Tag Archives: fitness

Meet the #BeActive Team: Kari

I used to be a runner- the kind who runs not for health or weight loss but for fun. There  were running holidays and running friends, tough races in the mountains and long beautiful runs along hiking trails.

Then, suddenly in April 2012, I became someone with a slipped disc. When I left the hospital I couldn’t walk unassisted and the doctors told me I would never run again (they were wrong but that is another story). They also told me that the only sport I would be able to practice was freestyle swimming. At the time I could only swim breaststroke and didn’t even enjoy it that much, but I was determined to make the most out of it – not only would I learn to swim freestyle, I would also turn swimming into the kind of fun adventure that running used to be for me.

It was fairly obvious that pool swimming was not going to do the trick.

Sure, the first 100 meters of freestyle felt like an amazing achievement and I was thrilled the first time I actually caught up with the person in front of me in the lane (regardless of the fact that this someone was doing heads-up breaststroke and had distinctive white curls). But this was not what I wanted to do, this was not why I had learnt to swim.

I set about to look for my swimming adventure and quickly realised that there is one stretch of water that really stands out when it comes to swimming challenges, one swim that is more epic, more mythical than any other swim: the English Channel.

More people have climbed Mount Everest than have completed a Channel solo swim. It takes years to prepare for a challenge of this size and it was clearly beyond my reach.

Instead, I settled on doing a more manageable chunk of the Channel by registering for an international Channel relay team. There are six of us and we will take turns to swim an hour at a time. The past 12 months have been filled with pool sessions, Skype phone calls and a never-ending hunt for suitable lakes, rivers or beaches for open water training.

My swim is scheduled for 24 June and I am terrified.

The temperature in the Channel is currently a bone-chilling 13 degrees, cold enough to make your teeth hurt. Despite training for a whole year, I have not managed to fit in a single session of swimming in big waves. I am afraid of fish.  It is the world’s busiest shipping lane.

But it is ok to be terrified, if it was easy it wouldn’t be an adventure.

Kari is a Swedish national and has worked for the European Commission for more than three years. As the Social Media Team Leader in the Youth and Sport Directorate of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture, Kari is responsible for the digital and social media aspects of the #BeActive campaign.

Would you like to know how Kari’s adventure evolves? Follow the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Facebook account for updates on her progress.

Top 10 reasons to #BeActive. Do you know them all?

Many people are motivated to engage in sport and physical activity by the prospect of weight loss and/or an increase in fitness levels. The truth is, there is so much more to be gained. Here are our top 10 reasons to #BeActive:

  1. Reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. This is no joke – the top 10 killers in the 50 highest-income countries are all connected to lack of physical activity
  2. Strengthen your bones… Physical activity slows the loss of bone density that comes with age. This is particularly important for women, who are most likely to suffer from osteoporosis.
  3. Support lung function… By exercising regularly your body becomes better at loading, transporting and utilising oxygen. Breathe on.
  4. Energy supercharge… It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you are feeling tired all the time, try exercise. It helps boost energy levels and reduce fatigue.
  5. Don’t worry, be happy… You know that feeling you get after a workout, swim or long walk? That’s from the endorphins released through exercise, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Exercise can also help alleviate feelings of depression.
  6. Self-confidence boost… Studies have shown increased self-esteem in those who exercise regularly. It also turns out that if you exercise outdoors, you’ll get an even bigger boost.
  7. Your moment of ZenExercise reduces stress, anxiety and tension. Physical activity increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
  8. Creativity surge… Physical activity has been shown to boost creativity for a few hours. So think about squeezing a workout in during your lunch break if you have an important creative project to work on in the afternoon.
  9. Sweet dreams Regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer – just don’t exercise too close to bedtime or the energy boost will keep you awake!
  10. Brain power Exercise sharpens your memory, concentration and brain power. Who doesn’t want a bit more of that?

So, you see, it’s about so much more than weight loss and a fit body. The benefits of participating in sport and physical activity are innumerable – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Watch this space to find out more and join the #MyWeek #BeActive Challenge.