get going will reap amazing benefits for the rest of the day. It doesn’t sound that hard, but, man oh man, that gusty wind sure is blowing away some of my motivation!

How will you manage your motivation today?

Let me know:

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to motivation to exercise?

And what strategies work for you?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Physical Activity and Exercise: What’s stopping you?

When it comes to physical activity and exercise, we all know it’s good for us, but there are plenty of things that can get in the way. I wonder …..what are the obstacles that get in your way of being active?  

Is it time? Money? Health? Weather? Tiredness? Maybe you want an exercise buddy? You don’t know what’s around or how to get started? You have caring responsibilities for other people? Or perhaps you’re worried you’ll be the slowest, most uncoordinated, oldest, or the only one without the latest trendy gear? Maybe pain or worry about medical issues is an issue?

There are so many things that can stop us even before we get started, or that get in the way of keeping the momentum going. It’s one thing to know that physical activity and exercise is good for us, and it’s definitely another thing to actually get out there and do it.

Move Your Large Muscles

The evidence is rock solid – no matter where you live, how old you are, or what your cultural background is. One of the best things you can do for yourself, family and community is to get moving. This means doing activities that use your larger muscle groups. I’m talking here about movements that involve your whole legs and whole arms or your whole body, so if you think that shuffling that pack of cards or pressing PLAY on your remote is considered movement, then you’re simply cheating yourself and your health.

Large muscle movement also means you’ll use more energy, something that’s pretty challenging when you feel tired. I know it sounds illogical, but when you’re tired, you generally feel better if you get up and move, or better still, do some exercise (see below) because movement and the right intensity of exercise can ‘give’ you energy.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re moving because of work tasks, home activities, for leisure or for transport. Simply moving instead of sitting, standing or lying down for long periods reduces your risk of developing certain non-communicable diseases including depression, and poorer general health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published recommendations about physical activity to improve the health of the world’s population. These recommendations have been developed after comprehensively examining hundreds and hundreds of studies from all round the globe. Many countries, including Australia, have used these recommendations to write up specific guidelines to help us get more active. It makes sense from an economic as well as a health and wellbeing perspective to get moving.

The Australian Guidelines for Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour

The Australian Guidelines for Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour state that we should aim to:

  • Accumulate 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity (this takes some effort but you can still talk while moving) or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous intensity physical activity (this takes more effort and you will be breathing faster – huffing and puffing), or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. (The everyday-easy-to-understand-version of this is 30 – 60 minutes of exercise per day depending on intensity!)

  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.

  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

  • Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. Start by doing something, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.

  • Minimise the amount of time spent sitting and break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

  • The guidelines now also include recommendations for children over a 24 hour period which includes sleep and activity routines.

Exercise vs Movement 

If you’re ready to take your general moving and grooving up a notch and reap added health benefits, then an exercise plan will help you to structure your physical activity to reach your health or fitness goals. Basically, exercise is a routine of physical activity with the purpose of improving one or more aspects of fitness, for example, strength, aerobic capacity, endurance, flexibility. And it’s amazing how a bit of huffing and puffing each day can improve your mood as well as your general health! But don’t go it alone. There are a number of health professionals who can support you towards improved health and mood so you reduce the risk of injury, sickness and low motivation.

Invite others onto your support team!

Your doctor

If you have any health, injury or medical issues you are concerned about, please check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Once approved, you can also ask for a referral to an exercise physiologist or exercise scientist, or you can refer yourself. Your doctor can also help you access help for respite (if you are a carer) and other services that will help you to get more active.

Exercise physiologists and exercise scientists

Exercise physiologists and exercise scientists have trained at university level to support people to get more active, and many of them specialise in working with people with medical issues. Most health funds provide a rebate for consultations, or you may be eligible to access a Medicare rebate or even fully funded consultations with a referral from your GP if you are eligible.

Personal trainers

Personal trainers usually have Certificate or Diploma level qualifications to provide exercise programs to help you reach your fitness goals. You can find personal trainers at many recreation centres and gyms, as well as self-employed in the community.

Group exercise & exercise buddies

Exercising with other people can be very motivating for a lot of us. Being able to socialise whilst moving can make it more enjoyable. Many recreation centres including swimming pools and gyms offer group exercise classes. Have a look for a class that is appropriate for your health needs and fitness goals. If you’re unsure, ask at the centre. Recreation centres and other fitness organisations can benefit from your feedback as it helps them to develop programs and classes to meet the local need. Don’t forget, you can also create your own opportunities for group exercise (or general movement) by asking a friend to go walking with you, have a round of golf, do some gardening or housework together, or walk to your favourite cafe for a cuppa and back home again.

