Indulged a little too much over Christmas?
Whip your body into shape and boost your health in no time with this guide to finding the right exercise for you.
If you’re looking for a less sweaty way to lose weight, swimming might be for you. It gives a fantastic whole-body workout and leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Before you get started, head to a sports shop and stock up on all the essentials – a swimsuit, goggles and swimming cap should do the trick.
While it might not be as stylish, sporty swimwear will last and keep you covered up, unlike fashion pieces from the high street that are likely to fade or be ill-fitting. And if you value your hair, be sure to wear a hat. Too much chlorine can leave your hair dry, damaged and – in the case of some bleached ’dos – green! Swimming caps save all that hassle.
Don’t forget that a good swimming workout should include a short warm-up to really lubricate your muscles – stretches and a short swim or glide. This should get your blood flowing and your body used to being in the water. You can then move on to the main workout, completing ‘sets’ of each stroke – for example, five lengths of backstroke followed by five lengths of front crawl.
You can work up to sets of longer lengths and use as many different strokes as you like – they all activate the main muscle groups in the body.
What’s more, swimming is suitable for everybody – it can seem tricky to get a good workout if you need low impact exercise, but swimming is a great option for pregnant women, overweight people and those suffering from conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
Find out more
British Swimming and the ASA (The Amateur Swimming Association) promotes swimming in the UK – visit www.britishswimming.org When it comes to investing in the right kit, Swimshop is Europe’s largest swim specialist – visit www.swimshop.co.uk
Going to the gym has become a big part of modern life. Whether you choose to squeeze in a lunchtime cardio session or slot in a class after work, there’s something on offer to suit everyone.
When you sign up, you’ll be booked in for an induction led by an experienced fitness instructor. The instructor will show you around, introduce each piece of exercise equipment – explain what it’s for and how to use it, to help you avoid picking up injuries and get the most from your workouts.
Gyms should offer a wide selection of cardiovascular machines, such as treadmills, bikes and rowing machines. Plus resistance machines, such as the shoulder press and chest press to build up your strength.
Find out more
With state-of-the-art equipment, swimming pools, spas and luxurious cafés, these gyms are more than just health clubs – visit www.virginactive.co.uk www.thethirdspace.com or www.davidlloyd.co.uk
Power-walking and running
If the thought of signing up to a gym fills you with dread, there is a cheaper, more scenic alternative – and it’s right on your doorstep. Power-walking and jogging are probably the least hassle of all exercise – just throw on a decent pair of running shoes, some comfortable clothing and maybe an iPod with a personalised playlist to help you get motivated, and you’re away.
Just remember to warm up thoroughly by stretching your muscles before you run and cool down with a five-minute walk or light jog at the end of your workout – this should help you avoid injury. You can expect to burn around 472 calories per hour of power-walking, while a steady jog will burn about 1,062 calories per hour.
Find out more
Walk, run or jog the 5Km Race For Life course and support Cancer Research – visit www.raceforlife.org Or if you’ve been running for a while, challenge yourself with a half marathon – visit www.adidashalfmarathon.co.uk
If you’d rather hit the great outdoors than be stuck in a gym and prefer expert guidance while you train to self-motivation, boot camps could be the solution to your weight-loss woes.
Outdoor exercise courses run by professionals in the field are a big favourite among celebrities such as Katie Holmes, Drew Barrymore and Jessica Simpson. So whether you want an early morning drill or a post-work run, there are camps all over the UK to suit all abilities.
No two sessions are the same, but regular attendees can expect a fantastic fat-burning workout and improved strength levels. Plus it’s fun and the fact that you’re with a bunch of others in the same boat will help you keep it up.
Find out more
Kate Staples Adventure Boot Camps are just for women – visit www.fitnesscamp.co.uk Matt Roberts offers boot camps tailored towards your specific level of fitness – visit www.mattroberts.co.uk
Yoga and pilates
The traditional Indian practice ‘asana’ – more commonly known in the West as yoga – has long been a fitness staple, with celebrity advocates such as Madonna and Catherine Zeta Jones. But in recent years yoga’s younger sister, Pilates – a much less spiritual 20th century invention that uses many of the same techniques as yoga, with a focus on core strength – has sky-rocketed in popularity.
While yoga poses are often done quickly to create heat in the body through movement, Pilates focuses on the alignment of the spine. In addition to practising poses, yoga classes may also include instruction on breathing, call and response chanting, meditation, or an inspirational reading by the teacher.
Find out more
The British Wheel Of Yoga is the governing body for yoga in the UK, visit www.bwy.org.uk Find a reputable Pilates teacher online through the Pilates Foundation at www.pilatesfoundation.com
Dance yourself to fitness
If just the thought of pounding the streets or clocking up the hours in the pool leaves you cold – there is a fun alternative. Get dancing! Fancy giving the Strictly Come Dancing contestants a run for their money?
Try signing up for classes in latin or ballroom dancing. Or just turn the music up and bop around your home – it’s a great way to boost your fitness levels without realising – and it’s free! Or why not try one of the host of computer games designed to get you moving? Just Dance – a brand new programme for the Nintendo Wii features around 30 famous party tracks, so all you need to do is follow the moves on the screen. You will improve your dance skills and have so much fun that you won’t even notice your body is getting a seriously good work out at the same time.