A study carried out by the World Cancer Research Fund reveals that women in Northern Ireland are the most active in the UK. Really?

(Click here to watch the UTV video that accompanies the blog)

I must admit I was very shocked, but pleasantly surprised to hear this. And then I looked at the stats.

Yes, it is true according to this study, that a higher percentage of women in Northern Ireland do the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day, compared to other UK regions, however it’s definitely not worthy of a gold medal.

There is only a few percentage difference, so it’s not like we’re zooming ahead, reaping the health benefits of being super fit and active! With just 35% of females in NI hitting that daily exercise target, it means that around two thirds of women here aren’t!

So it’s probably not a shock to hear that 59% of adults in our region are overweight or obese. Nutrition obviously plays a role in this, which can be a very complex and difficult subject for people to learn about and apply in to their lifestyles.

Yes we all know the obvious things such as not eating chocolate bars and chips every day, but it goes deeper than that. Just count how many ‘diets’ you’ve been on and it will probably highlight this.

But the other tool to beating obesity is physical activity, and I think this can be more readily achieved. We don’t need specialist equipment, we don’t need loads of time, we don’t need to receive complex education, we don’t even need someone to teach us how!

We are physically active every day – we just need to do more of it, and more often. Walking, using the stairs, parking at the far end of the car park, cycling, hoovering vigorously until you’re out of breath, having your meetings in work standing up (yes I have taught this in companies and it works!) and playing with your children instead of watching them have fun, all adds up to minutes of exercise.

So we don’t need to enrol in the local gym classes or play a sport – we just need to get our bodies moving! The 30 minutes a day doesn’t have to be in one chunk either. We can break it up in to three 10 minute slots. And for women especially, physical activity can be a great social activity too.

What a great excuse to get out of the house, meet up with a few friends for a walk in the great outdoor spaces we have and leave the bedtime routine and dishes for someone else!

Another positive for us, compared to the rest of the UK, is that our childhood obesity level is the lowest at 27% for children aged 2-15. But again, that means over a quarter of our youth are suffering effects of obesity from a young age and possibly developing lifestyle habits that will carry through into adulthood.

Although we have the lowest rate, it doesn’t mean that all of our children are healthy. We therefore need to ensure that physical activity starts at a young age, and what better way is there, than for women to be fantastic active role models for their children?

So while it’s great that NI is leading the way for active women, we must remember that the very large majority of us aren’t as active as we’re recommended to be.

Let’s not rest on our laurels, there is plenty more activity to be done!

So come on ladies (and men of course), take a look at your daily exercise level, and try to plan in a few more social walks, games of stick in the mud and stair runs each day.