We’re approaching the end of January and the cracks in our New Year’s fitness resolutions may be beginning to show…
We all know how difficult it can be to keep fitness levels up when it’s lashing down with rain or frosted over with ice, but if you pledged to improve your fitness levels this year and you’re struggling to keep up your momentum, it’s important to know that keeping active could be easier than you think.
The benefits of regular exercise for the body are well documented and publicised in the media. From reducing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers, to keeping the lymphatic system active (which will help to boost your immune system) – exercise is a powerful weapon to improve your health and wellbeing.
What you may not know is that exercise has an incredible effect on your brain too. Not only does exercise release endorphins which helps to boost your mood, but it can also reduce inflammation and create new neurones which cause new activity patterns in the brain – promoting feelings of calm and wellbeing!
Sounds too good to be true? It doesn’t have to be! Beginning your fitness journey can be a daunting prospect, but there are a great many ways to be active without too much exertion on the body:
Walking is something few of us count as exercise and although it doesn’t typically require much exertion, it’s an easy way to keep your body active and mobile. Join a walking group to meet new people, arrange a walk to catch up with old friends or even spend more quality time with your canine companion – walking will help to keep your mind and body active.
Be active around the house – general household activities such as cooking and cleaning all help to keep you active, and heavy gardening including pushing, bending, squatting, carrying, digging and shovelling can provide a surprisingly effective workout without realising it!
The NHS have a ‘Strength and Flex’ programme which is a five-week exercise plan to increase strength and flexibility for beginners
Try something new! Find a new hobby to not only keep your body active but also meet new people and discover new experiences. Stepping outside your comfort zone can help to give your confidence a boost and improve your all-round wellbeing. If you’re not sure where to start, the BBC has a useful tool called “Which sport are you made for?“, or maybe try these:
Yoga, tai chi, and Pilates all benefit both physical and mental health by combining gentle exercise with relaxation.
Yoga is thought to have originated in India and combines meditation, poses and breathing to improve the health of the mind and body. Holding the poses in yoga will help to build strength, flexibility and balance, and the gentle nature of yoga makes it suitable for all ability levels.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese art. The key focus of tai chi is to harmonise the inner and outer self which is achieved through slow and controlled movements whilst meditating. Tai chi typically involves more movement than yoga, but the constant and slow motions are low intensity and will help to build strength, flexibility and balance.
Pilates is similar to yoga in its combination of poses, breathing and balance but with a focus on the core postural muscles. Pilates can sometimes require the use of equipment but mostly involves stretching and strengthening the whole body. From beginners to elite athletes, Pilates can help to recover from injury, improve balance, muscle strength, flexibility and posture.
Swimming, aqua aerobics and working out in water are ideal for anyone who needs to be mindful of the impact exercise puts on their bones and joints. Medical conditions, disabilities and age can present a vast array of complications which make exercising far more difficult, but choosing an activity that raises your heart rate without putting pressure on your bones and joints could be the perfect solution.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember that the key to fitness is consistency. It’s never too late to begin your fitness journey and by finding an activity that you genuinely enjoy, you’ll be more likely to commit to a longer-term lifestyle change.
Here’s to a healthy and happy 2018!
Always consult your doctor before making any radical lifestyle changes.