Time for Exercise
Even if you are on the healthiest diet, exercise is still really important. Here are some suggestions if you are considering starting some regular exercise and want to start flexing those muscles.
There are basically three areas that we will look at:
- Stretching exercises
- Aerobic exercises
- Strength training/load-bearing exercises
1. Stretching exercises
This helps to maintain the range and flexibility that your joints require. A knock-on benefit is that stretching reduces the risk of muscle soreness and injury. You might consider joining a yoga or Pilates class which will help you to increase your stability and core body strength. But you can do all the stretching you need at home. It’s a good idea to make this type of exercise a part of your daily routine.
The following three stretching videos are a good starting point. I would suggest that you build up to all the stretches shown, maybe aiming to be able to do all the stretching exercises by the end of 7 days. Just play the videos, follow their instructions and let them give you the encouragement to continue.
This is a simple introduction to Pilates:
And this is a basic introduction to yoga:
Have a try at the above and see how you get on with the different methods. Some people are happier with one form of stretching than another.
2. Aerobic exercises
You could, of course, just join a local gym and take guidance from an instructor. However, if this is not for you at this stage, maybe consider regular walking, cycling or swimming as a starting point.
You could also consider buying a cross-trainer, exercise bike or running/walking machine. These are excellent ways of being in control of your daily aerobic exercise (not weather-dependant and you don’t need to get dressed up to go out). Increase duration and effort gradually so that your larger muscles can build up and your joints can strengthen without suffering soreness or strain.
Lots of people buy these exercise machines, never use them and end up selling them cheaply on 2nd-hand websites. Maybe that’s where you are best off finding one. You don’t want to be spending lots of money on new machines if you are still unsure that you are going to use them regularly.
Aerobic exercise will benefit your cardiovascular system. Aim to start with 15-20 mins per session, 3 or 4 days a week. Whether walking, cycling, swimming or using running/walking machines, exercise bikes or cross-trainers, ensure that you are able to pass the “talk test” – that is, exercising at a pace which also allows you to have enough spare breath to carry on a conversation.
Once 20 mins seems easy, start to increase exercise time and intensity until you can exercise comfortably for 40 mins without stopping.
3. Strength training
Again, you may wish to simply join your local gym and take advice from an instructor. Alternatively, as with aerobic exercise, you can start by doing all you need in the comfort of your own home.
You will need to purchase a set of dumbbell weights.
Some people prefer this type because they want to be able to vary the weight without having too many dumbbells around the place:
While other people prefer this type, because they are nicer to handle and don’t need to be adjusted in order to vary the weight:
Whichever type you get, I would start with no heavier than feels really comfortable for you to lift 8 times at your current strength level. It’s surprising how quickly you will improve as you practice and you’ll be able to lift heavier weights in time as your muscles and joints strengthen. Aim to gradually increase from 8 to 12 repetitions and do your initial weight-bearing exercises every other day for the first week or so, concentrating on different muscle groups each session.
Using dumbbells (or hand weights as they are also called) will improve your strength and posture, as well as maintain your bone strength and density, reduce the risk of lower back injuries and help your body tone up.
The following videos are a good starting point for the beginner:
And for the more adventurous:
All movement matters!
So, even if you’re too busy for your regular workout, find ways of keeping active.
Look for other ways to be in motion:
- walk up and down stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator
- walk or cycle instead of using the car whenever possible
- find a sport or outside activity you enjoy
- consider teaming up with a friend or a group of friends to exercise with you or share an activity
- offer to walk dogs – either your friend’s or those at a local dog rescue centre
Remember, research indicates that all those extra steps you take during the day will add up to big health benefits, not just physical but also mental and emotional.
Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/
Exercise for Mental Health – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
Health matters: getting every adult active every day – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-getting-every-adult-active-every-day/health-matters-getting-every-adult-active-every-day
A Little Exercise Might Lengthen Life – https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/little-exercise-might-lengthen-life
Exercise for brain health, study suggests – https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/all-news/exercise-231012
Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity – https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389