If you’ve got out of the habit of exercising (or never really had it!), don’t make the mistake of trying to change lots of things over night.
First of all check with your GP or Health Practitioner that it’s okay to start exercising (in almost all cases it is) and then set out to make some gradual changes that will still bring you some results within weeks.
It’s the stuff of life coaches and self-help books, but having a vision of where you want to get to will help you achieve your goals. Writing down what you want to achieve as if you’ve already achieved it, creating ‘mood boards’ with pictures of how you want to look and feel have been proven to increase your chances of success.
Make a plan
The 30, 60 and 90 day planning process is often used in business planning, job seeking and sales. And it’s a great tool to use in fitness planning, too. Most personal trainers work to make changes after six weeks. Try to change one habit a week, or try something new every week. If you’re starting from a low exercise level why not start by a small amount you can easily achieve and then increase gradually over time, for example take the stairs rather than the lift in your first week and then gradually increase the time you walk for each day as the weeks go on. If you are already exercising you could try adding some new exercises to your programme, the choice is yours. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s a positive change.
Walk don’t run
Organisations such as the British Heart Foundation recommend walking 10,000 steps a day measured using a pedometer. Most of us walk between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day anyway, so reaching 10,000, or around five miles, can be achieved. If you weigh in at 11st (70kg) you will burn 440 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly (3.5mph), if you weight more than this you will burn more. If walking to work isn’t an option, use public transport rather than drive, one study has found train users walk an average of 30 per cent more steps a day, and are four times more likely to walk 10,000 steps per day than car commuters.
Fitting exercise into your daily routine
The time of day that is best to exercise depends on the individual, there may be certain times of day you feel you have more energy or you may be restricted due to other commitments such as work and family life. In terms of physiological effectiveness, many studies have found that late afternoon is best as this is when your body temperature is optimum. When it comes to sticking at it, other research has found getting up and getting it done in the morning is most effective, and that our body clock adapts best to morning training.
Join a group
Group exercise, such as aerobic and studio classes are a great way to get started in fitness. As well as offering a variety of exercises (aerobic, muscular strength and endurance and stretching), working out in a group is fun and you may feel more committed to attend in order to not let the group down. Studio instructors are very good at motivating you to work hard and adapting classes for different levels of fitness. Scientists at Oxford University studying a group of rowers found that group exercise can release the happy hormones endorphins, making you not just happier but more effective as you exercise.
Stick to the old school exercises
Old school military exercises such as sit ups and press ups have stood the test of time; one because they’re effective and two because there are only so many ways we can move our bodies. The current exercise trend is around high intensity interval training (HIIT), where you work as hard as you can (around 95 per cent of max heart rate) for very short bursts, but that’s not really new. It’s how Roger Bannister trained to break the four-minute mile!
If you want to burn fat, pump iron. The biggest misconception is that cardio is the only way to burn calories and lose fat. When you train at a lower intensity, for example, marathon running, your body learns to store fat as fuel, the fuel it needs to use on longer runs. The quickest and most effective way to change your body shape is through weight training, which teaches your body to store glycogen (glucose or sugar) as fuel in the muscles. You create more lean muscle, which not only looks aesthetically pleasing, but it also means that your body becomes better at burning calories, after you’ve finished exercising, the ‘after burn’ effect.