Nothing tastes as good as getting in shape feels
Come early January, most of us are carrying a little more ‘left over festive cheer’ than we’d like, and are ready to turn to ‘new leaf’ thoughts with the energy they require.
Besides helping you look and feel better, exercise has many, many health benefits. Experts often recommend a ‘bouquet’ of exercise types – working different muscle groups and having different effects of the body – not just because the ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, but also because if you’re injured or unable to perform one type of exercise for some reason (often simply weather!) you have others to fall back on.
As we’re all different (different bodies, different health requirements, different lifestyles and different timetables, and yup, do check with an expert if you have any health concerns about a particular exercise type) it’s always best to work out an exercise bouquet that best suits you. ‘
For January, we’ve put together a few healthy ideas. The rest, as they say, is up to you.
Sign up for gym
A gym encourages you to do a balanced programme that includes both aerobic and strength training exercises. These together have been found to improve cholesterol levels in the blood and lower blood pressure, helping prevent cardiovascular diseases and strokes. Gym has also been found to regulate levels of insulin in the blood, lowering the risk if some types of cancer.
Similarly, gym workouts that include weight lifting, squats, aerobics, and running help strengthen bones and surrounding tissues, which help fight osteoporosis and improve muscle strength and joint mobility, balance and flexibility.
Find support and motivation
While some people really enjoy exercise; others find it a chore. At a gym you’ll find yourself surrounded by other people who provide incentive. After a few sessions you’ll most likely find your rhythm and not want to stay away!
Destress and get happy
Just about all forms of exercise help relieve stress, as the physical activity boosts the brain’s production of endorphins, which makes us feel better physically and have a brighter emotional outlook. Exercise tends to reduce tension in both the body and the mind, improving ones mood and the quality of ones sleep.
Sample the variety
One of the big advantages of a gym over a home gym is the wide variety of machines, weights, facilities and classes allowing you to try new exercises and vary your routine. You also, very often, have pros on tap, to help advise you on routines and techniques.
Boost your self-confidence
Not only will you probably be looking better but most likely you’ll be feeling better about yourself too and therefore more confident when meeting others.
Great for grey matter and energy
Many studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise has a positive effect on your brain power, improving decision making, thinking, memory and learning. Exercise and physical activity also deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helping your heart and lungs work more efficiently, which gives you more energy.
Helps control addiction
The cause of addiction is a nasty little beast called dopamine, or ‘reward chemical’ that the brain releases in response to any form of pleasure such as drugs, alcohol or food. Exercise sessions can often distract the addict by making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term) making kicking the habit all that much easier.
Heads up to yoga
An ancient Indian tradition, Yoga is considered a way to unite the body and the mind. It’s not only an effective way to achieve mental peace and spiritual awareness, but also a great way to exercise the body and keep fit.
Yoga has a wide range of poses with varying levels of difficulty, to suit the abilities and fitness requirements of different individuals. Yoga exercises not only improve overall health, and reduce stress, it can be used to cure specific ailments and manage chronic medical conditions as each yoga pose (asana) targets a different part of the body.
There are a number of different types of yoga – a good instructor should be able to run through these with you and help you with the different aspects of yoga exercises such as proper alignment, breathing techniques and posture benefits.
Increases strength, agility and flexibility
Many sports will give you strength. Others will give you more agility, but few practices will increase strength, agility, and flexibility all at once.
Enhances memory & cognitive functioning
Partly due to the increase in oxygen circulation but also due to the meditation involved, yoga is known to increase cognitive functioning, memory capacity, and levels of concentration.
Body weight normalises
Yoga gently normalises body weight by restoring hormonal balance in the body.
Naturally reduces pain
Yoga is often used to effectively reduce pain in many ailment including fibromyalgia, arthritis and migraine headaches.
Increases respiratory efficiency and blood pressure
Yoga teaches breathing techniques that increase lung capacity which has numerous physical and health benefits, including reducing blood pressure. Yoga has been shown to be very effective in treating hypertension.
