If you want to get fitter, faster, or simply find a sport to suit, we can help. Work out your perfect workout with our guide to getting in shape.
The first step is to figure out why you want to get fit; do you want to lose weight, build muscle, improve flexibility, or boost your general fitness? Deciding on your goal will help you find the right exercise.
Then think about the practicalities – have you got time to commit to four gym sessions a week, or to jog to work if you live miles away?
Finally, don’t rule out the importance of enjoyment; you won’t stick at anything you hate.
1. Hit the pool
Swimming can help you lose weight, prevent conditions like heart disease and boost your mood. It’s also ideal for those with joint problems who can’t do much weight-bearing exercise.
If you’re going to perfect one swimming stroke, make it the crawl – it works the most muscles of all the strokes, builds core strength and burns around 300 calories every 30minutes. It’s also easier to perfect than butterfly or breaststroke.
If you’re out of practise, book some lessons at your local pool, and stick with it – the thinner and fitter you get, the more streamlined you become and the faster you’ll power through the water.
2. Keep on running
Running is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) sports to get into. It’s a great cardio exercise, can help you lose weight and is one of the best ways to build fitness into your daily routine.
If you’ve been put off by fears about the ‘right’ way to run, don’t worry. Experts say if your running style isn’t causing you problems, there’s no cause for concern. However, you can trigger injuries by not warming up properly or overestimating your fitness levels – setting off too quickly means you can run out of steam half way round, then have to stagger back home.
Make sure you plan a route and pace yourself properly. Add in some hills to push yourself or mix it up with intervals; running fast for one minute and jogging slowly for one minute to recover. And never forget to stretch afterwards; your hamstrings will thank you for it.
3. Be more flexible
You may not naturally think of yoga but – honestly – it’s one of the best weight-bearing workouts available. The postures can be very physically challenging, and regular practice will help alleviate muscle tightness, boosting your flexibility.
Yoga is also an excellent stress buster, thanks to its focus on breathing. The aim is to find a position of stillness in the postures, by linking your breath with movement. Many forms of yoga also include an element of meditation.
Complete beginners should choose a class that focuses on simple postures, like Hatha yoga, while those looking for a bigger challenge could try hot yoga, Ashtanga yoga – where you’re constantly moving through the postures – or even anti-gravity yoga, where you’re supported by a sling.
4. Make more of the gym
If you’re not getting the results you want at the gym, it’s time for a shake-up. First, avoid your usual machines; you won’t be getting an effective all-over-body workout, and you could get bored and quit.
Next, ask a PT to design you a new workout, or sign up for one of the latest classes – you might surprise yourself. Several gyms now have quick sessions on the gym floor too, so you get to discover new bits of kit.
You could even create your own circuits session, alternating between arms, legs, core and cardio exercises. Finally, never go to the gym thinking ‘What shall I do next?’. Set a monthly goal, plan your programme, and achieve it.
5. Step into the ring
Feeling inspired by Amir Khan or David Haye? Boxing could be for you. Beginners start with punch bags then move onto sparring with an opponent when their confidence and skills increase.
Boxing isn’t just about strength; you also need to think tactically, so it can keep you on your toes physically and mentally. A few rounds in the ring will also help you take out any stress in a controlled environment.
It’s great for your stamina and resistance, burns up to 800 calories an hour, and works your upper body like no other workout. Now put on that Rocky soundtrack and go for it!
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This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.