So you have decided what type of program might be best for you – but how are you going to ensure that you are successful in your endeavours? One word – commitment. This means taking a long hard look at your daily schedule and being realistic with how much time you want to dedicate to your fitness program.

  • How long can you spend in the session itself?
  • How many days per week can you make time to train?
  • How much can you afford to spend on your training? (memberships/class fees/personal trainer etc)
  • Have you got equipment or facilities nearby (or at home)?
  • Have you factored in recovery time from each session?

Exercise should be an enjoyable part of your life. It needs to be a lifestyle choice, not a punishment. Finding things that you like to do on a regular basis is key to maintaining a regular schedule and seeing improvements. And remember, exercise is not only good for you physically, but provides incredible mental, emotional and social health benefits too.

Examine the choice of the program you have chosen a little deeper:

  • Is it appropriate for your goals?
  • Is it appropriate for your experience and ability?
  • Is it appropriate for your time and schedule?
  • Is it fun for you?

Making a regular commitment with yourself will make your program easer to stick to, and will also make it a habit. Schedule your exercise in your diary, just as you would with any other appointment. You wouldn’t just not turn up to a dentist appointment, and this is how you need to start thinking about your commitments to yourself. If left to spontaneity, chances are that you will find it easier to find excuses not to do it when you are lacking in motivation. Making exercise as much a habit as brushing your teeth or going to work, will build it into your life and make it less of a chore and more of a lifestyle. However, if you do miss a session, don’t beat yourself up about it, simply find another time sot and make sure you do it!

Exercise and Weight Loss

Exercise is great for so many reasons – but weight loss is not one of them! If your entire goal is centred around doing exercise for weight loss then you are going to be sorely disappointed (literally!). Weight loss is primarily achieved through the right nutrition, which means you could exercise until you are blue (or red!) in the face without seeing any real results – leading to frustration, and possibly overeating, thus exacerbating the problem. And let’s face it, what we are talking about here is not WEIGHT loss, but FAT loss. Nobody wants to lose muscle tissue.

Exercise can certainly help you in your quest for better body composition, by increasing your muscle tissue (through resistance exercise), and thereby improving your metabolic health (muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue) and generally helping to raise your overall metabolic rate. And it can help to prevent sagging skin as the fat starts to melt off. Your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) will improve, your flexibility and mobility will improve, the ability to go out and do more during your daily life will improve. Your brain function will improve, your mood and emotional stability will improve. And, whilst fasting has been demonstrated to have benefits related to autophagy and apoptosis (cell death), so too has exercise. This article demonstrates how exercise (specifically resistance training) promotes autophagy but reduces muscle cell death. This evidence is important in showing how resistance training is essential to help maintain (or increase) muscle mass and strength – particularly as we age.

Incorporating strength training 2-3 times a week should be a crucial element of your exercise program. And, of course, the younger you start strength training, the better. But it’s never too late. Elderly people who started strength training in their eighties were shown to increase both their muscle tissue and their bone density. So it is important to remember that if you are constantly doing cardio but not lifting weights, you will not be increasing your muscle mass or bone density.

Strength Training activities include:

  • Bodybuilding
  • Resistance training
  • Kettlebell training
  • Power lifting

Regular cardio exercise can, and perhaps arguably should, be included in your fitness program as it provides health benefits such as improving your mood, lowering stress, increasing energy and stamina, and sharpening mental focus and memory. Plus, if there are things that you simply enjoy doing then it makes sense to include them regularly.

Cardio activities include:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Jump rope
  • Rowing
  • Football
  • Netball
  • Dancing

Benefits of short cardio, or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Whilst this may not show up as many calories burnt on your FitBit, (and we’ll save the “calories in/calories out” argument for another day!) the advantage of HIIT training is that your metabolic rate is raised for several hours after your bout, meaning that you continue to expend energy at a higher rate after the actual training is over. With conventional cardio you use energy during the training itself but that stops immediately afterwards. To be honest, both types of cardio are extremely beneficial (as long as you are not performing it day in and day out (chronic cardio), allowing your body to adapt to different types of training stimuli. For more information about the benefits of HIIT versus LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) read more here.

High intensity activities include:

  • Tabata intervals
  • Sprint training
  • Circuits
  • Strength training

And let’s not forget the benefit of just moving regularly every day in between your exercise sessions – and especially if you have a sedentary job. Walking provides great health benefits, particularly if you are walking briskly (and can include some uphill). Aiming to walk at around 3.5mph is a good target.

Whatever your choices, make sure that you really commit to them. Find ways to ensure that you prioritise yourself. Loving yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your health so treat yourself as you would any friend that you don’t want to let down.

Commit to being the best version of yourself!