Start exercise snacking
We all enjoy actual snacking, so why not try “exercise snacking” to up your physical activity?
“Rather than getting to the end of the day thinking you need to hit 10,000 steps, focus on ways to incorporate exercise throughout the day,” says health and fitness coach Mari-Carmen Sanchez-Morris. “For instance, squatting while the kettle boils or push-ups when the adverts come on during a TV show. When you look for those pockets of time, you’ll find them sprinkled throughout the day and will be surprised by how quickly they add up.”
“Plenty of household chores are a great way to get your pulse racing,” says Jessie Jones, personal trainer at OriGym. “Things like moving furniture, vacuuming, mopping floors and dusting are all activities that engage several muscle groups. Plus, you’ll have a spotless home.”
Include weight-bearing exercises
“Weight-bearing activities such as running and skipping target your muscles to improve tone and definition, making you look and feel good,” says personal trainer Dr Folusha Oluwajana. “They also help to improve bone health. Lower impact activities such as yoga, Pilates or bodyweight exercises are also beneficial.”
Swap exercising for exer-lising
Not all social engagements need to revolve around the pub or drinking, says Luke Pigden, personal trainer at The HIIT House.
“Try socialising with friends in a different environment, such as swapping after-work drinks for a fitness class, going for a cycle together or visiting a local driving range or climbing centre for something a bit different.”
“Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling workouts in the gym,” says Claudia Kwayosa, a certified fitness trainer at Glow Bar London. “Pick up a hula-hoop and get your hips moving. Not only is it fun and can be done in front of the TV, it can also improve your posture, increase blood circulation and build and maintain healthy muscles.”
It’s said so often it’s a cliché, but walking more really is one of the best ways to improve our health.
“Walking is one of the most underrated forms of physical activity – plus it’s free, low impact and accessible for most people,” says Hollie Grant, founder of Pilates PT. “Try to keep things simple, such as walking meetings, getting off the bus a stop early, walking to the train station or cancelling your shopping delivery to go on foot. You only need to get your heart rate lifted and your breath rate increased to reap the rewards.”
“Our ancestors didn’t sit tapping away on small screens, lounging on sofas and then suddenly rising to complete an hour of punishing exercise – and neither should we,” says Hannah Beadle, head coach at Wildfitness.
“Instead of the gym, we should be trying to spend as much time outside in nature as possible, whether it’s walking, running or exercising in the park. Lying on the floor to connect to the earth and regulate our breathing is also beneficial, as is dangling. This involves finding a tree or installing a bar across a door frame and hanging from it. This will improve your posture, help decompress your spine and ultimately improve your mobility.”
Join your local sports club
“Gyms are not for everyone and getting fit should be fun, so a friendly game of your favourite sport might be the answer to getting fit,” says Diana Coffey of Strong Pilates. “Take a look at the sports clubs on offer near your home. Most clubs are suited to all fitness levels and they are also a great way to meet new people.”
Consistency is key
No one can go from walking 20 minutes a day to running a marathon, which is why Gareth Cole, head of performance at Coach London, insists that small goals are vital in keeping consistent.
“Being consistent is so important – habit formation can take an average of 59 to 70 days,” explains Cole. “Try not to look too far in the future, and instead set regular, achievable goals and celebrate your progress along the way. Before you know it, you will be miles ahead of where you started.”
Do free workouts online
You don’t have to spend a fortune to find a new hobby, says personal trainer Beth Davies. “Gym memberships can be expensive, but there is a plethora of free workouts on platforms such as YouTube,” says Davies. “Whether you are a beginner or looking to spice up your routine, there are hours of workouts on the web, from Pilates to HIIT [high-intensity interval training] and strength classes.”
Mix up your movement
Stop worrying about workouts and simply move your body in different ways, says Gill Erskine, co-founder of WildStrong. “If you’re a busy professional, parent or grandparent, chances are you probably do the same four to five movements every day – walking, sitting, carrying household items and maybe, if you’ve got the time or inclination, a bit of running or cycling,” says Erskine. “Because we all live in environments where we’re not challenged, we forget what we used to be capable of.
