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The role of Physical Activity in improving Wellbeing.

Element 3 of Empower’s Wellbeing Programme is ‘PHYSICAL ACTIVITY’. I have personal experience of the life changing impact being more active has had on my life and how it has massively enhanced my Wellbeing, and it’s the reason now why I’m so passionate about encouraging and inspiring people to become more active.

April 26th saw the launch of Empower Active – a natural extension of our Zero to Parkrun Learn to Run programme. It was suggested by one of our runners who is now injured and unable to carry on running, but still wants to part of our encouraging and supporting Purple Army community. The target audience are those people who want to take that first step to becoming more active, to build up to the recommended 10,000 steps a day – but who are reluctant to get out walking alone. The impact of the global pandemic on our sense of Wellbeing has been huge – and feelings of loneliness and isolation a very real challenge facing lots of individuals within our communities.

When we become more physically active we start to appreciate our bodies for what they can do rather than criticising and stressing about the way they look, or comparing our bodies with others. It changes our entire perspective and helps us to see what we are truly capable of, or at least that has been my experience.

For many years I lived the life of a stereotypical couch potato. Since my school days where although I played netball, Goal Keeper was my position of choice so I only had to cover a third of the court! Over the years I dabbled in various activities, motivated to a large extent by the group of close friends I had who were all great fans of exercise. I remember visiting the ‘Tone Zone’ in Ystrad Rhondda Sports Centre when I was in my late teens, early twenties – which feels like a lifetime ago and would lift light weights, and wander aimlessly around the gym looking as if I knew what I was doing, but actually had more enjoyment from the pasty in the café afterwards.

I often tell the story of attending an aerobics class, the instructor stood at the front with her blonde ponytail and amazing figure, with no cellulite in sight, and told us to run around the sports hall three times to warm up – I ran around once, half way through I thought ‘I can’t do this’ and on the second circuit of the room I simply kept running all the way through the door, and went home. I thought I was dying and the class hadn’t even started! Needless to say, aerobics, or any form of keeping fit, didn’t play a large part in my life after that until many years later.

The promotion of Physical Activity is a major driving force within the Empower philosophy – the benefits of getting outside in the fresh simply cannot be underestimated. One week into our Empower Active initiative I’m already getting great feedback that getting outside with like-minded company is already making a difference to our members.

Since launching my Zero to Parkrun course back in February 2021 the results have been incredible. Learning to run has made such an incredible difference to the lives of so many who have successfully completed the course and have now become accomplished runners. The community we have created where the atmosphere is one of encouragement, support and zero competition has simply changed people lives. The increase in confidence, resilience and self-esteem is clear to see amongst those who have embraced the challenge and who recognise the rewards which come with effort. If you’ve spent your life being inactive, disliking getting out of puff, or breaking into a sweat – then taking that first step is always the hardest – but 100% worth it. If you’re reading this today and want to start being more active but don’t know where to start, here are some top tips.

1. Get yourself a step monitor/counter – a cheap pedometer or watch, no need for anything fancy – but make sure it records your steps all day. If you buy something which needs switching on, like your phone, or if you need to change the mode to ‘walk’ then it won’t be so effective. You move from the minute you get up in the morning – you want to record this movement as a true reflection of how active/inactive you truly are.

2. Give yourself a few days of ‘normal’ movement and make a note of it – I call these ‘control’ days. Just like as if you were carrying out a science experiment – you need to know what you normally do, so you know when you’re putting in an effort. When I started increasing my step count to 10,000 I decided to approach it like I approached losing weight a few years previously – consistently and in no great rush. You’re going to change your entire lifestyle to become more active, it doesn’t matter how long it takes.

3. Once you have these ‘control’ numbers, then you can start to build by adding at least 500 steps extra each day – do not set your expectations too high too early or you’ll crash and burn, be disappointed and give up.

4. You can increase your step count really easily – one tip is to take each individual person’s washing or ironing up the stairs at a time – or park the car further away from the supermarket entrance – or if you’re working from home, factor in a ‘walking commute’ before and after work, maybe around the block? Small changes really can make a huge difference.

Aiming to build to a regular 10,000 steps a day is a great way to improve your health and wellbeing, but you’re better off taking your time to build this into your lifestyle than rushing to tick the 10,000 box a few times, then going back to being that couch potato. When I made the decision to start moving more in around 2014, I was averaging around 3000 steps a day – it took me a good 18 months before I was smashing 10,000 every day. After that there was no stopping me, I had the bug by then, did a beginners running course – did my first 5k in September 2015 and in that first year I ran 7 half marathons, topping it off in October 2017 with a marathon, and now – I run around 1000 miles a year and teach people to run.

It is widely accepted that becoming more physically active improves your Wellbeing. So what are you waiting for, get started today.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY is point 3 of Empower’s 7 Point Wellbeing Programme.

To find out more, contact

Joanne Juliff –

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