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Keep on moving

Zahrah Mahmood shares with us how she fits physical activity around a busy working day and an even busier home life, and the benefits she's discovered through making time to move more.

Published: 19/06/2023

While I love my weekend hikes, I’ve become even more acutely aware of the fact that my
sedentary desk job means I can barely get to 2,000 steps on some days if I don’t force
myself to leave my desk! I’m also in a stage of my life where a lot of my time is accounted
for as a (relatively new) working mum of a rambunctious toddler. Because of all these daily
priorities, I am having to remind myself to make time for me. And the way I do that is to get
myself moving.

For me, and I know a lot of people will resonate with this, half the battle is actually getting
myself outdoors - once I'm out, I’m happy and I don’t ever regret that time! So, here are a few of the things I do to help keep my activity levels up.

•    The night before, I will lay out my trainers and any active wear. I will lay them out somewhere unavoidable, e.g. trainers by the door! So they serve as a permanent reminder that I still need to get out.

•    If I don’t get out during the day, then I always try to take a walk after dinner. Not only does it help digest food, but also fresh air before bed always clears my mind! (There’s also some science behind it, it’s said to improve your overall sleep quality!) I’ve been recently taking solitary walks after my son goes to bed and I’ve felt a strong positive effect on my mental health. I do realise this is a privilege (i.e. having your partner/someone in the house to keep an eye on your child) but you can also consider a quick family walk after dinner if that suits you more.

•    Consider walking wherever possible, instead of driving. So one option for me is, when we get out of the door quick enough I’ll take my son to nursery in the buggy before work, or if I have a parcel return to do then I’ll walk to the Post Office.

•    If you take public transport, then consider getting off one stop earlier. I do this quite often and those extra steps really do rack up!

•    A really easy one to adopt is to park further away from the supermarket entrance. Win-win, as there’s more free spaces the further out you get, but also you get some extra steps without even noticing.

I have also recently set myself a weekly step target, as a daily step target can sometimes feel like more pressure. As a working mum, it gives me flexibility and it doesn’t have to be a
really high target. If your “baseline” is quite low to start with and then all of a sudden you’re
aiming for 10,000 steps a day, it’s very unlikely you’ll stay consistent. So, smaller equals
more consistent and sustainable in my eyes!

The lift in my energy and mood after a walk, or being more active, is just irreplaceable. I know that when I prioritise my mental health I am so much more present and engaged for my son and my family. They get the best version of me and that makes me feel so fulfilled.

You can follow Zahrah's adventures over on Instagram.