“Try incorporating more varied movement into your daily life – such as crawling, picking up heavy objects, getting past obstacles or just taking steps two or three at a time. This way we challenge our bodies a little every day.”
Embrace green fingers
If swimming, cycling or weight training at the gym simply aren’t your thing, don’t fret – there are plenty of other ways to get in shape.
Personal trainer Carly Navin suggests taking up gardening.
“Gardening gets us outside and moving,” adds Navin. “Heavy digging will give you that cardio and strength workout, while you are also doing something that brings you personal fulfilment, so you are more likely to do it often. It’s the perfect activity for spring and summer.”
“Many individuals struggle to exercise in their spare time, so planning it into your day as you do meetings or dinners means you’re more likely to stick to it,” says Adam Bryne, clinical fitness lead at Nuffield Health.
“Add in a class, block out time for a walk or run during lunch and you can even use it to diarise an early morning or late-night session. Make sure you are strict and stick to it, or stay accountable by telling friends and family members what you are doing.”
Work and Play
“Keeping fit is a great opportunity to combine exercise with something else you enjoy – be that your love of music, indulging in a podcast or audio book or even watching your favourite Netflix series,” says Dean Zweck of Total Fitness. “Some gym machines now have Netflix built into them, or handy holders for your smart phone, while putting together a mood-boosting playlist is a great way to boost motivation.”
Up the intensity
To grow stronger, your body needs to be pushed. “If you’ve hit a plateau in your workouts, try upping the intensity,” says Sam Shaw, a personal trainer at Lemon Studios. “For example, try to gradually increase the distance you are running in a given amount of time, or focus on exercises that incorporate large muscle groups to get your heart rate up.”
“Adding resistance to workouts helps work muscles and joints, and build muscle,” says Julie Robinson, founder of Move It or Lose It. “Resistance bands are versatile, available in a range of strengths and can be taken anywhere.”
Try something different
“You may lose inspiration doing the same type of training over and over,” says Scott Thompson, global athletics director at F45 Training. “Mixing up training styles can be a refreshing way to reinvigorate your interest and motivation to keep active. Ask around to see whether you have any friends who are doing something different and offer to join them. You never know, you may find a new passion or community on your fitness journey.”
Enjoy a breakfast stretch
“Stretching is vital for maintaining good posture, especially when working at a desk or dining table for several hours a day,” advises personal trainer Badrul Islam. “While waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning, grab a towel or find a broomstick to use for stretching. Holding the towel or broomstick with straight arms at either end, rotate back and forth over your head slowly. Doing this can help open up your chest muscles and mobilise your back muscles. It will also help to reduce back and neck pain significantly.”
Exercise in the morning
“Exercising as soon as you wake can set you up for a positive outlook all day,” says Darren Cunningham, personal trainer at Crazy Nutrition.
“Try to fit in a small run or simply bodyweight exercises in the living room before work or the school run. Getting active in the morning also means you don’t have time to think of an excuse to back out of it, and it can help to increase your productivity throughout the rest of the day.”
“Ditch the gym and go exploring in natural areas of beauty,” says Lewis Moses, founder of New Levels Coaching. “We have plenty right on our doorstep. Hike a mountain in Wales, run across a peak in Derbyshire, walk a fell in the Lakes or take a long trek in the Scottish Highlands.
“If you don’t want to travel too far, just heading out on a new walk you’ve not tried before is great fun. The scenery will blow you away and you will also get a great workout – often without realising it.”
“There are a number of techniques that can help to tone the abs from the inside and you can do them whenever you want throughout the day,” says Geraldine Joaquim, a wellness coach and yoga teacher.
“Two of my favourites are Kapalibhati: sit or stand comfortably, take a deep breath in, then breathe out through the nose in short sharp bursts with a passive inhale for around a minute. You should feel your torso going in and out from the diaphragm area.
