According to Yes We Care, it takes time and effort to get and stay in shape. Here are some tips to help you reap the benefits with a little less struggle.
1. Mix up your exercise
Variety is the spice of life and many sports and activities support each other in ways you will not realise until you try them. For example, strength training for your legs and core will make you a better runner while those addicted to dumb-bells will find Pilates works muscles they had never even considered.
2. Record your stats
Nothing builds motivation as efficiently as seeing signs of improvement, so make sure you keep some kind of record of your activity. It can be as simple as noting your record five-rep maximum time or fastest 5KM time, using either one of the many excellent fitness apps available or old-fashioned pen and paper.
3. Adjust targets on trackers
If you invest in a fitness tracker, do not just sit back and assume that following the preset targets will lead you to glory. Adjust the steps, active minutes and calorie targets regularly to build on your progress, or make them more realistic if you never get close and have started to ignore them. If you do not engage with your fitness tech, you will quickly discard it.
4. Add in short bursts of activity
It is the oldest quick fitness fix in the book: take the stairs not the escalator, or get off the bus a stop early and walk. Any activity is a good activity and will only encourage you to do more. If you really want to up the ante, try sprinting up the stairs (safely now) each time you take them. A recent study found that short bursts of high-intensity stair-climbing can make a significant difference to your cardiorespiratory fitness.
5. Keep tabs on your visceral fat
You can be skinny on the outside (at least your arms and legs), but fat on the inside. Visceral fat is the type that builds up around your organs and often results in a potbelly. It is linked with heart disease, several cancers and type 2 diabetes. Check your waist-to-height ratio (WtHR) to see if you are at risk. Grab a piece of string and use it to measure your height, then halve it. If it does not fit around your waist, get exercising – visceral fat is the first type to go when you start working out.
6. Value your rest days
When you start on a fitness kick, it is tempting to exercise every day while motivation is high. This is a bad movie and one that will see your enthusiasm burn out within weeks because you are always knackered and will not see the massive improvements you expect for your Herculean efforts. Why? You are not giving your muscles the time they need to recover and grow.
7. Up the intensity if you are short on time
Official UK National Health Service (NHS) guidelines still promote the 150 minutes of moderate activity a week minimum, but now offer an alternative option of 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. That is running or singles tennis, for example, rather than cycling or walking, which count as moderate. You can also mix the two, so 60 minutes of vigorous cardio plus 30 of moderate will see you home. Bear in mind the guidelines also demand strength exercises on two or more days a week alongside your aerobic activity.
8. Take your niggles seriously
Nothing derails a health kick as quickly as injury and many serious knocks will start out as mild niggles that you think it is OK to push through. Easing back for a few days is better than being laid up for a few months. If you have an urgent desire to hit the gym, target a different part of the body from the one that is bothering you.
9. Mix up your fruit and veg
Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day should be at the cornerstone of your healthy diet plan. What is not wise is getting in a rut and eating the same five every day, because different types of fruit and veg contain different vitamins and minerals. A good way to vary your five-a-day is to eat different colours, as the hue is a decent indication of the nutrients they contain.
10. Do not undervalue your sleep
There is tendency for people who sleep very little to brag about it, as if it is an indication of their commitment to life. However, getting the full seven to eight hours is vital to a healthy lifestyle, as it provides the energy for your exercise and even influences dietary choices – a 2016 study found that in the day following a night of limited sleep, people ate an extra 385 calories on average. If you do not snooze, you lose.
11. Make it social
However you are planning on getting fitter, whether it is taking up a new sport, hitting the gym or making your diet healthier, try to enlist a friend to do it with you. You will push each other to stay on track and have someone who will sympathise when the going gets tough. If no one springs to mind, then join a local club or online community and you will make a whole bunch of new friends that share your interest.
12. Do not neglect mobility work
Whether you fully embrace yoga or Pilates or just make time for some short stretching sessions every few days, mobility work is a vital part of maintaining your long-term health. It will help you perform better and avoid injuries in your main activity, as well as combatting the posture issues that can arise from long days spent sitting at a desk.
13. Consider The Mental Benefits Of Exercise
The physical benefits of being active are obvious, but it is only once you start exercising regularly that it also becomes clear how much of a boost it can provide to your mental health. Try to disconnect from the stresses you might have in your work and home life, and pay attention to your workout rather than let your mind flit to the past or future. If you are not sure how to get started with this, Headspace has partnered with the Nike+ Run Club app to offer free guided running and mindfulness sessions, which are certainly worth a try.
14. Increase your cadence on your runs
If you are consistently picking up injuries when running, one change worth trying is to up your rate of strides per minute (your cadence). If you overstrike, thus taking fewer steps, you put extra pressure on your knee and hip joints. Try and take more steps, which means your feet will land more beneath your body, reducing the impact on your joints.
15. Make full use of your street furniture
Exercising outdoors is a great way to ensure you get your hit of vitamin D (if it is sunny) as well as a good workout, and it does not have to be all cardio. As well as the exercise machines that litter many parks, you can nearly always find a bar or ledge for pull-ups or a bench or wall to do dips on. Rarer treats can even include chains to use as ersatz TRX ropes.
This article was sourced from Spar Pharmacy: yeswecare.co.za