Running or swimming? Cardio or weights? Long session or high intensity workout? With so much choice nowadays it’s easy to become overwhelmed and not know what to do. So stop thinking and downsize your ideas, because keeping activity simple may be the best choice you ever make.
The stress of having to make constant decisions about your health can make you feel overwhelmed and want to skip working out altogether! Instead, maybe we should keep things simple. Have simple workouts, simple targets and use simple equipment. Then we will realise that keeping active really is quite easy.
To keep exercise simple you need to make every movement count. You actually don’t need to spend hours at the gym. Take weight lifting for example. You will get the best results by lifting a heavy weight for 5-10 reps, rather than high reps of lower weights to ‘tone’. Women – don’t worry about building huge muscles, that doesn’t generally happen. Studies also show that people lifting heavy weights lose much more body fat compared to those who just do cardio, and the fat burning continues all day long.
Back to basics
You don’t even need equipment if you can’t make the gym. For example, concentrate on weight bearing compound movements for the bulk of your workouts and do them with intensity.
One of the most basic but effective weight bearing exercises is the push up. All military fitness tests will require its recruits to perform push-ups because it’s such a good test of strength. If you find it hard then just allow your knees to touch the floor. Wall push ups are another good choice for beginners and can be done anywhere.
Squats are another simple exercise you can do. A movement that’s used in everyday life - sitting down on chairs and using the toilet (!) – It can be modified to suit all levels and works buttocks, hamstrings and quadriceps. Add a weight such as a kettle bell to raise above the head and you bring in the biceps, triceps, shoulder muscles and back, as well as making the lower body work harder. Powerful legs are a good sign of fitness so never underrate the humble squat.
There is nothing simpler than walking, and it’s in the news again this week. The ‘Walking Works’ by the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support concluded that walking can transform people’s health. A similar study last week showed that an hour of walking each day significantly cuts the rate of breast cancer.
Keep it simple at gyms
Gyms are now offering so many different activities and the latest craze seems to change every few weeks. Last year Zumba, now rave party workouts? Dozens of pieces of equipment to target your medial trapezius and rear deltoids can also seem daunting. But don’t let this put you off. There are hundreds of UK gyms, ranging from the complex to the simple and you can try out which suits you by using pay as you go gym passes. You could read reviews to find a straightforward, no frills gym. Or try out any and simply ignore the bulk of machines, instead sticking to just two or three workout areas.
Whether you’re at the gym or not, have a workout plan and aim for a maximum of 30 minutes. This will get your short-twitch fibres going and kick start your fat burning, muscle building hormones. If going to the gym also includes socialising, trading tips and Facebook profiles, then you are not exercising. Leave the gym when you’re done, go and recover and get on with the rest of your life!
Ditch the gadgets?
Workouts don’t have to entail detailed fitness plans, thinking about every tiny muscle and recording every calorie burned. The dozens of fitness gadgets and apps available now can also make people feel like they should be monitoring their progress and tracking their fitness regimes from every angle. Great if you like doing that, but we sometimes forget that gadgets and apps are not actually necessary. Technology is exciting and motivating, but we are also quite capable being in tip top condition without our smartphone. So if you’re taking lots of time managing all your fitness apps, consider using all that time and energy on your workouts instead.
Have an active lifestyle
Many people don’t even follow a workout plan. Life is sometimes enough by itself to get that athletic, healthy body. Simply embrace every opportunity to move and have fun. Go walking, hiking, cycling, join a friend walking his dog, play Frisbee in the park, play football with your kids. Every minute adds up and doesn’t take a lot of thought, but chances are if you enjoy it you will continue to do it for years. And that’s what will help you towards a happy, healthy, long life.