Are you doing enough exercise? Do you know what the current guidelines are and how much more you need to do if you want to see changes rather than to maintain your fitness? We are constantly told that everyone is getting bigger and bigger and that it is bad for us to spend hours sat at our desks. We know that we probably should be doing more in order to stay fit and healthy. But what should we be doing and what does that look like in a week? Read on to get clear and for some great tips to get you started.
The NHS recommends that we do 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week which should include two lots of strength training. This is the minimum that will help you to STAY fit and healthy. In simple terms this would break down into 30 minutes a day. This does not have to be done in a gym. The key is that you need to get breathless during this time. You can walk, run, cycle, swim, climb or work in the garden. It is your choice but you need to get your heart rate up and to be breathing harder.
The other measure that you will have heard of is the idea that we should all be doing 10,000 steps a day. Much has been made of the fact that this does not have a scientific basis but it is broadly accepted as an achievable figure for most. I always try to get my clients to commit to this if they don’t already do it. Having a target keeps you focused and will result in you moving more to ensure that you hit it. The key as always is to keep yourself challenged and to push yourself a little bit further. This is where a fitness tracker can really help. You can find out more as to whether they work here.
Michael Mosley made a documentary that tested whether 10,000 steps a day was an effective measure. The experiment they ran was to see whether 10,000 steps a day or 2 bursts of brisk walking for 10 minutes would deliver the better results. You can read more here if you would like to.
I have a problem with all these measures. I work with clients every day and there is a disconnect between what we should be doing and what we actually do each week. I can help clients to see results working with me for an hour each week. The key as to how quickly they will see change lies in what they do for all the other hours in their week. It is the steps that they take day in day out that will really boost their health, fitness and well being too. A healthy lifestyle is about what you do every day not just for the hour a week that you spend in the gym. We need to be more active and doing 10,000 steps a day will be an increase for most people. Quite often it is not until you use a tracker that you really see how little you are doing. Getting up from your desk every hour and walking will help. Parking further away in the car park or getting off the bus a stop earlier all adds up. Go for a walk at lunchtime or in the morning before work. Find ways to do more every day.
As well as underestimating our activity levels, we often misjudge how hard we need to work when training. Many people will go to the same class or do the same run over and over – it has become a habit. On one level that is great because you are regularly taking the time to exercise. The key to look for here is for you to be working hard and out of breath. Our bodies will take around 6 weeks to adapt to a workout. After that we won’t find it so hard or see the same improvement. We would need to do more or to change things to get the same hit. We are creatures of habit but it is all about continuing to push yourself to work at the limit of your comfort zone and beyond. You can do so much more than you realise if you just push that little bit harder.
Strength training and weight bearing exercise are fundamental to our health. If you only take one thing away from today then let it be this. As we get older we get stiffer. We lose muscle strength and flexibility and our bones get weaker. You can take action that will help to protect against all of this. Don’t worry that it is too late. Even bone strength can be rebuilt so you can do this whatever your age. Walking, running and strength training are all weight bearing. It is by driving force through the bones that we rebuild and maintain their strength. Going to the gym or doing a class can really help with muscle strength too. Ageing joints can be less stable and strength exercises will build key muscles giving greater support in joints such as shoulders, hips and knees. Our core strength is severely compromised with all the time that we spend sitting down. Working on this area helps your balance and in doing so will help to protect against falls as you get older.
It can feel daunting to start doing more exercise particularly if you only have limited experience. Gyms can be intimidating places and no one wants to feel out of their depth, worrying about what to do or being scared of doing more harm than good. I started a class for 55+ ladies over 5 years ago. At that stage they were keen to do more but didn’t want to join high energy ‘Metafit’ classes with younger people and the only other option was Pilates. We use lighter weights but they all work hard and push themselves. There is a big social element too with lots of chat and giggles. We work around aching joints and niggles and the odd replacement joint too. They are all fitter and stronger and can do so much more than when we started. In fact they can all do as much as my younger clients and in some cases more!
If a class is not for you then try a session with a Personal Trainer or get the instructor in the gym to write a plan for you. There are lots of resources online from running plans to interval training to weights sessions. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and build up the amount that you are doing. Remember that this is about what you do every day not just about exercising for an hour a week. It all adds up and there has been some evidence that even an hour in the gym will not undo the damage of being stationary for 8 hours every day. So make it your mission to get moving and to do more than you do right now. That is the key to change. You need activity that makes you breathless and that feels uncomfortable. It is not ‘no pain, no gain’ but you do need to work harder than you think.
If you need some more help then you there are plenty more blog posts for you to read here. My book ‘Moving More – Finding your path to a stronger, healthier, happier you’ brings together my experience of working with clients over the last 8 years and gives you a clear system to follow. It is often the first steps that are the hardest. I have made it easy and simple to follow. Throughout the book you will find stories and tips from my clients to support your journey and to keep you motivated. You can buy your copy here.
Those of you who would like more support and the accountability that comes from working in a group may be interested in my Group Get Moving Plan. I created this plan for those of you who want structure, accountability and support. The first group saw amazing results and many are now going through it again to take their results to the next level. I give you really clear instructions, videos to follow at home, weekly emails packed with support and advice with a WhatsApp group that gives daily access to both me and the rest of the group. You can do the whole plan remotely so you could be anywhere in the world or if you are in Ayrshire we have a Welcome meeting, Outdoor Bootcamps and a Celebration at the end too. The next plan starts on August 23rd and you can see more here. Spaces are limited so will fill up fast.
I hope that I have got you thinking about how you can move more and why it is vital that you do so right now. I wish I could make you see how much better you will feel and how much easier everything feels when you are fitter and full of energy. It really is a case of doing it and seeing for yourself. That is why so many people who have lost weight and got fitter are so keen to share their story and to encourage others to do the same! I would love to hear how you get on and what you thought of my book too.