Whatever your fitness method of choice, it’s frequency and regularity that will really get you fit – and that means finding something you can actually stick at long enough to see results. Personal trainer Anthony Mayatt (breathefitness.uk.com) says: “By now you will have a good idea of what you enjoy – and don’t – when it comes to exercise so the optimal training is the training you enjoy.
“Never tell yourself you should do something just because you have to get results as that can have an opposite effect due to your increasing stress over it.”
Keeping fit is crucial to your wellbeing for so many reasons, not least your bones. Rob Jones, personal trainer and cardiac rehab exercise specialist, says: “Studies show that after your mid-20s bone density starts to diminish year on year, but doing exercise helps keep your bones healthy and strong and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.”
But personal taste and commitment are not the only things to consider. If you want results, you need to know the best exercise for your body type and metabolism.
There are a variety of training types that can help to burn fat. Simple cardio exercise can be effective for weight loss: endurance activities such as cycling, jogging or hill walking.
Rob says that in order for it to burn calories, you should keep an eye on your heart rate. Aim for a reasonably high heart rate, of 70-80 per cent of your maximum heart rate (which you calculate by deducting your age from 220).
He adds: “One of the best things about moderate intensity cardio is it’s less high impact, so you’re less likely to pick up an injury or cause pre-existing health conditions to flare up.”
For an increased calorie-burn, choose higher intensity training. “Higher intensity exercises, such as interval training, take your heart rate much higher but for short spurts, followed by periods of recovery,” says Rob. Push yourself hard for 30 seconds – say with running, rowing or cycling – then rest for 2.5 minutes. Continue working in this cycle for between five and ten sets.
“This is a great way of getting really good fitness gains and burning calories, and it’s good for EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption), which is where the body continues to burn extra calories for a number of hours after your workout.”
Resistance workouts, such as weight training, are another great method for burning calories. By creating more muscle and innervating the muscles, they become much more energy-hungry tissue than the fat – meaning the body will be burning more calories throughout the day.
If you’re generally feeling fatigued, first get your doctor to double check that your lack of stamina isn’t due a pre-existing condition. To build stamina Rob advises increasing your aerobic capacity with some brisk walks or jogs. “Start low with a run/walk type of training programme. The couch to 5k programme is a great example. And gradually build up to jogging or running for longer and longer periods.”
What goes into your body will determine how much energy you have, so plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and constant hydration will mean your body will function better for prolonged exercise. Anthony says: “If you want to improve stamina you ideally will need to exercise at longer bursts so that your heart rate is elevated and your lungs work harder.
“Cycle, or go out for a brisk walk or run, and work at intervals. This means run/cycle for a certain amount of time then slow down to recover and repeat and do the same again.” You’ll soon be able to go for longer periods each time without getting tired.
Yoga and kettle bell instructor Katja Wickstrom at Yoogaia, a new company that from September will offer live interactive fitness classes online, says: “You’ll get good results by varying different forms of exercises.
“Running and yoga is a good combination. Yoga is great for challenging your body, increasing stamina and flexibility. For those who want to increase their endurance, strength, flexibility and muscle, I recommend a pilates class or a more challenging form of yoga such as Ashtanga. And try to fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.”
If you want to get leaner (meaning reduce your body fat and work on your muscle definition), compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups in one exercise are best, says Anthony.
“If you go to the gym there are plenty of machines that can help you with this such as the late pulldown, chest press and leg press, which all work a variety of muscle groups in one movement. This saves time and effort and really gets results.”
It’s the regularity of your exercise that will help to tone your body, says Katja. “Pilates is great for toning and strengthening. Combining it with yoga several times a week guarantees you’ll see some results if it’s combined with a good healthy diet.
“Vinyasa-style yoga (a flowing sequence of movements) tones and builds muscles, and is especially good for strengthening the upper body. It also improves your balance.”
If you’re a heavier person, you do have to take a bit more care in the beginning depending on your exercise history, says Anthony. “A heavier weight means more pressure through your joints, so it’s advisable to start slow and build up over time.
“Instead of running, go for a brisk walk and as the body starts to change you can slowly work into a jog, as the pressure on the joints will decrease.
“If you’re a lighter person you can pretty much do anything you feel your body can.
“But as you get older the metabolism naturally slows down so it is important to work on the muscles, keeping the metabolism higher and faster to stop body fat accumulating.”
Brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, golf, tennis and tai chi are all recommended for us.
Yoga can be helpful if you suffer from tension and stress, insomnia or high blood pressure. It calms down your nervous system, enhances your immune function and improves psychological wellbeing.
If you’re looking for a calm form of yoga that will help you sleep, get rid of migraine, increase flexibility or movement, try Yin Yoga or a stretching class.
If you want to increase your endurance, strength, flexibility and build muscle go for a more challenging form of yoga or pilates.
High-intensity training techniques, such as Tabata or Insanity, can be OK but be careful. It pushes the heart rate up a lot higher, and the higher it goes the bigger the risk of other conditions appearing. Get your fitness level assessed first.
High intensity exercises in general can be higher impact and cause problems with existing injuries such as the back, the hips or the joints.
If you haven’t exercised for a while you can trigger problems such as tendonitis. So get checked out by your GP before starting any new exercise regime and approach it carefully, based on your current fitness level, and always warm up for a good five minutes before you start, with gentle stretching exercises or walking.