Enhances mental health
Yoga offers many psychological benefits, among them an improved overall mood and sense of well-being, more connectedness with others, lower depressive states, less hostility towards self and others, less anxiety, increased feelings of self-actualisation and increased motivation.
You can do it anywhere
You can do yoga almost anywhere. You don’t need anything (except perhaps a yoga mat, but even that isn’t essential).
Hands up for Pilates
Since the early 20th century, when Joseph Pilates created this physical fitness regimen, Pilates has become a popular activity among exercise enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. It offers physical and mental benefits, without taking a toll on the body. Quality of movement in Pilates is valued over quantity of repetitions. Proper breathing is essential, and helping execute movements with maximum power and efficiency and reducing stress.
A refreshing mind-body workout
By emphasising proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and concentration on smooth, flowing movement, you become acutely in tune with your body and how to control its movement.
Develop a strong core – flat abdominals and a strong back
Pilates exercises develop a strong ‘core’, or centre of the body. The core consists of the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine. Control of the core is achieved by integrating the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle.
Gain long, lean muscles, flexibility and even conditioning
Pilates elongates and strengthens muscles, improving elasticity and joint mobility, claiming that a body with balanced strength and flexibility is less likely to be injured. Similarly Pilates works all the muscles in the body, creating even conditioning, a reason many sports teams combine Pilates with their particular training.
Many exercises are performed in reclining or sitting positions, and most are low impact and partially weight bearing. Pilates is so safe it is used in physical therapy facilities to rehabilitate injuries.
Pilates is extremely flexible and modifications to exercises allow for a range of difficulty ranging from beginner to advanced.
Set out for a run
Running helps burn calories which can contribute to weight loss and reducing the risk of osteoporosis and complications related to joint pressure. Running can also strengthen and stabilise ligaments in the body, making you less susceptible to sprains.
Running helps work out the quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominal muscles, calf muscles, glutes and the hip flexors. Because running is a high-impact workout, you’ll burn more calories and engage your cardiovascular system.
Research has shown that running can also decrease the risk of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and breast, uterine and bowel cancer. Since running releases endorphins, additional benefits include improved mental health, physical self-perception and self-esteem; additionally, it can relieve depression.
Hot tip – Run on empty
Studies have shown that running before you eat (especially before breakfast – in a fasted state) can actually help you burn more fat. However, if you’re doing a long, strenuous workout, you may need to replenish your glycogen stores mid-way to prevent having a poor workout – interestingly, when done during the workout it doesn’t interfere with the enhanced fat loss. Tip: a cup of black coffee is believed to lead to greater fat loss as it stimulates the metabolism.
Walking it off
For those who can’t run, a walk is a great option too. Gentler on the joints, walking has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. It can also alleviate high blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels. A brisk walk every day contributes to overall fitness by burning calories, improving muscle strength and tone and working the cardiovascular system. Walking also releases endorphins that improve the mood and helps increase concentration levels. Because of its low impact, walking is one of the safest forms of physical activity.
* Check out https://www.facebook.com/RichardsBayparkrun/ for info on how to take part in a Parkrun, a free, weekly 5km timed run.
Cheers to good health
They always sound delicious on the menu, but we tend to neglect them back home. Get super smooth with these health drinks that will have you coming back for seconds.
¼ c mango cubes
¼ c mashed ripe avocado
½ c mango juice
¼ c vanilla yogurt
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T sugar/honey
6 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Garnish with sliced mango or strawberry if desired.
1/2 c skim milk
1/2 c plain yoghurt
1 c frozen unsweetened blueberries
1 T cold-pressed organic flaxseed oil
Honey to taste
Combine milk, yoghurt and blueberries in blender, and blend for 1 minute. Transfer to glass, and stir in flaxseed oil. Add honey to taste.
½ c fat-free milk
½ c fat-free plain yogurt
2 T peanut butter
¼ very ripe banana
1 T honey
4 ice cubes
Combine ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve.
Kale & Pear Juice
2 stalks kale
1 cup spinach
3 stalks celery
Add one tablespoon of Organic Coconut Oil for additional health benefits.