Welcome to the first edition of ‘The Wellbeing Edit’. I’m Dr Sarah Morton [1], a researcher based at the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre [2] at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Sport. My research is focused on understanding how people approach physical activity and collaborating with stakeholders to develop ways to support more people, to be more active, more of the time. I’ll be sharing this, and other innovative research and developments in physical activity and sport for health benefit, over the coming months.

I’ve taken part in physical activity and sport my whole life – I was swimming, albeit baby-style padding, in the pool and open water before I could walk; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a bike; and certainly, can’t recall a day that has gone by when I haven’t walked – be it for pleasure or necessity. I have always been a mover! However, it is only in the past ten years or so that I have become interested in the health-related benefits of movement. Of which there is an abundance.

Engaging in regular movement is fundamental for good well-being, this includes the spectrum of well-being – physical, mental, and social. Taking part in some form of physical activity is beneficial for everyone, be it movement across the course of the day, for example, taking regular breaks from your desk, or perhaps sessions in the gym, playing a team sport, or regular walking, wheeling or running [3] at your local nature spot. Any kind of movement-based activities can support improved physical function, reduce incidences of a range of diseases, reduce depression and anxiety, and help improve learning and judgement skills.

Research into movement across the day is a relatively recent addition to the field, but already the evidence shows that small increases in movement across the day can be beneficial for health and wellbeing. There is a growing abundance of research on sedentary behaviour and the importance of breaking up these behaviours throughout the day. 24-hour movement behaviours are readily being studied, with evidence indicating that a positive combination of engaging in physical activity, reducing sedentary behaviour, and getting sufficient sleep are important for disease prevention and positive health across the lifespan [4].

Sounds great, right?!

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that, globally, one in four adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity. And for adolescent’s, the WHO reports 80% to be insufficiently physically active [5].

Chances are that many people reading this will already be sold on the idea of regular physical activity, some may even be participating intensely daily. Equally, there will likely be many wondering how they could integrate more movement into their day – and perhaps especially so with our increasingly busy lives where fitting everything in feels like a more utopian concept every day.

So, independent of a bout of physical activity, such as going to the gym, going for a run, or playing a team sport, how can you increase movement across the course of the day?

If you have a predominately desk-based job, it can be difficult to find the time to take a break away from the desk, especially in a world of back-to-back meetings and daily deadlines. A research group that I am part of, led by Professor Ailsa Niven [6], has developed a resource toolkit to support desk-based employees to move more during the working day [7]. These ideas and suggestions can, of course be adapted to fit into the office or hybrid working situation. Paths for All has also developed some excellent ‘one-minute movers’ which are perfect for integrating between meetings or work tasks [8].

Perhaps you feel you could use motorised transport less, but taking the step to do so can be difficult since it is so convenient. Certainly, in a country like Scotland where the weather can be pretty cold and damp a lot of the time, it can become even more difficult to ditch the car keys and walk, wheel or cycle. Commuting, be it to work or for the school run, is a great place to start. Parking the car, or getting off the bus, a short distance away means some of the commute becomes an active one, and the distance can be gradually increased over time – you might even eventually end up with a completely active commute.

If you’re working from home, try to get outside before and after work – even for a short time, the movement, daylight and blast of fresh air will do wonders for your overall wellbeing.

For those who prefer a more social solution, setting up challenges with friends, family, and colleagues can be a great way of adding a little bit of competition. The ‘Step Count Challenge’ [9] is increasingly popular, and the ‘NHS Couch to 5k’ [10] is a well-established and popular option for getting into running, both of which can be done as a group or independently. For something more bespoke to your friend group, smartphone apps like Strava [11] allow users to map activities and keep track of progress, as well as setting up groups and challenges within groups.

Forming that intention to move more is the crucial first step. It can be really difficult to even get to that stage, and once you’ve done it – be kind to yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and similarly increasing your daily movement doesn’t need to happen overnight.

Move more when you can, however you can.

Hopefully the suggestions I’ve made in this article are a helpful starting point, however, I know that they barely scratch the surface of the wide-ranging and innovative ideas for moving more during the day. I would love to hear about things you do to move more – please share them on your social media and tag #wellbeingedit

[1] https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_0kydy76t

[2] https://www.ed.ac.uk/education/rke/our-research/sport-related-research/pahrc

[3] (16) Freya Oswald on X: “What is the relationship between running and mental health? Fantastic time collaborating with ⁦⁦@narrowboat_paul⁩ ⁦@Chlobobs_⁩ @JRLovesCycling⁩ on this project!⁩ Animation by ⁦@JenniferDunca10⁩ https://t.co/NP1yGGXCZr @mdpi ⁦⁦@UoE_PAHRC⁩ https://t.co/NgmwFXHlg4” / X (twitter.com)

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254620300910

[5] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity

[6] https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_v48paqzq

[7] https://www.actify.org.uk/pahrcw@h

[8] https://www.pathsforall.org.uk/wod-tip-and-story/ditch-the-desk-one

[9] https://www.stepcount.org.uk/

[10] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/

[11] https://www.strava.com/register-now?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=RSR_B_SR_AllUser_UK&utm_term=strava&utm_content=Brand_Universal&gad_source=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwJHuu57xhQMVvotQBh3jKAzAEAAYASAAEgJWofD_BwE


Leave a Reply