Work out the smart way

fitness

Exercise can protect you from disease, slim your waistline and extend your lifespan. But doing it regularly is easier said than done. Work, stress, relationships and a lack of time can all stand in the way. But the right plan and knowledge about how to structure an exercise routine can help you make it a regular part of your life. Here are ways that you can start a fitness routine — and stick to it — so you can reap the vast benefits of exercise:

Know why

Everyone should exercise. But not everyone decides to do it for the same reasons. One critical thing you should ask yourself is this: What is your primary motivation? 

Did you get some alarming test results from your doctor that you want to change? Is your goal to gain muscle and increase your energy levels? Do you just want to look good naked? Understanding your motivation will help you stay on track when unexpected barriers cause you to think about quitting.

More motivation

Need some help choosing your ‘why’? Here are what studies have shown to be just a few of the many important reasons to exercise:

* Slows ageing: Ageing muscles have trouble regenerating and have fewer and less efficient mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of our cells. But exercise, especially when it’s high intensity, increases the number and health of mitochondria — essentially helping to reverse ageing at the cellular level.

* Makes people happy: Exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression and help you better cope with stress and anxiety.

* Lengthens lifespan: Exercise has been linked time and time again to reduced mortality. Every hour of running you do adds an estimated seven hours to your life expectancy.

* Improves body composition: Most people gain fat as they get older. It’s essentially inevitable. But lifting weights and following a good diet have the opposite effect: They help you put on muscle and lose fat, even if you are older than 60.

* Boosts brain health: Studies of aerobic exercise have found that it protects your memory and helps stave off cognitive decline as you age.

* Improves microbiome: Studies show that exercise can drastically improve the composition of the trillions of microbes that live in the gut, which may be one reason it strengthens the immune system, fights inflammation and helps with weight control.

Set goals

Starting an exercise programme can be daunting, especially if you’re aware of the statistics. As many as 65% of all people who begin an exercise programme end up dropping out in three to six months.

* Be specific. Rather than setting a vague goal “to exercise more,” set a specific goal to exercise a certain number of days each week.

* Set short-term goals, which even if they are minor accomplishments, can help you stay motivated.

* Be realistic. If you have just started working out and can only do 10 push-ups at one time, don’t set a goal to be able to complete a set of 50 push-ups within a month. Focus on getting to a set of 20 push-ups in your first month. Then work your way up.

Put it on your calendar

A lot of things keep people from exercising. But one of the most common barriers is simply a lack of time. One way around this is to schedule workouts on your calendar so they become part of your routine. Look at your schedule and figure out the ideal times for you to exercise each week. Make it a recurring appointment in your calendar and plan on sticking to it.

Find something you enjoy

Most people dread the thought of exercise. But finding the right routine can make exercise both enjoyable and more likely to be something you stick with. Think about the type of physical activity that feels fun to you. Do you like biking, running, going on hikes, swimming or perhaps taking dance classes at your local gym? Pick a fun activity and make it your routine. Research suggests it’s more likely to last.

Set up behavioural prompts

Having specific goals and a well-designed plan is crucial to maintaining an exercise programme. But there are other factors that can influence whether you fail or succeed. One important tactic you can use is known as stimulus control, which essentially means altering your environment in ways that push you to exercise. Here are some examples:

* Keep a packed gym bag in your car. Put on a fresh set of gym or running clothes at night and sleep in them. Sounds extreme. But when you wake up the next morning, you’ll be dressed and ready to go.

* Use your phone to set daily or weekly reminders to exercise.

* Print out a copy of the class schedule at your local gym. Then stick it on your refrigerator, hang it above your desk or by your front door.

Start off slow

You don’t have to run a half marathon the first time you go for a jog. And you don’t have to break any world records when you start lifting at the gym. Start with some simple type of exercise and ease into it. See how your body responds and then gradually increase the pace or load over time. 

You don’t want to exercise too intensely too soon. As you start your new programme, you’re likely to experience some muscle soreness, which is normal. Just be sure you’re not in pain. One way to avoid that is to allow yourself a good adequate warm up each time you exercise and a good adequate cool down.

Just move!

Having a structured exercise plan is key to getting in shape. But it shouldn’t be the only exercise you get. One of the best ways to increase your physical activity levels is to just get up and move throughout the day. Studies have found that standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday can improve your mood and concentration and even have beneficial effects on your appetite.

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Work out the smart way

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