The general consensus by health professionals is that you should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Below are a number of different types of activities you can do to hit that target each day, as well as general tips for staying healthy.
Walking / Running
Walking or running is one of the simplest, and most popular, forms of exercise. This activity is so versatile that it can be modified to account for any specific needs you might have, and can easily be increased or decreased in difficulty whenever you see fit.
For starters, you could simply walk around outside, either in your garden or your neighbourhood. Have a dog? Bring it along for some company! Parks and beaches are also great places to walk around, although you may find yourself wandering around for longer than just 30 minutes.
If you want to participate in more intensive exercise, you could try running. There are a wide range of apps on the Apple Store and Google Play store that are focused on helping people run, such as the beginner’s Couch to 5K, or the well-known Strava app to time your exercise. Make sure you’ve learned how to properly stretch before and after though, so you don’t damage any muscles.
If you have more time in the day or don’t like running, you can choose to go hiking instead. Walking for hours at a time on different terrains is a great way to exercise your body. Additionally, there are multiple apps you can download that will help you find trails nearby.
Rollerblading / skating
In the same sort of field, rollerblading and skating are less traditional ways of exercising that require a lot of leg power. They can help you build up your leg muscles, as well as your stamina. If you’re not a fan of plain old walking or running, why not purchase a pair of rollerblades and test out your balance?
Around 42% of the UK population have access to, or own, a bicycle. Cycling is a great option for many people, and can be a lot more entertaining than simply walking or running.
Cycling around your neighbourhood, nearby lakes, and parks is a good way of getting fresh air whilst getting your heart pumping. Typically, people can cycle for longer than they can walk or run, making this activity more of a day-trip.
Not everyone needs to sprint to achieve their fitness goals. A very popular, meditative way of exercising is by doing yoga. Doing daily yoga is beneficial for both the mind and the body. It improves strength, flexibility, balance, and helps alleviate stressful or anxious feelings. It can also relieve targeted pain in the back and joints, when done right, and help you fall asleep.
A similar, but slightly more intensive, variation of yoga is aerobics and Pilates. These activities combine strength training and stretching to overall improve your body. You can take online classes or find a recorded class to follow on YouTube.
HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts have risen in popularity as a method of exercise. This technique involves quick, intense bursts of activity where you are encouraged to expel all of your effort in one go, which is then followed by short recovery periods.
This sort of method is usually more difficult for beginners and it takes time to adapt to, but once you are more familiar with the HIIT style, you’ll reap the benefits. Usually, this exercise only lasts for 20 to 30 minutes, due to its high intensity, so you could even theoretically fit one in during a lunch break if you work from home. But remember - showers are a necessity after this one!
Exercise doesn’t have to be all cardio. Many people have opted to create their own mini gym at home, rather than paying for a membership. Weightlifting isn’t just about gaining muscle; it can actually do a lot more for your body like improving posture, aiding sleep, boosting your metabolism and improving the health of your heart.
Weightlifting usually exercises muscles that aren’t always used in normal day-to-day life, which will increase your natural strength and flexibility, allowing you to do more tasks than before.
If you’re interested in getting started in weight training, you can start by purchasing some inexpensive weights online and following tutorials. However, before you indulge in this activity, you should be aware of the possible risks and dangers associated with weightlifting, and never attempt anything that’s not safe for your body, weight and skill level.
Sometimes working out can feel like a chore, particularly if you don’t enjoy the standard methods. Some more fun ways of getting your heart rate up include dancing, skipping rope, and gymnastics.
Before COVID-19 locked down the nightclubs, you probably lost quite a few calories dancing into the early hours. Well you can still do the same thing at home. There are loads of dancing classes online, from Zumba (mixing dance and HIIT) to ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, lyrical, and more. Whatever your tastes, you can improve your strength, muscle tone, flexibility, stamina, lung capacity, and joints by learning different types of dance.
Playing with a skipping rope, hula hooping, and practicing gymnastics are other more unconventional ways to exercise each day. As with anything that moves your body, you’ll get your heart pumping, and that’s the healthy part.
When someone thinks of exercising, they might not automatically think of gardening, but you can actually burn quite a few calories working in the garden.
Tasks like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, pulling weeds, and planting flowers all use energy, thus burning calories and exercising you. Not to mention, the health benefits of getting some fresh air rather than staying stuck indoors.
For people who are older, or less able to participate in more intensive exercise, simply working on your garden is a way of staying healthy.
Staying fit isn’t just about what we do on the outside. To stay healthy, you also need to consider what you’re putting into your body. It’s no use running for an hour a day, only to come home and skip the fruits and vegetables. Eating a balanced diet is the best way to nourish your body from within, and the NHS suggest:
- Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day
- Basing meals around high fibre starchy foods like potatoes (with their skin on), and wholewheat bread, pasta and rice
- Including dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya milk)
- Including more protein in your diet, be it beans, pulses, eggs, fish, or meat
- Choosing unsaturated oils and spreads to avoid overeating fats
It’s also good to limit your intake of sugar and salt. Eating a variety of food will ensure you’re getting a range of nutrients, so you don’t dip too low in one. Commonly, people miss out on sources of iron or calcium.
There are many ways you can subtly include more fruits and vegetables into your daily meals, like adding a side salad to lunches or dinners, or topping your breakfast porridge or cereal with dried or frozen fruit.
On the same note, drinking water is a vital part of staying healthy. You should be aiming to drink around six to eight glasses of water each day. Many people, however, struggle to drink the right amount.
Here are some suggestions for spicing up your water so it’s easier to keep drinking:
- Add slices of fruit, like lemon, orange, strawberry, or lime
- Infuse water with fruit, like berries or pineapple
- Add cucumber for a fresher taste
- Try adding mint, ginger, rosemary and other herbs for something a bit different
- Try sparkling water occasionally if you’re getting tired of still water
- Add ice cubes
- Make tea (this does count as drinking water, but don’t substitute it entirely for your daily intake!)
- Add a dash of juice, like orange squash, but just be wary of the sugar content!
Finally, even though we’ve been talking about keeping your body moving to stay healthy, stopping your body from moving every night is one of the best things you can do.
Most adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, and it’s best if you try to keep the same bedtime and wake-up time to allow your body to adopt a routine. This will prevent you from feeling tired when you wake up.
Your body’s ability to function decreases if you get less sleep than you need, and while we know this is sometimes impossible due to the way life works, you should try each night to rest for at least seven hours.
Ways to aid sleep include staying off screens an hour before bedtime (as the blue light convinces your body to stay awake by releasing serotonin), relaxing the muscles with light stretches, listening to quiet and gentle music, reading a book, and taking a warm bath.
Fitness apps for you
As we’ve said, there are loads of apps online that you can download to help you meet your health goals. We’ve put together a list of the best apps, no matter your goal.
Other articles you might find useful during lockdown include: