Getting fit for the New Year
Ways and means to get moving
Written by Conor Jordan
Voices - Advice
Young people share advice based on their experiences.
The start of the New Year brings with it the opportunity to make a fresh start, perhaps come up with a few reasons not to eat that bit extra, to maintain a healthy weight or maybe lose a couple of pounds. A common New Year's resolution is to keep healthy and get fit. For many, that goal seems out of reach. Time constraints, lack of energy and low enthusiasm for exercise can all hamper New Year's resolutions. Yet exercise can be fun if you take part in an activity you enjoy. Plus, there is more than one way to get fit.
The start of a New Year is as good a time as any to make a resolution and stick with it throughout the rest of the year. Here are a few ways to keep fit well into the year.
Cardiovascular exercise is one of the most effective forms of physical exertion for maintaining an ideal weight and improving functioning of the respiratory system. When it comes to losing weight and keeping fit, exercise really is the best medicine. There is a wealth of cardiovascular exercise available, including one of the simplest forms of exertion: walking. Squeezing in a quick walk around the block in the evenings, taking the stairs instead of the lift, and deciding to get off a stop or two early and walking the extra distance can all help to fit in a bit of exercise. You don't have to have an expensive gym membership to become healthy. Exercise is literally only a step away.
If you're lucky enough to have a bike, use it. The great outdoors presents a lovely vista for cyclists, with rolling hills and spectacular scenery, depending of course on where you live. Cycling is an effective form of cardiovascular exercise, it increases stamina, it's great for maintaining a healthy weight, it improves lung capacity (useful if you have decided to give up smoking as well) and it helps to improve mood. Weather can be a challenge. Conditions are not always the kindest to cyclists or outdoor adventurists alike though. So remember to wrap up against the elements and to wear a helmet. Then just pedal to your heart's desire.
Running is another effective means of improving cardiovascular activity and building up stamina. Yet many consider this form of exertion out of reach. The prospect of panting uncontrollably while plodding the pavements just seems too daunting. Although running can present a difficult challenge at first, gradually introducing some light jogging into a walk can make the transition that bit easier.
Start by introducing light running into a walk. Pick a point, for instance, a lamppost around 100 metres ahead. Start a light jog a keep it up until you reach the marker. Walk to recover and then pick another target nearby when you have fully recovered from running. Repeat this process a number of times until you reach home. This can add an extra challenge to a walk, integrating some running into your routine. This mix of walking and running is known as interval training and is a great exercise in itself. Eventually you can eliminate the walking and just jog for the whole session.
Another useful form of cardiovascular exercise is swimming. Swimming helps to improve flexibility and increase suppleness. This form of exertion also helps to increase lung capacity and is a useful low impact form of exercise. Since water is isokinetic (it provides a resistance equal to the amount of force applied against it), swimming can be an invaluable way to build up strength and resistance with a greatly reduced risk of injury. If you don't know how to swim, there are always other options, such as water aerobics classes. Resistance exercises can be performed underwater and as such provide a useful way to build up strength without the risk of injury or strain.
There is more than one way to get fit. Performing a variety of exercises focusing on the upper body, midsection and lower body can help to prevent injury and to build up resistance to increasing loads placed on the body. Strength training can take on a variety of forms. Body weight exercises can be performed to increase strength, such as those regularly performed in disciplines like Pilates. Adding strength exercises can help to offset the risk of injury in runners and cyclists, to tone muscles and to act a useful means of maintaining a healthy weight.
The New Year often brings with it an opportunity to try out new exercise classes that often begin in January. Gyms or fitness centres usually provide members or the general public an opportunity to try out new forms of exercise, such as: yoga classes for beginners, Pilates, circuit training classes for all over body exercises and spinning classes where participants cycle to music on stationery bikes to varying speeds and resistances as directed by a fitness instructor. Make sure to pick something that appeals to you. Choosing something with a variety of exercises can help to make exercise that bit more enjoyable.
Exercise does not have to be all sweat, panting and muscle ache; it can be enjoyable as well. There are a wide range of activities to get involved in, whether you decide to go for a stroll around the block, to take up a class in your local fitness centre or to introduce some activity to your daily routine. If you get bored of doing the same exercise all the time, vary it. Choose a different type of exercise each week or go on a different route for your walk. There are an endless number of options available for anyone looking to get fit for the New Year and to maintain a healthy weight. Whatever you decide to do, choose something that you enjoy, as you are more likely to keep it up.
The New Year is as good a time as any to start.