A Guide To Finding The Perfect Exercise For You

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Don’t feel guilty if they haven’t quite panned out as you hoped. Forbes estimated that only around 8% of people will see their resolution through the year: the rest of us will give up early on. In fact, the Independent even suggested that the average time for someone to keep their pledges is 24 days.

Of course, the most common resolutions are those involving exercise. The increasing popularity of female sport and gym-going means that women aren’t just doing it for the weight loss: gaining strength, age-proofing bones and improving mental health are three perfectly valid reasons motivating people to grab their trainers and go. So with all these things to motivate you, why is it that so many of us fail to stick to our exercise resolution?

The reason might be that you’re doing the wrong kind of exercise. That doesn’t mean that you’re doing the exercise itself wrong – although if you’re doing anything involving heavy weights, it’s important to always, always maintain good form – but rather that the exercise is wrong for you. Maybe you’ve taken up running, but the thought of pulling on your joggers at 6am on a cold January morning is significantly less appealing than cosying up in your blanket and going back to sleep. Perhaps you’ve signed up for spin class, but you can’t stand the instructor’s infallible enthusiasm as she tries to motivate you to push a little harder when all you want to do is burst into tears. But never fear. There are options out there to suit almost every lifestyle and every timetable: what follows is only just a few.

 

1)     Weightlifting

When you walk into the gym and take that first, deep breath of stuffy, testosterone-filled air, the thought of joining the guys in the weight section might seem unappealing – and even a little scary. But don’t worry. Most of the people there are busy focusing on mind-muscle connection, timing their rest periods or admiring their gains in the mirror – no one will notice when you try to pick up a weight that’s clearly too heavy for you. And if they do, it just shows that they’re not concentrating enough on their own training. Weight lifting is an all-round good egg in the exercise world: it burns fat, improves cardiovascular fitness and endurance, increases bone density and, of course, grows your muscles. And it won’t make you bulky. Repeat: it will not make you bulky. Google it.

Weight training is great if you want an all-round workout and like discipline and order when you exercise. It does, however, require consistency and commitment to see results, as well as a good diet full of proteins and fats (and those post-workout carbs). You can get a good session out of the gym in around 40 minutes: it just depends whether you’re willing to do that three or four times a week.

2)     Yoga

Another trend that’s picked up popularity in recent years, this one’s good for those who want to stay at home when they exercise, in the warmth – a very appealing factor in these winter months. There are, of course, yoga classes in all their variations if you want to be guided, or if you like working out with other people, but you can just as easily do it in your room. It requires very little cost, no expensive gear, and there are vast quantities of free yoga videos on YouTube and beyond that you can follow. And, despite popular belief, you don’t need to be flexible to do it. You don’t even have to be able to touch your toes. Yoga will improve your flexibility for you. It boasts a whole host of other benefits, too: lowering high blood pressure, decreasing the risk of heart disease, curing aches and pains and aiding depression and stress.

Perhaps the easiest and least threatening of the exercises on this list, yoga is a good way to increase your physical activity level, but you might want to take a minute to consider the spiritual and cultural history behind the practice. It’s a controversial topic, but respecting the culture from which yoga came is really important if you’re going to practise it, and it will open your mind to centuries of wisdom from its non-western foundations.

3)     Walking

Most people don’t really count walking as exercise, unless you’re doing it up Grey Hill with a book-laden rucksack on your back. It’s arguably one of the best ways to get moving because it comes so naturally to a lot of us, and requires little to no preparation. It’s a gentle exercise, which means your knees won’t suffer in the future like they do with running, and you can go absolutely anywhere with it. Reconnecting with nature is a big reason people take up walking, but it’s not just about that: taking some quiet time out of university life will help you clear your mind and connect with yourself, too. There’s other benefits as well: aside from the mood-boost you’ll get from any form of exercise, walking strengthens your heart, lowers disease risk, and boosts vitamin D levels from being outdoors. You don’t have to be seriously into it – try investing 20 minutes a day in strolling through the Durham countryside – but if you’d like to be, invest in a good pair of walking boots and set off with a map.

4)     HIIT

High Intensity Interval Training – the painful one. I’m half joking – but if your fitness goal is to up your cardiovascular fitness and burn fat, this is the one for you. It can take as little as ten minutes to get your heart going with a HIIT workout, and it’s adaptable: you can run, swim, cycle or row using HIIT, depending on your preference. HIIT basically involves alternating short, high-intensity bursts of exercise with low-intensity activity or rest. For example, you might sprint for one minute, walk for two, and repeat seven or eight times. The most intense version of HIIT is Tabata, a four-minute workout involving bursts of 20-second intense exercise followed by ten seconds of rest. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and you might feel like you’re going to die, but it’s quick and efficient – ideal for those who want to get it over and done with as soon as possible. As well as increasing your fitness, a Tabata workout can burn more fat in four minutes than an average hour on the treadmill.

 

If running hasn’t worked, or you can’t stand the sight of yourself in a swimsuit and goggles, pick something else. It’s as simple as that. The exercises listed above are four of many different varieties open to you depending on your preferences – whether you like to be alone or in a group, outside or inside, dressed in the best Nike gear or wearing your paint-stained joggers, there’s something out there for you. Don’t be put off if your chosen sport isn’t working. It’s still early, and you’ve got a whole year to go. Pick your poison and commit ten minutes, forty minutes, even two hours to it a few times a week, and you’ll develop an enjoyable habit you won’t want to kick once 2016 is up.