Research examining the lifestyles of a million adults, carried out by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at Bristol University, paints an alarming picture of a country where "there are very high levels of physical inactivity". The authors of the study argue that levels of physical activity are heavily influenced by socioeconomic factors.
The study found that nearly 80% of the population failed to hit key national government targets – performing moderate exercise for 30 minutes at least 12 times a month. It found that just over 8% of adults who could walk, had not walked continuously for five minutes (with the exception of shopping) within the previous four weeks. What’s more 46% had not walked for leisure for 30 minutes continuously over the same period. Almost nine out of 10 had not swum and a similar proportion had not used a gym.
So where is it all going wrong? Here we look at how you can create fitness plans which suit you, your lifestyle and your goals.
Step one: picture what success looks like.
Goals, ambitions, desires and dreams are what fuel major achievements. It’s important you’re clear on what you want to achieve. Maybe it’s feeling fitter so you can keep up with the kids (or grandkids – or both?!), maybe it’s losing a few pounds, maybe it’s running 5km or even an ultra-marathon! Whatever you want to achieve make sure you’re clear on the outcome otherwise you have nothing to work towards.
Think about setting a SMART goal, this means a goal which is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound.
Specific: Don’t just say, “I want to get fit.” That’s vague. Instead say “I want to be able to run 5km in 90 days”.
Measurable: Define your target. Instead of simply saying you want to lose weight, aim to drop a dress size in three months.
Attainable: The end goal is what we’re aiming for but look at what can be achieved along the way. Perhaps you can commit to going to the swimming pool or leisure centre to work out at least three times a week.
Relevant: the activity you’re doing must be relevant to achieving this goal. There’s little point swimming everyday if you’re goal is to run 5km.
Time bound: A goal without a deadline is just a dream. Put a timeframe to this plan. Maybe you have a wedding or party or holiday you’re working towards. This is also a great way of focussing the mind.
Step two: You must start somewhere.
To quote Nike – just do it. There’s always plenty of reasons not to start. Chores that need doing, emails that need sending. We promise they will still be there but if you make time to invest in yourself we promise the rewards will be there.
Step three: Plan.
You will often need the support of others around you to help you achieve your goal. At the end of each week look ahead to the forthcoming week and see where you can work out and exercise. There might be times you need to call in support of family and friends to do a school run or pick up the shopping but leaning on others will help you make time for yourself without any excuses or distractions.
Step four: believe in yourself and don’t give up
There will be times when the last thing you want to do is go for a run, get up early to exercise or leave work on time to get to a class. Ignore that niggling voice of negativity. Be positive. Remind yourself what you’re working towards. If you do miss a session or you do have an extra slice of cake when you should have opted for an apple don’t beat yourself up. Learn from it. What stopped you going for a run? Why did you eat the entire bag of sweets? Once you can recognise the triggers, then you can try and avoid them. But at the end of the day – we are all human and we make mistakes 😊 Just move on. Tomorrow is a new day!
Step five: regularly review your progress
No plans ever work out perfectly and success is rarely achieved in a straight line. It’s important you consistently measure progress and adjust accordingly. It’s documented that if you measure performance it improves. What will you do if you hit your target dress size ahead of the deadline or you’re running 5km within 8 weeks and not 12? Adjust and improve your goal as you move along your journey.
You know what you want to achieve. You know what you need to do to achieve this. But it can be hard to start and sometimes we lose our fitness mojo along the way. Sometimes the gym or pool just don’t deliver the same buzz.
Experts recommend that if you record everything it makes you accountable. Set boundaries and expectations so you know what you’re willing to do to achieve this and what you’re not willing to do!
It’s important to start slowly and look to form habits. When it comes to exercise there are typically two types of people; those who know they SHOULD be exercising but don’t really want to – and those who ensure exercise is part of their everyday life. Let’s be honest – most of us sit somewhere in the middle.
The key to success when it comes to health and fitness is motivation. It’s about changing the mindset from exercise because you HAVE to – to exercise because you WANT to.
Here is some advice for added fitness motivation and inspiration.
And if you want some fun, practical ways of feeling motivated check out this piece by BuzzFeed.
According to a new study from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, working out and exercising in a group makes people feel physically and mentally better than working out alone.
Researchers found working out in a group lowers stress by 26% and significantly improved quality of life. It was found that although those who worked out individually put in more effort they didn’t experience any significant changes in their stress or perceived fitness levels.
The study recruited 69 medical students – a group known for high levels of stress and quite often poor work – life balance. They self-selected a 12-week exercise plan; either individually or within a group environment. Those who opted to train in a group showed significant improvements in the following:
What’s more they also reported a 26% reduction in perceived stress levels.