“The second is Agni Sara: plant your feet evenly on the floor, lean the upper body forwards with hands resting just above the knees, take a breath in then exhale everything out. When your lungs are empty, pull the abdominal muscles in and up strongly, hold the breath out and the tummy in for as long as you can, then take a breath in and relax. Repeat three or four times.”
Make yourself uncomfortable
“Our world is set up for comfort, with squishy sofas to lounge in and chairs with backs to support us, but it means that our own muscles are not doing anything,” explains Joaquim. “When you make yourself uncomfortable, you activate your muscles and get them working throughout the day. You could use a standing desk or sit on the floor instead of the sofa, which both engage muscles more than lounging about.”
Abs really are made in the kitchen
When getting into shape, what you eat makes a huge contribution to your progress. “Eighty per cent of what you eat should be whole and unprocessed, such as fruits and vegetables,” says personal trainer Steve Doidge-Harrison.
“Also make sure you are getting in enough protein. As a general guideline, shoot for around 1.5g per kg of bodyweight, spread evenly throughout the day. So, if you weigh 100kg, try to eat 150g of protein from sources such as chicken, lean meat, yoghurt and nuts.”
Steer clear of ‘fad’ diets
“Many believe that there are certain ‘superfoods’ that must be included in your diet, even if they do not like them,” says performance coach at P3rform Lily Chapman. “Although there may be things that would be really good as an addition to your diet, there is no singular food that contains all nutrients your body needs for a healthy lifestyle.
“Any food can fit into your lifestyle and fitness goals, nothing should be forbidden. Complete removal is how people give up, so embrace a treat once in a while.”
Work on your mindset
“To achieve your fitness goals, you need to hone your discipline,” says Farren Morgan, a tactical trainer. “The first step to mastering discipline is believing you can improve your physique and understanding that fitness is a journey. Maintaining consistent effort and discipline, regardless of your current whims and desires, will lead to inevitable success.
“Once you have committed, you will make conscious decisions that support your fitness goals.”
Sedentary behaviour is linked to a higher risk of death, but a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that, for people who were in the “middle” or “high” categories of fidgeting, this association disappeared.
As the study authors said: “Fidgeting appeared to remove the association between longer sitting times and subsequent mortality.”
So make sure to stand regularly, bob your knee, stretch out your shoulders or hop from foot to foot every now and again.
“If you’re not exercising much now, don’t think you’ll suddenly be able to commit to five 60-minute workouts a week,” says Stef Williams, founder of WeGlow.
“Start with a few 15- to 20-minute workouts and build up from there. The important thing is to move your body in a way you enjoy, and to move away from the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.”
“Including rewards as an incentive can really help to improve motivation when it starts to wane,” says Morgan.
“If you achieve a short-term objective, such as losing 5lbs in two weeks, treat yourself to something you’ll enjoy, such as a relaxing day at the park, shopping or a massage. By incorporating fun and entertaining aspects into your training that you enjoy, your determination to improve your fitness will increase significantly.”
Chase that runner’s high
“Runner’s high is the sense of euphoria that we experience when there is a sudden increase in the flow of endorphins and feel-good chemicals in our bodies,” says CEO of wellness app KIC, Laura Henshaw.
“It happens so quickly after running due to the ‘flooding’ type release of these hormones and can lead to increased concentration, memory, clarity and reduced brain fog. So if you don’t feel motivated at the start of a run, remind yourself of how you are going to feel by the end and let that carry you through.”
Hydration plays a huge role in physical and mental health by regulating body temperature, maintaining good body composition, transporting nutrients around the body and keeping organs healthy and functioning properly.
“A small percentage of dehydration can have a massive impact on physical and mental performance, so make sure you are drinking throughout the day,” says Samuel Quinn, personal trainer at Nuffield Health. “Rehydrate after exercise and stay on top of your fluid intake – aim for two litres per day. If you’re exercising, up this further to replace fluids lost from sweat.”