Recent medical studies have agreed that in order for people to live a long and healthy life, they need to get up and exercise more. Sedentary lives create health issues. Most countries offer government-recommended guidelines to help people know how much exercise they need to do, but there are many different kinds of exercise and it can be confusing to know which to concentrate on.
The benefits of exercise can include younger-looking skin, greater flexibility and muscle strength, better cardiovascular fitness, keeping osteoporosis at bay and improving people’s metabolic rate. Less well-advertised benefits could include lowering blood pressure and lower resting heart rate, improving mood and mental health, reducing the risk of back injury and lowering the risk of developing obesity or being overweight.
Guidelines have included that people between the ages of 24-64 years should be completing around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercises a week. Over 65s should try to complete a similar amount. Additionally, muscle strengthening exercises should be done on at least 2 days a week, for around 20 minutes. Exercises should be carried out up to the point where it would be difficult to do another complete movement or repetition. People should aim to carry out 8-12 repetitions for each activity, but can start gradually to build up strength to be able to do 3 sets of repetitions. Recent studies have shown that strengthening exercises have an important part to play in preventing falls, improving balance and enabling people to live well for longer.
Before beginning any new exercise regime, please consult your GP.
Here are some of the ways that you might be able to fulfil your New Year resolutions and exercise more this year.
1. Take part in a Couch to 5K. Many councils in the UK run Couch to 5K sessions which aim to build up fitness slowly. Participants begin by alternately running and walking, before building up to the final session which is a 5K run. You will find details on your local council website. The courses run throughout the year.
2. Go for a walk at lunch time at work. Find some colleagues who are also looking to start exercising more and enjoy exploring the local area. Walking with other people means that you are more likely to commit to it.
3. Dust off your bike and go for a ride at the weekend. There are plenty of disused railway lines where it is safe to ride. Even better, go with the whole family.
4. Take part in a HIIT session. High intensity interval training is a short burst of intense activity designed to boost cardio fitness in the shortest possible time. Although videos are available to buy, it is recommended to take some classes first as it is important to warm up and cool down effectively in order to avoid injury.
5. Use a Wii U fit to exercise and burn calories. Games such as the Wii U fit have been shown to be effective in encouraging people to do more exercise. Although there is an initial outlay for the game, people are able to exercise in their own home. Older people have been able to access the games too, and it tracks progress to enable people to monitor their fitness effectively. People who bought the original Wii Fit can transfer the balance board and any previously saved data to the new game. Exercise games can also be found on other consoles, including the new Nintendo Switch.
6. Using a dance game on a games console can also encourage children to exercise while playing games.
7. Organise a team from work to play badminton or go swimming. People are more likely to stick to their goals when they exercise with other people.
8. Strengthening exercises can include digging or shovelling in the garden, hill walking or walking upstairs, lifting weights or working with resistance bands or yoga or pilates. Pick one of these activities to focus on each week.
9. Exercises to prevent falls focus on strengthening the legs, including hiking, dancing, tai chi, yoga or walking up stairs.
10. There is increasing evidence that mindfulness can help increase motivation to improve health, so look out for classes or helpful apps.
NHS, (2016) How to improve your strength and flexibility
Gordon, B.R., et al., Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms. JAMA Psychiatry, 2018