In contrast, those who opted to exercise alone didn’t see any significant changes in any measure apart from mental wellbeing which increased by 11%.
Maxine Barrett, Group Fitness instructor for 1Life said: “Wahoo! It’s great to see a study like this demonstrate the amazing affects group exercise can have on our health and wellbeing. Group exercise classes really are a great way to dip your toe into fitness or try something new. The instructor will always be super welcoming, and the class members have all been where you are so will also welcome you with big smiles and encouragement!”
So if you’re considering giving fitness classes a go here’s what your week / class structure might look like:
Rest is important so it’s crucial you let your body recover and repair itself and don’t go full on straight away. Les Mills carried out research with Penn State University about how to start a new fitness plan the right way to ensure maximum results and maximum commitment. It’s about starting slowly and building up. You can also download your Les Mills group fitness Smart Start plan here.
Time is precious in today’s busy and hectic world. It can be tough to juggle work, family, a social life and keeping active too. So it’s important to know how to get started on a healthy exercise routine when your time is maximised.
HIIT is a great way to maximise your work out if you have limited time. But if HIIT’s not for you or you want some other ways to keep fit, here are some ideas.
Make it a habit not a chore – don’t think of physical activity as a chore as it will instantly drop to the bottom on your priority list. Try and work it into your daily routine and if you can do this every day for three or four weeks you’re more likely to stick to it as it will then be a habit.
Make time for yourself – we all have one life and there’s no escaping from the reams and reams of data and research which demonstrates physical activity can improve your health and wellbeing. This investment of only 30 minutes per day will make a big difference to your overall health and wellbeing.
Use your imagination – if you genuinely can’t find the time in your day to squeeze in a work out then get creative. Can you have a walking meeting? Research does say that if you walk and talk the conversations are more productive and positive. Could you walk up and down the stairs at work when you have a 5 minute break? Maybe even walk the long way to the bus stop or train station or even to your favourite coffee shop!
Early bird – could you get out of bed 30 minutes earlier than usual? We certainly aren’t advocating depriving yourself of sleep as it’s vital for health but this is a great way of maximising your time.
Have fun! Exercise is fun and when done in a group or with your family really does create great connections and fond memories. Can you go on a family walk or bike ride or simply skip to the shop for your pint of milk?
Everyone is different – that’s what make the world go round and it’s important everyone figures out how fitness and physical activity can fit into their lifestyle.
We admit it. Not everyone likes the gym. And that’s fine with us. There are plenty more ways you can work in physical activity and fitness into your life without having to step foot in a gym. Although – it’s not that bad; we promise.
Dive in! Swimming is a great way to work out and especially if you’re recovering from an injury, arthritis or have other conditions which make exercise difficult or painful.
Water is twelve times denser than air, which means that while you’re swimming the water is providing consistent resistance but at the same time safely working your muscles to strengthen and tone them. Swimming has also been reported to increase bone strength in post-menopausal women, making this workout great for helping to prevent osteoporosis.
Green fingers! They say gardening is good for the soul but it’s also one heck of a workout if you focus on moving your body as much as you focus on the plants!
Gardening is known to burn 184 calories in just 30 minutes and what’s more, it’s a great way to strengthen and tone your major muscle groups, like your abs, back and glutes. If you want to push yourself a little more whilst in the garden try and weed whilst in a standing position and as you bend from the waist, bend your legs slightly and engage your abs. You can also squat as you weed – a great way to work those large muscle groups in your glutes. Another great exercise is to grab your full watering can, holding the nozzle in one hand and the handle in the other and perform oblique twists. You can also do arm and leg extensions when you’re on your hands and knees mulching, planting or thinning. The possibilities are endless, but always take care.
Keep on running – if jogging is your thing you can achieve a more effective workout by doing intervals. Think about swapping your 30-minute jog (which burns in the region of 238 calories) with interval running which can burn about 356 calories. It’s important you warm up with a moderately fast walk for five minutes, and then start your intervals. Run all out for one-minute and then follow it with a two-minute recovery jog. Repeat this seven times and then walk at a reasonable pace for three minutes to cool down.
Dancing queens (and kings) – if you like to let loose, let the music take control of your body and dancing is your thing, you’ll be pleased to know it’s also a great form of exercise and will burn approximately 279 calories in 30 minutes as well as strengthening and toning muscles. It really doesn’t matter what kind of dancing you like to do – jive, ballroom, disco, freestyle – they all have excellent health benefits.
Dancing involves all the major muscle groups in your body and is a weight bearing exercise, which means you’ll increase your bone density as well as work your upper and lower body. When you dance, just be mindful of your core. Keep your abs engaged, tighten those glutes and maintain good balance to avoid injury or falls.
