Are you looking to improve your overall health and fitness and claimed 2024 is a new year, new you? We all do it, whether it’s to challenge ourselves by setting a goal, to maintain a healthier lifestyle, to be able to keep up with the younger family, fit back into your favourite clothes, look great or simply to pick up a new hobby.
Being fit brings a whole range of health benefits and according to the NHS, it’s medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have a lower risk of:
- coronary heart disease and stroke
- type 2 diabetes
- bowel cancer
- breast cancer in women
- early death
- hip fracture
- falls (among older adults)
Outside of the obvious health benefits, regular exercise can help you in day-to-day activities and even improve your mood, sleep and boost your energy.
You don’t have to sign up for a marathon or spend hours at the gym to start feeling the benefits of a more active lifestyle, and thankfully there’s plenty of technology and apps out there that can help guide you and stay motivated. Here are just a few options that can help your journey.
Modern smart watches are packed with features. Most models track your daily steps, heart rate and exercise minutes or calories burned. The more advanced watches can take measurements of your blood oxygen levels, blood pressure and track your sleep amongst other features. Lots of smart watches also have the ability to track your workout progress. By selecting the type of activity, your watch will display information of your workout such as total time, distance, average mile pace etc, allowing you to set goals and monitor improvement.
You don’t have to be “working out” to benefit from a smart watch. Walking is a great way to exercise and you can track how many steps you’ve done (you’ve heard people say “just getting my steps in”) to set your own personal daily targets.
If you’re looking for something a little less techy and more affordable, a pedometer can be paired with various apps so you can record your progress and hit your step goals.
Take away – Smart watches vary in price and the features they have, from good all-round watches for basic health indicators, to more specialist technology and functionality. Pick one that matches your budget, health and exercise goals.
Social media groups are a great way to connect with people with similar interests and fitness goals. Whether it be walking, hiking, running or resistance training, these groups can be really supportive offering advice, guidance and motivation and answering any questions you might have. Seeing other group members’ progress or achievements can give you a real boost in confidence and a lot of these groups are beginners and started their journey just like you.
Take away – Social media groups can go some way in giving you some accountability and will act like cheerleaders if you choose to be an active member. When asking questions and seeking advice remember that most members will not be medical experts, so always speak with a professional if you have any concerns or if you’re making major changes to your lifestyle or diet.
Online workouts can offer everything from exercise videos and live group classes to personalised programmes and one to one coaching. All you need to get started is a phone, laptop, tablet or smart TV, an internet connection and a bit of room to move. YouTube has become the new fitness DVD with an abundance of content, so you never have to repeat the same workout twice. Simply open YouTube and search for the type of workout you’re a looking for, for example ‘beginner move workout’ or ‘full body HIIT class’. Choose the workout you want and follow the instructor from home - if you can remember when Joe Wicks got the nation moving during lockdown, you will have an idea of what to expect.
Take away – Online workouts are a great way to get moving in the comfort of familiar surroundings. Start with beginner, light workouts and depending on your goals, move onto more physically demanding exercises when your fitness and ability allows.
Fitness, nutrition and wellbeing apps have really taken off and if you want to get in shape without using a coach, then apps can help you stay motivated and stick to your lifestyle goals. These apps have a number of benefits such as monitoring your daily activity, diet and weight and providing valuable information based on the results. Many apps come with workout plans, exercise examples online classes or meal planners. They allow you to set yourself realistic goals, track your progress and are especially useful to monitor your increased performance and progress as you continue to use them.
Take away – Fitness apps can be free or paid services and will vary in function and content. Consider what your goals are and choose an app that fits with this. Be aware that these apps do have some level of inaccuracy and health vitals should be taken as guidance only. However, using an app is a convenient way of planning your exercise and diet to help achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Ever wondered why exercise classes blare out banging music or why boxers do their ring walk to their favourite tune? Listening to music is a great way to get you motivated for a workout. In fact, many studies suggest while listening to music you can achieve more in your training with less effort. Music is stimulating, relieves boredom and can take your mind away from exertion and enhance your mood which can all elevate your exercise performance.
Using a smart phone or portable music player you can download music or apps of your choice, set playlists of your musical taste and listen with headphones while you’re on the move. Upbeat music over 120bpm is most effective during higher intensity activity, however listening to your favourite music while walking can be both beneficial and relaxing.
Takeaway – During outdoors exercise be aware of your surroundings and keep the volume to a level where you can still hear people and vehicles around you.