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Top tips to getting fitter 

For many people, the same computer-based jobs that have taken the physical element out of work also take up so much time that exercise is the last thing they feel like doing when they get home. The key to finding time to exercise is to realise two things:

•It doesn’t have to take very long – just half an hour a day, in ten-minute bursts if necessary.

•It can be built into your day-to-day life – it doesn’t necessarily have to be found as additional time.

If you work

Despite advances in technology, many of us still spend more – rather than less – time at work. However, there are ways in which you can be more active:

•Go for a walk in your lunch break. Try to find at least three different walks and vary them throughout the week. It might even be possible to find an indoor walking route, incorporating stair climbing, for those inevitable bad weather days.

•Talk to your employers about promoting health at work. If they don’t already, ask if it’s possible to provide showers and cycle racks to encourage people to cycle to work. You might even be able to encourage them to provide subsidised membership at a local gym where you could go at lunchtime.

•Walk to and from work. If you live too far away, park further from the office or get off the bus or train one stop earlier – even a ten-minute walk will help as long as it is hard enough to get you slightly out of breath.

If you look after children

Having children can change everything about your lifestyle. Some parents find their activity levels drop and their weight increases as going to the gym or playing sport become more difficult. Here are some positive steps you can take:

•Exercise with your child. Take them to the local swimming pool or play in the garden or local park.

•Find out which local sports and leisure centres have crèche facilities, so you can exercise while your child is being looked after.

•Walk your child to school. Not only will this help you to be active, it will also help your child develop an early pattern of physical activity that might stay with them into adulthood.

•Find out if there are activities available at your child’s school for the local community. Many schools use their facilities for sports and exercise classes in the evenings and at weekends.

If you’re based at home

•Plan your week so you have to walk to the shops frequently. By going often you’ll only have to carry light bags of shopping back.

•Look at ways in which you can be more active in and around your home. Use the stairs to exercise, work in the garden or – if you have the space and can afford it – install some gym equipment, such as a mini trampoline or rowing machine, for example. Failing that, invest in a skipping rope.

•Look for community-based activity programmes in your local area. These don’t have to be fitness classes, just anything that gets you moving. Conservation groups can be a great way to get involved in improving your local environment and being active at the same time.

The early bird

If your normal day really doesn’t let you incorporate exercise, one option is to get up earlier. If you normally set the alarm clock for 7.30am, set it for 7am instead and use the extra half-hour to go for a brisk walk or even a swim if you have a pool nearby. We all experience exercise differently at different times of the day because of our individual biological cycle, and you might not be a ‘morning person’, but it’s worth a try as exercise first thing can really wake you up and leave you feeling invigorated for the day ahead.

Night owls

Alternatively, if you’re not an early bird, consider looking at how you could use any free time you have in the evening to increase your activity patterns. Most of us spend a lot of time sitting watching TV in the evenings, but you could buy some home exercise equipment and work out while you’re doing it.

Maximise your exercise time

•Make an appointment to exercise – and write it in your diary. You could also record what you did in your workout, so you can keep track of your achievements.

•You can extend this idea by making a real appointment with a friend, colleague or relative to exercise together. If you’ve arranged to meet someone, you’re a lot less likely to skip it.

•Keep some exercise kit handy in the places you spend most of your time. This might mean leaving clothes at college, work, with friends or relatives, or in the boot of your car. By having the right clothes handy you can exercise whenever you get an unexpected free 15 minutes or a sudden burst of enthusiasm.

•Consider taking active holidays such as a cycle tour or walking holiday. You still need to get your exercise five days a week, but getting in shape for your holiday might be a good incentive, and if you enjoy it enough it might inspire you to keep it going when you get home.