Clean living! A cluttered house is a cluttered mind, or so some will say. It’s also believed this can lead to increased stress and anxiety, which in turn can contribute to unhealthy food and lifestyle choices. Did you know that cleaning the house burns up to 153 calories in 30 minutes. So, if you can’t face leaving the house, why not done a comfy pair of jogging bottoms, some supportive footwear and turn up the tunes and clean like you’ve never cleaned before!
As you clean and tidy your home, you’ll be bending, reaching, twisting and turning, walking up stairs, and carrying things. It’s important you keep your core engaged and make each of your movements count.
If you’re mopping, don’t just use your arms. Twist your upper body to the right and to the left to move the mop. If like many, you always forget something upstairs – use this to your advantage and run up the stairs; even set yourself a stair challenge. You can burn about 422 calories in 30 minutes by running up and down the stairs. It’s VITAL that you apply proper technique when running up and down the stairs in order to protect your knees and joints from pain and injury. Push off from your toes (not your heels) and really control the movements. Pumping your arms will help with momentum and maintain good balance.
A novice won’t be able to run up and down the stairs for 30 minutes from day one, so build up slowly and steadily to this and use the interval technique.
On yer bike! Have you ever considered cycling to work? If it’s safe and within your fitness level, cycling is an ideal alternative to hitting the gym or going for a run before or after a tiring day. Cycling is a great form of stress relief and the perfect way to unwind after a long day. The fresh air will do wonders for your mental wellbeing too. You will also burn approximately 300 calories every 30 minutes when cycling so if you cycle 30 minutes there and back from work, you’ll be burning 600 calories a day without even thinking about it.
Your safety is of paramount importance so look for cycle routes, residential streets and routes. Cycling on a busy congested city street can be harrowing and stopping for traffic lights can lower your momentum and reduce your calorie burn so look for routes which have limited obstacles.
Always, always, ALWAYS wear a helmet and fluorescent, high-visibility clothing and make sure your bike is road safe, which means it has lights and reflective lighting so you can always been seen by cars and other cyclists.
You might have heard that exercise is a great stress reliever. Physical activity reduces stress by producing more endorphins which are feel good hormones. Even a brisk ten-minute walk has a huge impact on our mental alertness, energy and mood. Regularly participating in physical activity can increase our self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety as well as positively impacting further mental health problems and improving quality of life.
Studies have shown that people’s moods have improved significantly after participating in exercise and physical activity, compared to periods of inactivity such as reading or watching television. This positive effect was also more noticeable when the initial mood was low.
If you’re sat there reading this and thinking you will be proactive and positive and incorporate more physical activity here are some ideas and tips for where to start!
Ask yourself – do you know what to consider when joining a gym ? Do you prefer being part of a team or maybe you prefer to work as an individual? Are you comfortable in the gym environment? Can you do this with a friend? Maybe you can join one who already works out or encourage one to start this new plan with you? Sharing experiences, goals and successes with someone will keep you focused and motivated.
Start today. There will always be tomorrow. Don’t put off starting to exercise. For those brand new to physical activity start by some nice brisk walks. Or if you’re feeling you can take on more why not speak to a member of the 1Life team about the different activities available to you at your local centre. You can always mix and match your exercises. Maybe one day you can go for a swim, then another day do a group fitness class or maybe work with a personal trainer to help set a programme you can follow on your own. There’s also LOADS of activities you can do away from the centre. Maybe think about a 5km Park Run, half marathon or something more challenging like a Tough Mudder (or similar) event.
Exercise is personal. And you have to find the right form which helps and support you to feel great after you do it.
It’s fun. We promise.
So, you’ve read and heard all about the benefits of exercise and physical activity and now you want to take the plunge yourself. If you’re new to fitness and exercise, the gym and sports centres can seem daunting places. But please don’t be put off. There’s hundreds of smiling, welcoming and supporting faces inside so come in and give it a try and check out some of our great outdoor fitness facilities. Any fitness plan, whether it’s a beginner one or advance, needs to work for you. It must be completely tailored to you, your goals, your commitment and time and most of all your enjoyment. Fitness is fun, trust us and once you find your ‘fit’ you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner.
Tip #1: Book in with a PT or fitness instructor for your free gym and centre induction. This is where you’ll learn all about what the centre has to offer in terms of classes and equipment. You’ll be shown how all the equipment works and what it’s used for. This is to help and encourage you and give you the confidence to return next time.
Tip #2: Set yourself a goal. It’s important to know what you’re working towards. Once you’ve got this clear in your mind it’s easier to plan your workouts around this.
