Thanks to Twitter I have come across Dr Juliet McGrattan, a fellow runner who is passionate about improving health through exercise and currently writing a health book for active women which will be published by Bloomsbury Sport.
Today I am sharing her top tips on improving your health through fitness, so over to Juliet now!
Exercise is a very powerful tool for improving your health at any age; it’s hugely under used! I think people see it as something they don’t have time for. You don’t however have to sign up for a marathon and let it take over your life. With a few simple steps you can make it work for you and reap the benefits it has to offer.
Here are my Top 10 Tips for ways you can improve your health through exercise:
1. Walk more. It sounds simple but walking is a fantastic way to exercise. You often just want to get from A to B as quickly as possible but use every opportunity to walk and it WILL pay off. With or without kids, hopping off the bus early, walking coffee breaks, work meetings and gossips with friends. Whatever works for you.
2. Be sociable. I’m a firm believer that exercise in groups and communities is one of the best ways to enjoy being active and keep people motivated. This might be a personal arrangement with friends or a bigger community like parkrun.
3. Set a goal. Sometimes exercising is the last thing we feel like doing, this is where having a target helps. Find an event or challenge that you can work up to and it will really help you on those lazy days. Make it a realistic goal but one that pushes you a bit and requires perseverance to reach it.
4. Find something you enjoy. To be beneficial to your health exercise has to be done regularly not as ‘binge exercising’. If you enjoy it you’re more likely to keep it up in the long term and that’s when you’ll see the benefits. Be imaginative, be daring. Whether it’s tap dancing, rowing or boxing there will be something that’s right for you.
5. Fit it in. 30 minute exercise sessions are ideal but if it suits you better then break it down into 10 minute blocks and spread them throughout the day. A quick walk, a few stomach exercises, some squats while the kettle is boiling. Honestly, that’s how it has to be done sometimes. It all counts and when you add them all up it can be an hours session which you’d never have fitted into your day otherwise.
6. Go heavy. There’s more evidence now about how resistance work improves your health. For example we used to think that only weight bearing activity like walking and running would improve your bone density and protect against osteoporosis. Now however we know that using weights helps too. Simple hand weights at home or tins of beans in the cupboard are good enough. There are some good DVDs and on-line resources to instruct you.
7. Add variety. We all lose enthusiasm sometimes. If you’re doing the same thing over and over again it gets repetitive and boring. Mix it up, try something new. Using different muscle groups for different activities gives you all round fitness.
8. Push yourself. You need to be nudged out of your comfort zone to improve your fitness. Sweating and being out of breath isn’t glamorous but it won’t hurt you, that’s when you get the real improvements to your cardiovascular system. It’s a sign that your body is adapting to the new strains you’re putting on it. It’s also when the feel good hormones start flowing which will keep you coming back for more. Go for it and don’t be shy.
9. Forget the weight loss. Lots of the benefits of exercise are not weight-related. Don’t be disheartened if you are trying to lose weight through exercise and it isn’t happening. You’ll be losing some of the internal fat around your organs which is hugely beneficial to your health. The way exercise helps protect against cancer, dementia and other serious diseases cannot be measured on your bathroom scales.
10. Celebrate success. Most importantly when you’ve reached your target you need to shout about it. Blog it, tweet it or just have a private dance around the kitchen. Treat yourself, set a new target and get a friend to join you. We need to help each other to keep going and it’s more fun to celebrate with someone else!