Why be physically active?
Our bodies are made to move! They were not made to sit still for most of the day at home, at work, or in the car.
Being ‘physically active’ simply means moving your body in any way that requires effort. This includes things such as walking, kanikani, gardening, housework, hunting, kapa haka, and having a physically challenging job.
It’s important whānau are active in their day to day lives and eat well, to maintain a healthy lifestyle so they can enjoy a long life with their tamariki and mokopuna. Without regular physical activity our bodies lose strength and stamina. However, being physically active on a regular basis reduces the risk of, or improves the outcomes, of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Physical activity also makes you feel good and is associated with improved mental and spiritual health and wellbeing. “Mauri tu, mauri ora – an active soul is a healthy soul."
Physical activity is good for your health and makes your life more enjoyable! Being physically active can improve your health and reduce the risk, or improve outcomes, of several diseases like type two diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, improving your overall quality of life. Physical activity not only improves our health, but also is good for our wellbeing by creating a sense of awareness of te taiao (the natural environment), which helps to improve our hinengaro (mental wellbeing), and builds whakawhanaungatanga by creating an opportunity to spend time with whānau and friends.
Some benefits of being regularly active include:
• You’ll be in better overall health, reducing the risk for many conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, type two diabetes, depression and some cancers.
• You’ll have more energy.
• You’ll have better posture and balance.
• You’ll have stronger muscles and bones.
• It’s fun.
• It raises your self-esteem.
• It helps you manage your weight.
• It improves your fitness.
• It can improve your sleep.
• You’ll feel more relaxed, and less stressed!
• And it’s a great way to spend quality time with whānau and friends.
In modern life, there are a number of reasons why whānau are not as physically active as our tūpuna:
• Prior to colonisation, Māori had to be active in order to live. Whānau worked, migrated, fought, and performed in tribal groups and survival was as a collective pursuit. This is the opposite of today’s modern approach to physical activity which tends to focus around the individual. This includes modern fitness equipment and the gym culture. This approach is quite different from the historical Māori collective approach and can be a reason why whānau are not as active.
• Whānau members and our social lives can be an influence on the amount of physical activity we do. When your whānau and wider hapū are not very active, this can influence the amount of activity you do. Incorporating a range of physical activity in to your daily routine, and involving your whānau, whare, and hapū helps to establish physical activity as a part of your normal everyday lifestyle. Why not get a whānau walking group together with young and old from your marae?
• Television, the internet, social media and playstation can significantly reduce the amount of activity we do. Limiting how much time whānau spend using technology is a good starting point towards being more active. Why not try going for a walk, gathering kai moana, hunting kai in the ngahere, or throwing the ball around in the backyard or at the park instead?
• Many jobs today involve low levels of physical activity, with staff spending long periods of time seated in front of a computer, operating machinery, or driving. Some whānau also spend more than 50 hours a week at work, leaving limited time for physical activity outside of work. The good news is, there are ways whānau can be more active while at work. Why not try biking or walking to work? If you have an office job, give walking or standing meetings a try and break up your day by standing where possible, like when you’re on a phone call.
• In days of old, if our tūpuna needed to get somewhere, they did not jump in their car and drive! Rather, they planned their voyage, be it far or short, and they walked for transport. In modern society, if we need milk, or if we are going to see a friend, so often we get in our cars without another thought and off we go. Take inspiration from our tupuna and where possible, walk to the shop, or to see your friends or whānau. Change your way of thinking so that wherever possible you choose walking as your form of transport, and encourage your whānau to do the same. It won’t take long to make it in to a habit and the health of you and your whānau will benefit from it!
There are lots of other ways to be active that can be incorporated into everyday life and can involve whānau. It doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym, and it doesn’t need to cost a cent! Ideas include:
• Walking to the shops
• Swimming in the river
• Go for a bike ride with whānau or friends
• Undertaking active tasks in the whare or on the marae, such as cleaning, gardening, cooking kai, and general maintenance.
On average we spend half of our day being ‘sedentary’ (seated being inactive), be it sitting watching television, sitting working at our desks, sitting in our car driving, or sitting in the wharenui sharing korero. Whānau who sit too much every day are at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and shorter life spans.
Many jobs today involve low levels of physical activity, with staff spending long periods of time seated in front of a computer, operating machinery or driving. Some whānau also spend more than 40 hours a week at work, leaving limited time for physical activity outside of work. The good news is, there are ways whānau can be more active. Why not try biking or walking to work, meetings, or to the marae, introduce walking or standing hui, and break up your sitting day by standing when you’re on a phone call, while fishing, or while preparing kai. Your body is made to move so do your bit throughout the day to sit less.
Remember a little activity is better than none, "He pai ake te iti i te kore". Start slowly and set goals to move more that are achievable. If you’re just getting started, remember the following:
• Some activity is better than no activity.
• Adults should be moderately active for at least 30 minutes a day.
• Children and young people 5-18 years should be moderately active for at least 60 minutes a day.
• Do some vigorous activity for extra health benefits and fitness.
• You can do shorter periods of activity over the day e.g. 10 minutes three times a day.
• Reduce sitting activities and time spent watching a screen (tv, computer, gaming etc).
• Aim to be active most days of the week.
• Even small increases in physical activity can improve quality of life.
• It's never too late to start.
Wai (water) is essential for life.
“Tuatahi ko te wai, tuarua whānau mai te tamaiti, ka puta te whenua.”
“When a child is born the water comes first, then the child, followed by the afterbirth, what we call our whenua. In this way water is intimately connected to Mother Earth and to the people who live on her.”
This is a whakataukī/proverb that reflects Māori perception and relationships with water, it is not just about something to drink, wash, and swim in, it is much much more than that.
As Māori we continue to have a close relationship with wai in all its forms, both spiritually and physically. Water is a living taonga (treasure) of huge importance and enhancing the health and wellbeing of our waterways is a priority. This is because our personal health individually and as a whānau or hapū is closely linked to the health of our water bodies and how they bring us kai, leisure and pleasure, and a sense of spiritual wellbeing and cultural strength.
Water is found in all our body tissues and makes up approximately 50 to 60% of our bodies. Without enough water we become dehydrated – this can lead to problems including fainting, headaches and kidney damage.
The amount of water you need to drink depends on factors such as your health conditions, how active you are, and whether you live in a hot climate. The more you exercise and sweat, the more water you need to drink.
Sports drinks are not necessary after exercise. They are expensive, create unnecessary rubbish and contain lots sugar which is harmful to your teeth and causes weight gain. The best drink option, before, during, and after being physically active, is water. It is free from the tap and the perfect way to hydrate!
Here are some easy ways to drink more water:
• Carry a water bottle with you.
• Set an alarm or download an app to remind you when to drink more fluids.
• Have a glass of water before and after each meal — a lemon, lime, orange, or your favourite fruit to keep your taste buds satisfied.
• In winter, drink warm water with lemon, or mint leaves.
We need to drink more water when we exercise to replace what is used.