Tip #3: Don’t over train in the first few weeks. This is a common mistake many people make. They make the commitment to getting fit and healthy and then hit the gym hard on their first session and find themselves sliding down the stairs the next day as they can’t move their legs due to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). The smart way is to start gradually and build up. Les Mills conducted a trial, which looked at and followed 25 sedentary adults through a 30-week programme of group fitness classes.
The 30 weeks started with an initial six-week period, where exercisers were encourage to “dip their toes” into fitness before building up to a six-day- a-week exercise schedule. The gradual introduction meant that instead of feeling sore from overworking unfit muscles and giving up, the group actually enjoyed their path into exercise. The results were amazing – so good that participants delayed the onset of cardiovascular disease by an average of 3.6 years. Over the 30-week study, 20 out of 25 study participants never missed a workout – a compliance rate of 98.8%, which is almost unheard of in exercise studies. This commitment is proof that, when it comes to exercise, you shouldn’t go it alone – combining a steady start with the support of others works wonders.
Tip #4: Mix up and balance your work outs. The body is a wonderful piece of kit and it quickly adapts itself to cope with and manage stressful situations. Exercise and physical activity can be a stressful situation for muscles. If you only exercise certain parts of your body or you just train in the same way you body will soon learn to cope with this and stop performing and giving you the results, you need and want.
Tip #5: Have fun. Believe us when we say, exercise can be fun. And this is especially true if you participate in a group or train with a friend. Find a class or activity you enjoy and have fun with it.
Tip #6: No one is looking at you. It can be daunting to walk into a gym, swimming pool or group exercise studio for the first time but no one is watching or judging you. We all started somewhere. So, train like no one is watching. Relax and focus on you, the time you have to invest in yourself and think about the results you’ll see and feel.
I can be hard to know what to do when you hit a fitness plateau. You’ve been working out and regularly exercising for some time now but you’ve recently noticed your results has plateaued and you don’t seem to be getting the same impact when you work out. This can happen to most people, especially if you’re doing the same or very similar exercises week in, week out. Here are some top tips from our very own David Conway, 1Life Fitness and nutrition expert, to help dig you out of a plateau hole.
Tip #1: Rest. Give yourself a week away from the gym. This might be hard to hear for some of you gym junkies but rest can make a huge difference. It allows your muscles to cover and rebuild. And when you return to the gym, pool, class or chosen training method you will really feel the difference.
Tip #2: Sleep. This will enable your muscles to relax and gives your body the chance to repair broken-down tissue, which occurs when you exercise and train. Aim for 8 hours sleep each night.
Tip #3: Stretch. It’s vital that you find the time to stretch in and around your workout. Stretching keeps muscles strong, flexible and healthy. If you don’t stretch, then your bodies mobility can be compromised, resulting in muscles not achieving their full range of motion during exercise. Neglecting stretching can put your body at risk of damage.
Tip #4: Mix up your intensity. The body adapts very quickly and will soon get used to exercises, movements and training at certain times of the day. Think about changing the time you train as well as looking at the frequency, duration and intensity or your work out.
Tip #5: Don’t get bored. If you’re finding the results less frequent it might also have something to do with mindset. If you find the workout you’re doing is becoming monotonous and boring this will have a negative impact on your motivation and training intensity. Look to try something new. Go for a run, swim or try a new fitness class. Even play tennis or badminton with a friend or your family.
No matter how hard we wish and how hard scientists try, there is no magic pill for weight loss. Weight loss is achieved by balancing a good health, nutritious diet with regular physical activity. David Conway has some advice for anyone looking to improve their diet and feel the benefits of eating more healthily.
Water is a wonderful substance as it’s great at breaking down food and complex food groups. Drinking water also helps boost your metabolism, cleanse your body of waste, and acts as an appetite suppressant. Also, drinking more water helps your body stop retaining water, which can help drop any water weight you might be retaining.
Protein. We all need protein our diet so it’s vital not to cut this out. Protein is especially important when you’re exercising as it helps repair damaged muscle. When it comes to slimming down, protein is known as the king of nutrients. Protein can reduce hunger and boost metabolism but it’s still hugely important that you exercise too.
Listen to your body. Everyone is different; that’s what makes the world go round so a diet which is great for one person might not be as effective for another. Listen to your body - If you’re hungry – eat. But ensure you’re fuelling your body with wholesome foods – wholegrains, lean meat, vegetables, fresh fruit and avoid sugary, starches, processed foods.
The 10% rule. If you know you need to slim down, typically, the rule of thumb is to cut approximately 10% of your calorie intake over a week. This will ensure a steady and sustainable weight loss.
