Getting fit for the new year is perhaps the most clichéd resolution, but so often it is approached negatively. I can’t count the number of weight loss activities that have been advertised to me since the beginning of the year. The benefits of exercise are undeniable, for both physical and mental health, but approaching it with the aim of losing weight or looking better is the wrong way to go about it. The best type of exercise is that which makes you feel good, from the inside out.
First of all, you need to work out what type of exercise you like. If you absolutely hate HIIT, don’t force yourself to do it five times a week because it just isn’t sustainable. Try a few things: jogging, at home workouts, yoga, pilates. We are spoilt for choice with all the different types of activities we can do and there's heaps of content on Google and YouTube to help you. By sampling one new type of exercise a week you’re bound to find something you like sooner or later. And once you do, you can remove the feeling of dread that creates such negative feelings around exercise. Once you can associate exercise with an activity you enjoy, you’re on to something.
Another useful thing to try is getting outdoors. We hear it endlessly, but getting outside and making use of our permitted daily excursion for exercise is so important in the difficult winter months. The weather might be bleak and freezing cold, but wrapping up warm for a brisk walk is always beneficial. The fresh air and moving outdoor helps improve your cardiovascular fitness and strengthen your muscles and bones, and it’s a lovely thing to do with a friend or family member as you can chat along the way, which is more difficult when running!
Starting small is vital. If you’ve never been into exercising, don’t put pressure on yourself to work out five times a week. Begin with achievable goals, such as one 30-minute walk a week, and once you reach it you’ll feel motivated, and ultimately build self-confidence and momentum. Then increase it to two walks, three and so on, until you find a routine that suits you.
Making sure you’re exercising for the right reasons is also important. For me, it is always about improving my mood and my mental wellbeing. For you, it might be to see a friend for a walk. But make it something that is for you, something that motivates you and something that you enjoy. That way it won’t feel like a chore, but rather a ritual that you look forward to each day.
Last but by no means least, we need to shift our mindset around exercising. Just because you aren’t in pain or dripping in sweat does not mean that you haven’t exercised enough. Sometimes the most beneficial thing you can do is a 10 minute stroll around the park, sometimes it's an hour’s yoga and sometimes it's nothing at all. Listening to your body and finding what works for you is always the best way to get in to exercising.
This article is part of our themed week on setting sustainable and healthy New Year's resolutions and gearing up to face 2021. Happy new year to all of our readers, and here's to a better 2021!