and sticking at it!
If you have ever had a break from exercising at some point then you will know it is not always easy to get back into it. Excuses are easy; not enough time, an old injury flares up, you have a work deadline or you are just too tired. But we all know that exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and we should be doing it regularly. This blog post gives our top tips on how to get back into exercising and how to stick at it.
There are many reasons that you may have had a break from exercising. Perhaps you had a baby, an injury or operation, family or work have had to take priority for a while. You know you need to get back into it but where do you start.
The media bombard us these days with reasons to be exercising and this I think is a good thing, though they also bombard us with all the latest fitness crazes which can be overwhelming and confusing. For many people getting back into exercising is easier said than done. Here is a reminder of why exercise should be a regular part of your week, followed by our top tips for getting back into exercising.
Benefits of Exercise
- Reduces the risk of many major illnesses, eg. heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes (by up to 50% so the stats say!)
- Helps with the management of such illnesses, in some cases reducing the need for medication
- Reduces risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimers disease
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Boosts self-esteem
- Improves sleep quality
- Boosts energy
- Helps with weight control
- Improves cognitive function and memory
- It makes you happier!
Top tips for getting back into exercising
1. Do something you enjoy
It sounds so simple but this is really key. You may like the idea of running but is it really for you? Swimming often comes highly recommended as there is no impact but do you enjoy it or find it boring? What about that Pilates class that everyone is raving about ;-), will you like it too or would you rather be dancing around the hall at Zumba? Try different things, try them a few times, and then choose what really makes you feel good (during and after) and also something that is easily accessible to you. If you don’t love it you won’t stick at it for long!
2. Start gently
Sometimes we are so keen to get fit again that we just go for it, from couch potato to jogging five times a week. Common sense (which is often forgotten in these situations) tells us that this is not the best policy. Whatever sport you choose your body needs time to get used to it, perhaps to the impact or just to using muscles that haven’t worked for a while. Start gently and build up gradually. This will increase your chances of staying injury free and also increase your enjoyment and staying power. Make a little plan of how much you will do and how often so you can easily chart your progress – and see how far you have come over time.
3. Mix it up
Whether you have set yourself a target and are aiming for a specific event, or are just trying to get a bit fitter, our bodies love variety. As a physiotherapist I love it when my clients tell me they are cross-training. It is a great way to help prevent injury, whether you are just getting into a sport or fitness regime or competing at a high level. Overuse is one of the primary causes of injury. Doing a variety of types of exercise makes it easier to target all areas of fitness – strength, endurance and flexibility. It helps to keep your body well balanced. It helps keep you mentally stimulated, who doesn’t get bored if you do the same thing all the time? Plus it will help keep you inspired too as there is always something new out there to try.
4. Listen to your body
As mentioned above injury risk can be a factor when getting back into exercising, though if you follow our tips it will be minimised. Do listen though if you start to get twinges or pain and do not just push on through it as this will likely put you out of action for longer. Take a break from that sport, maybe do something else – swimming rather than running for example if you start to get sore knees. If the problem does not settle quickly then go to see a physiotherapist for assessment, diagnosis and advice. It may just be that you need to change your technique, footwear, or need some guidance with your training plan. Any niggles are much better sorted sooner rather than later so listen to your body.
5. Do something outside
Getting outside and exercising in nature, so called ‘green exercise’ has numerous amazing benefits. It does wonders for our mental health, reducing stress and anxiety and boosting the feel-good chemicals in our brain. Studies have shown that even just five minutes of green exercise can improve our mood and self-esteem. Incredibly also just looking at trees – the more trees the better – can decrease our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Exercising outside can help boost levels of vitamin D the ‘sunshine vitamin’, helping increase bone density and boosting our immune system. Powerful stuff. It can help you stick at exercising too, studies have shown that people adhere more successfully to an exercise regime if at least some of it takes place outside. However I don’t think we need scientific studies to tell us that the constantly changing natural environment is more interesting than an indoor gym. Get into nature!
6. Find like minded people
You might view your exercise time as me-time and enjoy doing it on your own but if you are someone that quickly bores of your own company then find others to exercise with. In the social media age that we live in it is easier than ever to find local groups and associations of people that are into every sport out there. Having an arrangement to meet up with others can make you stick at your regime more successfully helping it become a regular habit.
7. Make it routine
Last but not least – make it routine! This is easy if you have joined a group or club that meet up at the same time each week. It is harder for those of us that are self-employed and have a very variable and flexible schedule. Be sure to put exercise on your to-do list each week though. It will help you keep calm and focussed, be more productive and happier!
Thank you for reading my top tips on getting back into exercise and sticking at it. Enjoy your journey to improved physical fitness and improved mental health too 🙂