Last week we looked at some excellent food choices for those of us looking to lose some weight – and if you are looking to lose some weight, pairing a good diet with a solid exercise plan is an absolute must. Even if weight loss isn’t your goal this January (luck you!) improving your daily exercise regime is an excellent way to improve your overall health and quality of life.
Why exercise matters (even if you aren’t trying to lose weight!)
Movement is life – move it, or use it. Our bodies are meant to move and, as a chiropractor, we spend an awful lot of time reminding people that many of their everyday aches and pains are really just the result of a lack of movement. Often this isn’t something we have a choice about – if you’re an office worker for example, it’s possible to add frequent breaks for stretching and movement to your day, but ultimately you’re still going to spend a lot of time sitting still! Getting plenty of exercise which encourages a full range of movement is a good way to address this issue – and if you are looking to lose some weight, the more exercise the better! Let’s take a look at some top exercises which can meet both goals…
In many ways, swimming is the ultimate exercise – it’s flexible, and can be as hard as you make it – at the same time, the buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly. Individuals with injuries which might otherwise prevent them from exercising often can manage to swim, those with arthritis can find swimming is nowhere near as irritating to sore joints, and for most of us, swimming is great fun!
The drawback is, of course, that few of us in the UK have a pool, so a gym membership or access to a community pool is required. If you are lucky enough to have access to a swimming facility though, take advantage!
- Tai chi
Tai Che straddles the line between martial art and exercise – it combines movement and relaxation which is good for both body and mind. In fact, it’s been called “meditation in motion.” Tai chi is made up of a series of graceful movements, one transitioning smoothly into the next. Tai chi is especially great for improving balance, which can contribute to avoiding injuries and might even make you better in other physical endeavours!
Tai chi isn’t complicated – but it’s also not as straightforward as something like jogging. For this reason, it’s a good idea to take a beginner’s class if you’ve never tried it before, to save money however just look online, there’s tonnes of low-price or free classes available.
- Strength training
Strength training can be used either to “bulk up” and add muscle or simply to maintain what you have. Adding significant amounts of muscle takes time and dedication, as well as a targeted approach to training, so if you’re not looking to add “size” then fear not – simply train to maintain!
For those wanting to lose weight, it’s critical to remember that muscle also helps burn calories. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, so it’s easier to maintain your weight once you’ve reached your goal too.
If there’s a drawback to weight training, it’s the risk of injury – ultimately this form of training does involve putting stress on the muscles and the body, done right you’ll emerge stronger, done wrong and you can easily end up with an injury. Therefore, start light, with just one or two kilos. You should be able to lift the weights 10 to 12 times with ease. Concentrate on maintaining a full range of motion to gain maximum benefit.
Walking is about as simple and easy as exercise comes – it’s also totally free and can be very useful! Exercise does not have to be intense to be of use – just increasing the amount of walking you do can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check and lift your mood. Walking is easy to fit into your daily schedule and can even save you money you might otherwise spend on transport.
Biking has all the benefits of walking but allows you to travel further and faster – if you don’t live too far from work then biking could well be a legitimate way to handle your commute, save money and build your fitness all at the same time. There’s also a wide variety of ways to enjoy biking including taking in forest trails, going off-road or even opting for a stationary bike at home. While a good quality bike can be somewhat expensive, if you can use it to replace some of your travel expenses it can quickly pay for itself!