We all know we should exercise more for better health and wellbeing, but it’s often just one more thing to fret about as we can’t fit it in to our crazy busy lives.
As a Fitness Expert for three magazines I spend my life telling everyone what to do. As an entrepreneur running my own business I know just how difficult it is.
So here are my top tips – each of them in isolation seems insignificant, but together they really add up to make a difference not only to your body but your mindset too.
Small, achievable goals
So you could say you’ll get up and just walk / jog for five minutes before you get dressed and go off to work. By the end of the week you’ll have clocked up 25 minutes of aerobic exercise.
Nowhere to walk? Put some music on and dance like no one is watching – great for your body and soul!
Whatever it is you can fit in, just do it, no matter if it’s only for a few minutes.
I’m really good at finding a reason why I can’t fit it in – I just need to answer that email, just need to read that report – and suddenly the tiny window of opportunity has gone. So leave your walking clothes and shoes out and ready to step into first thing (like a fireman leaves his boots and trousers out).
The same applies if you’re going to fit in the five-minute walk at the end of the day – once you start unloading the dishwasher and preparing dinner you’ll have lost the impetus.
If you have a sedentary job, try to do as many tasks as you can standing up. Just standing for four hours a day is the equivalent of running 10 marathons over the course of a year in terms of calorie burn.
Try to have standing meetings (they are usually more efficient too); stand up to take phone calls and set a reminder to make sure you stand up at least every half hour through the day. Sitting down switches off the big muscles in your legs and glutes – these are energy-burning muscles, so use them whenever you can.
Got a minute?
Can you do any worthwhile exercise in 60 seconds? Try going upstairs at a fast pace non-stop and you’ll see what an effect it has on your heart rate. If you find it easy then try carrying something heavy (carrier bags full of books will do fine, you don’t have to carry dumbbells around). This is a great exercise for your heart and your bones as it’s weight-bearing, too.
Squeeze a ball
This is a great exercise if you have a desk job and no one can see what you’re doing. Use a resistance ball and place it between your legs just above the knees. Squeeze the ball slowly by bringing your knees inwards, then release the tension slowly. See if you can increase the ‘squeeze’ to five seconds and do as many as you can until your legs are tired. Repeat throughout the day.
In between doing these thigh toners, place the ball behind your back – it will make sure you sit up tall with good posture and prevent you leaning forward which leads to back strain.
You can always do these exercises at home when you’re watching TV, too.
Use a task that you do every day and include an extra action. So when you brush your teeth for one or two minutes every morning and night you can add in some squats. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and push your bottom back as if you were going to sit on an imaginary chair. Make sure your knees don’t go past the end of your toes. Lift back up to stand straight and repeat.
If this gets easier then try doing it on one leg – it’s really challenging but great for thigh strength. (Don’t attempt this if you have any knee problems).
Got 30 seconds?
Seriously, what can you do in 30 seconds? Well you can do your pelvic floor exercises and they’re not just for women after childbirth! There are a couple of methods for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles – this one activates the ‘fast twitch’ muscles which you use when you sneeze, cough or laugh suddenly.
Imagine you’re on the loo* in mid-flow, then imagine stopping the flow abruptly – those are the muscles you’re going to focus on. Now try to contract those muscles for one second and relax for one second repeatedly for up to 30 seconds. Don’t clench your buttocks or pull your tummy in.
You can do this when you’re driving and stop at a red light, or in the supermarket queue, or when the ads come on TV. You can do it three times a day and no one knows you’re doing it. The result… better continence, confidence and sex!
*But don’t do this when you’re actually passing urine – just use this as a way to locate the right muscles.
So by making these simple exercises part of your everyday life you’ll start to notice a difference. They’re not going to radically change your fitness but this will create a change in your mind-set. Just by making small changes and congratulating yourself for doing something, you’ll be far more likely to create a little more space in your life to exercise.
Then you can work towards making your health a priority and not feeling guilty about it!