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The health and fitness benefits of walking are hugely underestimated. It costs nothing, and is a fantastic starting point for anyone that has not exercised in a while. For me, daily walking is a non-negotiable baseline for health. Start with walking for 10 continuous minutes. Do this three times a day and eventually aim for 30 continuous minutes daily. The average adult should aim to walk 8,000-10,000 steps a day.
Working out at home doesn't have to involve press-ups and squats. 30 minutes of vacuuming would do a pretty good job of raising your heart rate, too. Try washing your car, mopping the floors and gardening. All these activities will increase your heart rate and get you burning calories.
Exercising outside has many benefits. Changes in the scenery and the mixed terrain all challenge the body in different ways compared to exercising indoors. Exercising alongside nature can really help lift your mood, particularly in the daylight hours (getting you that much-needed vitamin D). So, next time you work out, take it to the garden and see how you feel.
Dancing can burn 400 calories per hour, so put on your favourite song and dance around your living room. Dancing often feels like hidden exercise: you don't realise you're exercising, just moving to your favourite tune. Dance like no one is watching and feel your heart rate rise.
It is advisable (particularly during this pandemic) to train more regularly but at a less intense level. This will allow you to gain all the benefits (think happy joints, pumping heart rate and lots of happy endorphins) but ultimately places less stress on perhaps an already stressed body.
Remember, exercising regularly is key. The mode of exercise (particularly at the beginning) is less important. So choose something that you enjoy – that way you will do it more often.
Instagram is full of daily live group exercise workouts for you to move along to. There is yoga, dance, High-intensity interval training (HIIT)… something for everyone.
Often no equipment is necessary, and it's all free. Follow your favourites and join their live classes.
My own favourite is The Shred Squad, which runs a 45-minute dance/fitness class every Friday at 12.30pm. This class is the perfect mix of squats, silly dance moves and Little Mix!
Simply put: use it or lose it! The less we use our joints in a full range of movement the shorter our muscles will get and the tighter our bodies will be. Spending a few minutes completing some dynamic mobility at the start and the end of every workout is a great start to aid muscle flexibility.
Warming up prepares the brain and body for what is to come during the workout. Slowly increasing the heart rate and in turn the blood flow helps to mobilise the joints and lengthen the muscles. A good warm-up also reduces the chance of injury. We cannot expect the body to go from zero to hero instantly – think of it as a car that needs warming up on an icy day.
Cooling down is essential following your workout to decrease your heart rate and ultimately bring your body back to a restful state. Cooling down by completing some dynamic stretches will aid recovery by returning the muscles to their normal length, will help any muscle soreness, will help reduce levels of lactic acid in the blood and will generally help your body along with its repair and recovery process.
Tracking how often you work out is important to ensure you achieve your fitness-related goals. I use Map My Fitness, which I find very simple and helpful. Not only does the app track my workouts, but it tracks all movement, from walking the dog to vacuuming. It also cleverly syncs to fitness trackers, such as your Fitbit or your Apple Watch. Again, this is helpful to track activity adherence and will point out if you should be moving more.
Although not the biggest calorie burner, during Pilates you are conditioning and stretching your muscles, resulting in better overall athleticism and injury prevention. One of my favourite resources is Exhale Pilates. They deliver classical Pilates and are also currently offering free Instagram Lives for you to work along to.
Nicola Addison is Healthspan's Personal Trainer & Wellbeing Expert.
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible, supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.