Most of us know the benefits of increased physical activity, including maintaining a healthy weight and being mentally more alert. Yet growing waistlines suggest we haven't really signed up to the idea. Successive programmes of investment in sport to encourage increased participation have failed to make an impact. Why could this be?
The added benefit of a quick mindful moment is that you put yourself in a frame of mind where you're open to and curious about the present moment. When you do that right before you go and do something you've never done before, you're much more likely to actually enjoy whatever it is you're about to do next. Imagine living a life where you could pretty much always enjoy new experiences!
This fairly harmless impulse to look good has been leapt upon by diet companies and magazines as some annual ritual, as if getting in shape or being healthy the rest of the year matters not. My key gripe, is that it sums up the biggest problem with exercise and diet: that it is primarily to lose weight.
My mother told me a few months after dad's death that he had often been distraught at what he felt was a self-inflicted illness. For me this was such an awful way for my father to approach the end of his life, especially a life which had provided so much joy to so many people. It is hard for me to admit, but I have felt angry with my dad since his death, because in a way he was right; it was self-inflicted. If he hadn't started smoking, or if he had given up in his twenties, thirties or even forties, I'm certain we would still be enjoying his glorious company today and for many years to come. However, it is not as simple as that.
As anyone who's ever suffered from clinical depression will tell you, it's an expert at convincing you that your despair is eternal, and destined to oppress you for the rest of your days. And it was when I was in that horrifically black place, staring down the barrel of what I truly believed would only be a lifetime of wretched agony, that my thoughts turned to suicide.
My plea is that we develop a major intervention with the next generation of young people who are growing up on a diet of misinformation about food, exercise and looking after their health. We really cannot let this level of bad education continue otherwise we are storing up huge problems as a society and for those individual young people that we care about.