“I have just had a baby,” I said to my friend on the phone the other day, as I justified why I haven’t done any “proper exercise” in the last year.

“you had your baby a year ago Punam,” she replied. Now my friend meant well and I am grateful to her for calling me and my excuse out, but it did sting a little.

I am not perfect, nobody is. I too have found this last year really hard, in fact probably one of the toughest years of my life.

I have tried my best to keep things bumbling along, navigating the daily juggles and struggles with work and family, like everyone else.

I have learnt that to keep some plates spinning, some have to sometimes fall but this conversation made me put all my plates down and review things again.

I am an advocate for healthy living but I am also a realist. I understand that reviewing someone’s lifestyle involves being non-judgemental, compassionate and kind. It also means that you cannot apply a “one size fits all” strategy because you need to meet people where they are at.

The healthcare needs of an elderly, frail individual will differ from those of a young, fit adolescent but both have the capacity to incorporate healthier choices and habits to enhance their lifestyles whether this is through their diet, exercise, sleep or ability to manage their own mental health.

Over the past 12 months, the pandemic has affected people in different ways. It has inspired some to get up and get fitter but it has also caused others who were previously fit to perhaps let go a little.

There is no right or wrong; the last year has been all about survival and we have managed this in whatever way we could. Now we are starting to emerge out the other side and the opportunity is there to take back some control – but how?

I had my baby at the peak of the first wave. I will be honest and admit that my choices have not always been the best. There has been a lot of reaching for biscuits and crisps! Lockdown has been rough and food did become, for many including myself, the only form of comfort which coupled with increasing winter sedentary routines has seen a wave of fatigue and general slump.

So how do we get out of this lockdown routine? The answer is pick just one thing you want to change. I spoke to a patient, newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes this week. “I don’t know where to start,” they said. We start small and we go slow. Your health and fitness journey, unlike the adverts and celebs would have you believe, is a long and evolving one.

If I could prescribe one thing right now, it would be to get more movement into your life. I often use the mantra, “sit less, move more” and it applies to everyone.

Personally I can no longer use my postpartum status as an excuse so I too am making the pledge to myself to get moving everyday and with the lighter days ahead, I’m promising myself to do this outside to double up the benefits of movement and vitamin D from the sun.

I am starting with a simple walk everyday and I am putting zero pressure on myself. I am competing with nobody and aiming to do a little more than the previous day, making a point to set realistic and achievable goals. This will vary from person to person.

As a busy working mum of two, I need to find the time and space where I can fit my dose of exercise in. Little things make a big difference so writing out your ideal routine, setting reminders and preparing the night before can help eg. trainers at the door.

For adults over the age of 18, the aim is to be able to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week where you are out of breath but still able to talk or 75 minutes of high intensity where you find it difficult to talk. However, remember this is guidance, do what you can do – any movement is better than none and go at your own pace.

I have started the couch to 5k which is a free NHS app that anyone can download. It is easy to use and takes you slowly through a week by week programme which you can control.

The benefits of exercise are far-reaching and an investment into your future health goals. Not only does it reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and mental health problems, it also reduces the risk of certain cancers like bowel and breast.

We know that exercise aids better sleep and is hugely beneficial in managing stress and improving mental wellbeing so really, it’s one of the best prescriptions I can ever give out with zero side effects.

I would love for you to join me in reviewing your lifestyle and seeing where you can make that one small change; that commitment and promise to your future healthy self.