Many of us may have slipped a little with our exercise routine in 2020 and that’s okay – it was definitely out of the ordinary.
Now it’s 2021, how do you get back into exercise after a long break?
We asked the expert, our resident accredited Exercise Physiologist, Eliza MacDonald.
What’s the best way to kick-start an exercise program again?
2020 was a tough year, but getting back into exercising regularly is one of the best ways you can look after your physical and mental health – so start by giving yourself a pat on the back and remember that after months couch time, any exercise is better than none.
Start slow, incorporating more movement into your day by taking the stairs or arranging to catch up with a friend on a walk.
From there, scheduling structured exercise into your weekly routine in advance can be helpful. Tuning in to that LIVE STREAM class on Tuesday at lunchtime will quickly become normal if you make a habit of setting that time aside. Plus, you have the added benefit of an instructor to guide your safe and sustainable return to exercise.
Is it different for men and women, young and old?
The importance of exercise doesn’t change based on your age or gender – everyone can benefit from moving more.
However, your exercise program might look different depending on your stage of life or your health and fitness goals. Think about what it is you want to achieve by exercising, and the types of exercise that are realistic and enjoyable for you at the moment. Use these to guide your exercise plan.
If you are unsure where to start, an accredited Exercise Physiologist or exercise instructor will be able to help you design an effective exercise program that is appropriate for you.
What’s the best way to stay motivated after returning to exercise?
Find a way to exercise that you enjoy! Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and it’s much easier to stay motivated if you look forward to moving your body.
If enjoying exercise is out of the question for you, try and find a context in which you feel able to get it done. This could be going to your favourite outdoor space to walk, scheduling a group fitness class to attend with your friends, or promising yourself a coffee date once you’ve finished!
Setting goals for your exercise can also be motivating. Rather than focusing on elusive lifetime goals (I’m looking at you, marathon!), come up with some super-realistic daily or weekly goals – being able to achieve these each week is motivating and will keep you on track to meeting those longer-term goals.
How often should we all be exercising and why?
To stay fit and healthy, the Australian Department of Health recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise, as well as muscle strengthening exercise every week.
Moderate intensity exercise means you can talk while doing the exercise. Vigorous intensity exercise means you are unable to talk while doing them. Muscle strengthening exercise involves weight-bearing training (body weight or free weights), and resistance training.
This combined with good nutrition ensures long-term health (lowered risk of chronic health issues e.g. heart diseases, diabetes), and mobility.
What would the perfect exercise regime for a week look like?
The perfect weekly exercise regime is the one that you do – exercise programs are only as good as their completion. Since no two people share the same health and fitness goals, the ideal exercise program is going to look a little bit different for everyone.
In general, 150 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you huffing and puffing (moderate intensity aerobic exercise), as well as 2-3 sessions of strengthening exercises (resistance training) per week is a great target to work towards. Exercises that challenge your balance, coordination, and joint mobility are important as well.
Don’t worry if this is not achievable for you at the moment – any exercise is better than none, so start with what you can do and build up towards meeting these guidelines. The key is to slowly build it up.
Leap Health and Wellbeing offers Reformers Pilates, Yoga, Functional Training and Barre. Can you give us a quick rundown on each of these and who they’re appropriate for.
The best way to explain this is through our 4 Pillars of Exercise –
The 4 Pillars represent the 4 groups of exercise that our body needs – cardiovascular training for healthy heart and lungs, strength training for strong muscles and bones (core strength falling under this group), balance for well…staying upright and proprioception, flexibility for free movements.
As you can see, variety is key when it comes to exercise. This is precisely why Leap offers the mix of classes that we do.
Functional Training is great for cardio fitness and strength. Reformer Pilates is great for strength, particularly core strength. Yoga is amazing for flexibility, mobility, and balance. Barre is great for cardio, strength, and balance.
Is there anything else we should keep in mind returning to exercise after taking a break?
It is important to keep in mind that after a long period away from exercise, your strength and fitness may have changed – you may not be able to perform at your pre-COVID capacity straight away. To return to this level safely and sustainably, start with workouts that are less frequent, less intense, or shorter in duration than those you were completing before your time off.