Ever wondered if the exercise endorphin high is a myth formulated by gym instructors and Instagram stars? There is overwhelming evidence of the physical and mental benefits of keeping physically active to add years to your life and life to your years. Regular exercise can help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, some cancers, depression and many other serious conditions – reducing the risk of each by at least 30% according to current evidence.
We aren’t short of people to tell us why we should be exercising and what a great addition it can be to your life, but the cold hard facts often aren’t enough to push some people from their sofa into their trainers. Perhaps a childhood of mentally scarring PE lessons or multiple attempts at shifting some post-Christmas pounds in a soulless overcrowded gym have left you feeling flat and confused about what this hype is all about.
For exercise to work for you, it must be enjoyed by you. Optimal health and wellbeing is achieved through sustaining an active and positive lifestyle. So how can you ensure that exercise is more of a pleasure than a chore? Some recent research studies combined with our experience with many hundreds of clients have helped us formulate our top tips to get you smiling whilst sweating:
1. Match your workout to your lifestyle- your choice of exercise should fit in with your way of life and be adaptable. If you have a highly physical and demanding job and a couple of energetic dogs, you may need to complement your week with a chilled yoga class to aid injury prevention to keep up all other aspects of your life. If your only movement in the day is to get a coffee from the office canteen, then perhaps upping the tempo and riding hard in a studio cycling class is more what you need.
2. Open your mind to new things- If you have always found exercise to be something you dread, maybe you haven't yet found what works for you. Be inventive and test out a new class or sport that excites you or plays to your strengths- Salsa or cycling, if it's active and you enjoy it, go for it!
3. Make it social- Research has long since demonstrated that a key facilitator in maintaining regular exercise is to do it in a group setting. Friends or like-minded others will almost always make it more fun and give you a morale boost if you're struggling.
4. Get the music pumping- Another well-known motivator. High tempo tunes can encourage you to keep exercising for longer and at a higher intensity.
5. Keep it fresh- As much as consistency is key in maintaining optimal health and wellbeing, most of us get stale and demotivated without variation. Take a different running route, mix up your exercise play list or try a new class if itchy feet start to creep in.
6. Give yourself goals to work toward... big or small- Most of us are inspired by aiming for and achieving goals we set ourselves. We feel most accomplished and satisfied when a pre-set goal is reached (often the tougher the target, the greater positive achievement we feel when we hit it!). Setting a goal is an important aspect of keeping focus to your physical activity, whether you are aiming to lose weight, improve fitness, strength or to prepare for an event. From novice to Olympic athlete, we can all continually set our own personal little and large goals to keep us focussed.
7. Readjust to a positive attitude – Mental attitude is key. Exercise shouldn't be used as a punishment and associated with negativity. Slaving away feeling miserable in the gym for hours because you ate too many biscuits or missed a week of exercise can drain away long-term motivation. Accept that sometimes things don't go to plan, reset and gently get back on the horse with a smile not a sigh!
8. There’s always a bigger fish! - Comparing yourselves to others (unless you're after the Olympic gold) will most likely lead to negative feelings and frustration. There will almost always be someone fitter, stronger and leaner than you when you look hard enough- a bigger fish in the pond! It’s about being a better version of YOU, not being the best in the exercise class.