by Katie Caldesi
“You can’t out run a bad diet”
However, exercise can help in your quest to improve your health or lose weight. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, and releases endorphins, which make you feel happy. A short walk after dinner is a good place to start. There are two community-based exercise programmes worthy of a mention. Parkrun is supported by many GP surgeries and offers weekly 5km running (or walking) events all over the world. They are free and open to all.
Another is GoodGym, which combines a “good deeds” programme with exercise. Once signed up, you are matched with a small local project, such as moving some furniture for an elderly lady. You run there as a team, help out, run back and clock up community goodwill!
Use every excuse to move more. Sitting down is unhealthy. I know, I spend most of my life writing, but I stand up frequently, tilt my screen up and do squats while I read and do lunges while on the phone. I probably look barmy, but I like my new shape and don’t want it to change.
How to Become More Active
Getting fit can mean different things to different people and, to ensure steady improvement, here are some ideas on how to incorporate more movement into your daily routine.
1. Change your attitude! Decide not to be a couch potato and start being more active. Dr Unwin (our medical guru) gets up from his desk and goes to the waiting room to collect his patients instead of sitting down waiting for them. This means he moves every 10 minutes. What might be your first, small step towards being more active.
2. Be realistic and set sensible goals. If you absolutely hate exercise and the thought of going to the gym is making you want to take a nap, think of different ways to break your sedentary time and how you can increase your activity. Cycle to work or school instead of driving. If that is not possible, park further away from your office so you force yourself into two 15-minute walks every day. When you go shopping, park at the end of the car park instead of driving around for a spot near the door.
3. Move more; walk your dog more often or clean your house more vigorously. If you own a Fitbit, Apple Watch or other fitness tracker, use it to check how many calories you can burn just by dusting, cleaning your bathroom, mowing the lawn, working in the garden, vacuuming and sweeping – all those tasks can give you a good workout. Studies have shown that breaking up sedentary time, even if only for a couple of minutes can be beneficial to your health. Try exercising at your desk – it’s totally possible to turn your office job into a calorie-burning activity. Standing desks are a good idea, and any office with stairs gives you an opportunity to break up your work routine.
4. Have fun. What do you enjoy? What sounds like an activity you might like to try? You have lots of options, and again you don’t have to go to a gym. Dancing, gardening, hiking, water aerobics or swimming are just a few ideas. Jenny Phillips (our nutritionist) belongs to a cycling club and teaches yoga. Giancarlo (my husband) loves to work hard in the garden building a pond, moving earth or planting. Anything that raises your heart rate counts.
5. Make moving a habit. Being fit means incorporating things into your life that eventually become a habit, just like starting your day with a cup of tea or coffee. To dispel the afternoon feeling of wanting a snack, do something else like walk around the office or the block to get some fresh air. Have a cup of tea when you return to your desk and you won’t need the biscuit. After dinner, get into the habit of going out for a walk. Hunger pangs come and go, and often when you think you are hungry, you aren’t, or the feeling will pass.
6. Find someone to get fit with you. It is much more fun when you have an exercise buddy to share the pain and the gain. Create a plan which you can both commit to and keep each other on track. You could even get a group of people in on your “keep fit” mission to really motivate you.
7. Buy a good pair of shoes. It’s really important to own a good pair of trainers that are right for your chosen activity. As an example, jogging in tennis shoes is really not advised, as your foot needs a different type of support when you run. Dr Unwin ran in his brogues until he knew better!
8. Hydrate. Drink water before, during and after exercise.
9. Listen to your body. It is normal for your muscles to feel sore at first. However, you are unlikely to get injured unless you do too much too soon. Some of my clients get injured because they have the wrong, often competitive, attitude. It is far better to have a graduated approach and exercise safely.
The Next Step
Some of you will want to take getting fit more seriously, and high-intensity interval training is the most effective way to do this. However, anyone on medication should speak to their doctor first.
HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT)
HIIT is a faster route to fitness. Some people are naturally fit and can handle exertion well, while others systematically improve through repetition. In order to do HIIT successfully, you need to exert yourself to the point where you struggle to breathe and your muscles are screaming from burning. You then take a short break and do it again!
Many people will be petrified of this sort of workout, especially if they hate any form of exertion, so, if this is you, make sure you set yourself realistic goals and choose a workout you actually like doing. As you get fitter, you will become more resilient.