The best advice is to move more, sit less

So remember, no matter what’s getting in the way of movement (that is, your physical activity and exercise), there are people here to help you. You are the captain of your own ship, and you can invite anyone onto your team. Remember that ‘something is better than nothing’ and you can gradually build up from ‘something’ to more and more. The main point is that simply by moving more and sitting less, you’re being kind to yourself and reducing your health risks. So keep moving, just keep moving, and gradually work your way to better health.

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to exercise on a budget: what about walking?

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How DO you exercise on a budget?

There are so many pressures to spend your hard-earned money on, well, ummmm ….. basically everything! Including exercise. If you tune into the world around you or if you’re easily hooked into comparing yourself to others, you’ll probably believe that you HAVE to pay for a gym membership, you HAVE to buy fancy equipment to get fit, and that you HAVE to have the latest super-tech clothes if you intend to work up a sweat (which kind of goes along with exercise!).

Well I’m telling you that all these have-to’s are simply not true. Sure, some of those fancy clothes or equipment can enhance your exercise, but for aeons humans have coped quite well with little or no special exercise equipment. I mean, exercise is basically improving your strength and aerobic health through activity that puts a load on your body. It doesn’t HAVE to cost anything, and crying poor is never a reason to stay on the sofa.

Back in my day …..

Ask your grandparents or great grandparents (if they’re still around) and they’ll tellfirewood you what it was like back in their day. I bet they’d say no one needed any gyms or fancy schmancy pants in the olden days: exercise consisted of a hard day’s work out on the farm fixing fences, collecting and chopping wood for the kitchen fire, walking to the shop and doing the laundry in a boiler!

You don’t need a big budget!

Yes, times have changed and it’s a different world we live in, but there are some things that have stayed the same. To exercise on a budget, you simply get back to the basics – focus on your daily dose of physical activity instead of the frills-and-all approach that can suck you in. Get yourself a decent pair of shoes, pull on some comfy clothes and a hat. Slap on some sunscreen. Grab a bottle of water. And you’re all good to go walking, one of the best and most accessible types of exercise we have.

Why is walking ideal? Oh my goodness, let me count the ways!

  1. You can set your own pace
  2. It’s convenient – slip on your shoes and get out the door no matter where walking in bootsyou live or work or travel
  3. You can do it alone or in a group
  4. You’ve probably already got everything you need to go walking
  5. If you don’t have everything, you still don’t HAVE to spend a lot to get started
  6. No special equipment needed
  7. It’s free in general – to tell you the truth, there are a few places I’ve been to that charge a small fee such as a day entry fee to some National Parks or car parking fees in busy tourist or urban spaces, but that’s the exception not the rule. Walking is one of the cheapest ways to exercise on a budget.

Walking ….. “BORING!”

Walking is boring, you say? Well, anything’s boring if you repeatedly do the same thing day after day, in the same place, and in the same way.

Never be bored again!

Here are some ideas to vary up your workout so you’ll never be bored again, even if you need to exercise on a budget (and that’s most of us)!

  1. Mix it up – walk in different placeswalking on the beach
  2. Choose different length walks – some days go long, and other days go short
  3. Go solo, or meet up with a buddy
  4. Join a walking group
  5. Have a go at Park Run
  6. Change up which direction you go on your usual route
  7. Challenge yourself to an uphill climb
  8. Relax with a downhill walk
  9. See the city sights on an urban walk
  10. Climb those stairs – repeatedly!
  11. Go exploring on a water walk – river, dam, ocean
  12. Treat yourself to a bushwalk – check out National Parks, State Forests, reserves
  13. Wander along the beach, feel the sand between your toes
  14. Walk with a purpose: walk to work, school, a friend’s place, bus or train station, shops
  15. Swap your usual routine and enjoy the sights at a different time of day
  16. Grab a map and compass and give orienteering a go
  17. Use a navigation app or device to pre-plan your walk – you can even be really creative by designing a funky picture that overlays the streets and then follow that on your walk
  18. Pace the paddock or local park
  19. Walk with a backpack for added load, or take some light hand weights
  20. Walking meetings are all the rage!
  21. Have a walking break at lunch time or after work to wind down and de-stress
  22. Leave your car a few kilometres from work or the train / bus station and walk the rest of the way
  23. Earn as you walk – deliver newspapers or pamphlets house-to-house
  24. Go window shopping
  25. Take your kids for a walk after school while everyone chats about their day

Walking can be your go-to exercise too!