Avoid the scales. Try to avoid weighing yourself. Instead, go by how you feel and how your clothes fit you. Muscle weighs more than fat so if you’re doing exercises which are building muscle you might in fact weigh more. The most important factor when looking at any diet (and fitness plan) is to evaluate how you’re feeling. Do you have more energy? Do you feel better – both mentally and physically? Are you able to perform exercise / physical activity better? These are the true tests of a good diet.
Whether your goal is to qualify for a triathlon or just finish your 5K in under 30 minutes, we have some top tips to help beat that PB!
Work with a PT. If you’re serious about improving your performance and beating your personal best working with a professional who is qualified in this area will give your training and performance a boost. They will come up with new ideas, exercises, approaches and even help re-set or shift your mindset. You don’t necessarily have to work with a PT for a long period of time but try just a few sessions and you’ll see and feel the benefits.
Sleep. Allowing your body to adequately rest and recuperate will do wonders for your physical performance. Sleep allows our muscles to relax and gives our body the chance to repair broken-down tissue, which occurs when you exercise and train.
Nutrition. The fuel you power your body with is extremely important. Re-visiting your diet and nutrition plan will help and might in fact give you a boost. If you’re looking to run longer then look to have more healthy snacks, which will help avoid the temptation of reaching for junk food and sugary snacks.
Train with a friend. Can you train with someone who is training for the same of similar event? Swap ideas, techniques and push each other. Even training with someone who isn’t at the same fitness level as you will really help as it will push you to perform.
Stretching. It’s vital that you find the time to stretch both before and after a rigorous workout. Stretching keeps muscles strong, flexible and healthy. If you don’t stretch, they can become tight and shorten, meaning they do not fully extend when you need them to during exercise. Not stretching also puts you at risk of damaging them. Your muscles will need to be working to their peak performance if you want to eclipse your personal best, so those extra few minutes of lunges could make all the difference.
Shock. Muscles will eventually adapt to a training stimulus and stop growing. To keep your muscles growing you should look to increase the training stimulus, which is known as ‘progressive overload’. For example, if are comfortably bench pressing 100kg for 10 reps (where as previously you have struggled) it means your muscles have adapted to this and have stopped growing. For them to continue growing you need to add more weight to the bar. If you can run 20 miles without breaking a sweat then look to introduce some interval training or hill running into your training plan.
Mindset. Be positive. Believe in yourself. Believe that you will beat your PB this time. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who else will?
For some, building muscle and putting on weight can be a challenge. But if you dream about a sculpted waistline and bulging biceps, here’s some expert advice to help you along the way.
Work your biggest muscles. If you’re a beginner, pretty much any weight bearing exercise will feel intense. But if you’ve been exercising for a while, you’ll more likely see the biggest gains if you work your large muscle groups such as chest, back and legs. Add squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, weighted rows, bench presses and dips to your workout.
Remember your rest day. Do a full body workout and then allow yourself a day off to recover. Studies have shown that a really challenging weight work out will continue challenging and building muscle for 48 hours immediately after your session. And your muscles can only grow when you’ve stopped exercise and are in the recovery period.
Eat more. In addition to adequate protein, you will need more calories. Avoid junk food and processed food. Instead opt for nutritious and wholesome foods.
Avoid cardio. Cardio exercises are believed to slow down the reactions of muscles so try to avoid exercises and workouts which feature a great deal of cardio.
If you’re looking to slim down or lose a few pounds we have some tips to help you succeed and for more information you can also visit the NHS website here.
Don’t skip breakfast – never skip a meal, especially breakfast. It will set you up for the rest of the day and may help you resist the temptation to snack throughout the day.
Eat regularly – eating little and often throughout the day will help you burn calories at a fast rate. It will also help you to avoid hunger pangs when you’re more likely to snack on something sugary or unhealthy.
Five a day – make sure you’re enjoying plenty of fruit and veg. These are low in calories and fat but high in fibre which are important ingredients for weight loss. They also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals required for healthy bodily functions.
Get active – moving more is the key to losing weight and keeping it off. Exercise can help burn calories that you can’t cut out through diet along.
H2O – drinking plenty of water will help keep you hydrated and your metabolism functioning.
Have a treat now and again - Don’t ban foods – especially the ones you like. This will only make you crave them more. There’s no reason why you can’t have the occasional treat as long as you’re exercising and enjoying a balanced diet the rest of the time.
Cut out the booze - Did you know a standard glass of wine can contain the same amount of calories as a piece of chocolate? Alcohol contains hidden calories so try to avoid this.
Be organised - Aim to plan your breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks. This way you won’t be caught out without a healthy lunch.
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