With so many fitness classes, gym workouts, machine types and active hobbies about, how do you make a choice of something you know that you will enjoy?
Resolving to do more exercise is, as we all know, the easy part of a healthier and more active lifestyle. Turning good intentions into action can be bewildering, especially if you really don’t know where to start with getting active.
The most important factor concerning exercise is that you enjoy it. Once you leave school there is no longer any compulsion to be active, except your own good sense and concern for your health. So what you plan to do must be fun! If you do not find your form of exercise fun, there is no way that you will continue it.
So you must decide on your definition of ‘fun’. It may mean outdoors if that is what you prefer, or with lively music if you like that, and with an atmosphere that you find welcoming. Exercise also has social benefits, so look for a group, venue or class where you feel that you fit in as soon as you walk through the door.
If you are an outdoor person, your exercise routine will probably change through the year. For example, a good walk up to a viewpoint is a delightful prospect on a fine spring day, but probably less so in the depths of January. Some outdoor sports are weather dependent; for instance sailors will want a certain level of wind, water-skiers will want no wind at all and road cyclists will want dry weather with good visibility. These are also the sports that definitely prove that enjoyment is important. Non-devotees may think those who participate to be slightly mad, as the sailors, skiers and cyclists head out to get wet, sweaty and dirty!
The next thing to consider is location. Those who have to commute for work will probably not want to do even more travelling for exercise, so have a look to see if you can find something of interest either near your work or near your home. If you work on a big site there may even be classes or a gym held on the premises. If you are in a town centre during the day there will almost certainly be a gym in one of the shopping centres or nearby. Other places to look include hotels and schools – some of the latter have gyms that can be used by the public outside school hours.
Some activities may need more travelling – for instance, those dinghy sailors and windsurfers have to go to their nearest body of water, riders need somewhere with enough space for the horse and climbers need to find a climbing wall or outdoor venue. Anyone who is involved in activities such as these will tell you that it is well worth the journey.
Another important factor is your health - in short, are you fit enough to take on your fitness programme? This does not mean that those who are very unfit cannot take exercise, but the activity must not cause damage. Even those who are fit may need to adapt what they do. For instance, anyone who has developed knee trouble and likes to swim will know that they should not be doing breaststroke, as the leg action strains the knee joint. Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth should seek advice before taking up a new sport or continuing a very vigorous one. Most sports can be continued during pregnancy as long as the woman feels up to it, but there are some that do need to be stopped. There is a similar caution for anyone starting a vigorous sport - sometimes it is important to ‘get fit to be fit’.
Age is less of a problem than most might think. For most sports and activities, it is never too late to learn or too late to continue. While David Beckham may be in his ‘football dotage’ at thirty-seven, for those simply enjoying a weekly kick-about there is no need to stop quite so early. With the exception of gymnastics and some other very specialised activities, age is not usually a barrier.
Money has to be part of the equation. For those who enjoy the gym, there is now so much choice and competition that it should not be difficult to find a deal or pay-as-you-go pass that suits you, at a venue that you like.
Finally, what about skill? The good news is that now you are not trying to be picked for the team, it doesn’t matter! The gym needs no prior knowledge, there are classes for beginners in many sports and most clubs will welcome newcomers with open arms. If that welcome isn’t there, take your custom elsewhere.
In short – if your chosen sport or activity suits your fitness level and state of health, is affordable and most importantly is enjoyable, that is all that matters.
by Kath Webb
by Laura Briggs
by Kath Webb
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ambrose