Walking has always been my go-to exercise because I can do it almost anywhere, any time, with little equipment, no expense, and all the benefits of feeling great and knowing I’m giving my future health an awesome boost! And you can too! Start with any of the ideas above and let me know how you go, or share your other ideas with me on how to exercise on a budget. 

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

8 Reasons to Get Back to Nature

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In a world that expects us to be efficient, effective and resourceful, we risk letting go of those things that sustain our energy, health and creativity. One of these things is time spent in nature. Here are 8 reasons why time spent in nature is never a waste of time.

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

We live in a world that expects us to deliver outcomes and meet deadlines. We have constant pressure to be productive and to not waste time, energy or resources. Many people feel increasingly stretched and strung out with our outcomes-based society. Nature provides a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life. When we step outdoors into the forests, mountains, deserts, beaches and waterways, we immerse ourselves in a bigger world. We are at play, not at work.

Nature setting - beach

2. Nature gives your brain a break

Brains are like busy factories mass producing thoughts, decisions, predictions, reflections, assessments, judgements, assumptions and beliefs all whilst keeping our hearts beating and our lungs breathing. There’s a lot going on inside our heads whether we realise it or not. Getting outside into some green space gives your brain a much needed break from the type of thinking it does all day. Nature is a trigger for your brain to switch modes and operate on a different level – a bit like a mini holiday!

3. Nature restores and re-energises

When we’re busy we tend to cut back on things that seem less important or urgent at the time. Usually this means we cut ourselves short on self-care. We run ourselves into the ground working harder and faster whilst putting less priority on how we are going to sustain the pace. Half an hour outdoors can be enough time for your mind to begin to reset and for your body to feel re-energised. It’s an investment you can’t afford to miss.

Nature - mountain view

4. Nature refocuses your attention

Modern life runs at a pace requiring us to be thinking and doing multiple things at once. Research shows this isn’t necessarily the most efficient (or joyful) way of living. When we focus on one thing at a time, we tend to operate more efficiently and effectively. Although it might feel slower because you’re used to being in the fast lane, it’s actually more productive in many situations! Regular time in nature can teach you to bring your attention to your immediate surroundings. This helps you to let go of your stresses, gently engage all your senses, and refocus your attention when you’re back in your everyday routine.

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

Do you find yourself reacting to a pressured lifestyle by working even harder, hoping that when you get to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list you’ll be able to relax? Sorry folks that isn’t a strategy that is sustainable over the long-term unless you give yourself regular breaks to slow down and switch off. Your ‘to-do’ list will never go away. There will always be something else that demands your attention. When you prioritise time in nature, you learn to slow down – in a good way. Your brain has a much needed rest and you come back to your ‘to-do’ list with a fresh perspective and new energy.

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the special gifts that nature has on offer. Any one of us can savour the creativity and innovation that often comes with time spent in nature. Perhaps it’s associated with the opportunity to slow down and refocus, I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that some of my best and most successful ideas have come to me when I’ve been out walking or riding.

7. Nature gets you active

A major contributing factor to chronic disease, including depression, is inactivity. Nature is the natural antidote to a sedentary lifestyle. With so much space to stretch out and explore, so many wonders to be discovered, so much fresh air to breathe and trees to hug (well, maybe that’s just me), what more incentive do you need to get out and get active.

Natur

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

Have you ever gone in search of the perfect time management technique, tool or app hoping to be rescued from the stress of managing multiple roles and responsibilities? Despite the numerous time management tools available to us, time management is actually all about managing YOURSELF, not time. If you really want to improve efficiency and effectiveness, invest part of your day, everyday, outside in nature. If you’ve read all the other reasons why time spent in nature is not a waste, then it will be obvious to you that it’s one of the best investments you can make to improve your effectiveness and efficiency at work, home and in your relationships with other people.

Let's sum up!

Time spent in nature is NEVER a waste! Oh let me count the ways ….. (well, at least 8 of them anyway!)

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

2. Nature gives your brain a break

3. Nature restores and re-energises

4. Nature refocuses your attention

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

7. Nature gets you active

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

You can listen to this article on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.