Exercise for best results

Whether you want to lose weight, reduce stress, get active or boost energy levels, there is an exercise programme to meet your needs.

What works: Being as active as you can, as often as you can. A combination of cardio exercise and resistance training will get you looking trim, taut and terrific in no time. As well as regular exercise, you also need to adopt a healthy eating plan.

Why? Resistance training helps maintain and increase muscle mass, which boosts your metabolic rate. The faster your metabolism, the more kilojoules you burn when resting. Cardio exercise also uses energy – the longer you work out, the more kilojoules you burn.

What to do: Find an exercise you enjoy and set yourself realistic goals for training. Try to do cardio exercise, like walking or swimming, at least three times a week, plus two resistance-training sessions. Circuit training is another good exercise for weight-loss.

What works: Any movement will be great, but begin with gentle exercise. Jump in a pool to enjoy aqua-aerobics, and include some resistance training (exercising with weights) to help maintain strength, prevent muscle loss and slow the ageing process.

Why? Everyone benefits from exercise and you are never too old to start. Cardio exercise is great for heart health and will reduce your risk of developing other illnesses. Resistance training helps maintain muscle mass, which will keep you mobile.

What to do: Before you start, visit your GP for a complete check-up. After a thorough evaluation, they will tell you what you can and can’t do. Start slowly and don’t overdo it, or the soreness you get from training sessions could put you off exercising altogether.

What works: One of the best ways to release emotional tension is to get out in the fresh air and move every muscle in your body. Exercise, especially cardio activity, also acts as a distraction and will take your mind off your problems and improve your mood.

Why? Exercise decreases stress hormones such as cortisol and increases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Enhance the benefits of exercise by working out with a friend or personal trainer for moral support and improved confidence.

What to do: Choose any exercise that gets your heart beating faster. You can release your frustrations by pounding the pavement or vent your anger on a punching bag. For a more peaceful option, swim some laps. Aim for at least three cardio sessions a week.

What works: This depends on the damage you have incurred as you will have to rest your injured body part. However, there are still plenty of exercises you can do. Cross-training sessions (doing a variety of exercises) are ideal for keeping up fitness levels – the combination of flexibility, strength and cardio can do wonders.

Why? It’s important to get moving as soon as possible. When you are sedentary, your injury won’t heal properly and your body will lose any conditioning. A mix of strength and flexibility training will increase the range of motion of your injury. Work out at about 70% of your maximum to ensure you maintain your fitness.

What to do: Before you start any fitness programme, you need to get approval from your doctor or physiotherapist. Make sure you follow their advice about what exercises you can do and how hard you can work out. It’s important to listen to your body: don’t overdo it, or you will be on the sidelines a lot longer.

What works: Moving more! The more you sit around, the more tired you will feel. Get outside, get some fresh air and start working your body. Cutting out junk food and eating more fresh food will also improve your energy levels.

Why? Exercising speeds up your blood flow and breathing rate, which in turn brings more oxygen to your heart, lungs, brain and muscles. This oxygen boost makes you feel more alive. Not only can exercise be fun, it can pep you up mentally as well.

What to do: When you get home from work, grab your sneakers and head out for a brisk walk or run. If you have trouble with motivation, try an exercise class. An indoor cycling class is a great way to get the blood pumping and you will leave feeling exhilarated.

First published: Aug 2008

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