A-Z OF HEALTH & FITNESS

A-Z OF HEALTH & FITNESS

I know that as an athlete, talking about matter of fitness can sometimes come across as a little self-righteous. It is quite understandable that many people might adopt the view that “it’s alright for you, you’ve trained for hours a day and benefit from the best training and dietary advice”.

That is all very true, but nobody has to train like an Olympic athlete to improve their own fitness levels and go some way to improving their quality of life. It is never too late to start. Studies have shown that even 80 year olds can increase their strength and flexibility levels by 100% as the result of a carefully structured fitness programme.

The other thing to remember is that – in terms of physical activity – a little is always better than nothing. I promise that getting fitter need have nothing to do with early morning runs, sweat and toil in the gym, a diet balanced in fractions and …..leave that to those looking for peak physical performance. On the contrary, a steady approach, achievable goals, fun and a degree of motivation are all you need to produce a fitter, healthier, stronger and more flexible you.

Over the coming months I will be writing features for the first time exerciser to the advanced athlete, using my own knowledge and experiences from 25 years of international competition as well as borrowing the expertise of some top physiologists and dieticians. My intention is that each article however will always be relevant and informative to all members and I invite feedback at all times.

For this first feature I have decided to put together a Fitness Alphabet which I think covers many of the key A-Z areas of understanding, adopting and maintaining a manageable and effective exercise programme.

A = AEROBIC EXERCISE

Any pursuits that increase oxygen flow around the body are aerobic. They benefit the heart – which is the most important muscle of all – and reduce the risk of cardiovascular related diseases.

There are now so many variations of aerobic exercise classes, many of which are great fun, but don’t forget that a good walk in the park or forgoing the ease of a escalator or lift are also great (and cheap!) ways of gently increasing your heart rate

B = BREATHING

A great breathing technique to aid relaxation works as follows: Stand where you can find some fresh air, breathe in steadily and deeply for a count of 10 or 12 seconds.

Hold your breathe for another 10 seconds and release it with a long ‘aaah’ . However do not try this more than twice to avoid any feelings of dizziness.

C = CALORIES

Believe me calories is not an evil word! Calories are vital to our diet we just have to be aware of them and exercise some control over their form and quantity.

Exercise is the most efficient way to burn calories and remember that although the body may burn off 500 calories during a 60 minute cycle ride, it will continue to burn them off for many hours afterwards so the benefit is on-going.

D = DETERMINATION

Even with the very best intentions most exercise programmes start and finish inside the first eight weeks. Official statistics many people don’t even embark on a exercise regimen because they tell

themselves that they will not be able to keep it – talk about defeatest! The fact is the physical benefits of a new exercise programme only start to become apparent after 12 weeks – so don’t despair if you don’t appear to be achieving your aims after one months gym membership! The secret is set obtainable goals, start gently an build up gradually and always try to make it fun!

E = ENERGY

Regular exercise actually raises energy levels, alleviates tiredness and creates a great sense of uplift and wellbeing.

F = FAT

First a depressing thought – the average woman would have to do 20-30,000 sit-ups to shed one pound of fat. But don’t despair activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and resistance training will reduce body fat levels far more efficiently and with far less discomfort! Of course keeping an eye on your diet will also help you control your fat intake.

G = GYM WORKs

These days gyms are very well equipped with all the cardiovascular and resistance machines you could possibly need to for an all round work-out. Everybody has there own fitness aims and goals, it might be to lose weight, gain weight, increase strength or improve appearance. A gym instructor will help you devise a programme suited to your needs and aims, making use of all the appropriate equipment. Gym equipment design has taken huge strides forward over the last 10 years – but don’t be intimidate by any of it. If you don’t know how to use something or what it does, just ask a member of staff.

H = HOW MUCH (…is enough)?

To significantly improve your fitness level you need to spend 20-30 minutes quality exercising three times a week. The 3×30 rule means only half an hour every other day – everybody can find that much time.

I = INJURIES

As a former professional sportswoman I know all about the perils of injury. One way to help avoid them is to always allow plenty of warm up and cool down time before and after exercise.

Always maintain correct form and technique particularly when working with weights and allow recovery time. If you should be unfortunate enough to suffer an injury don’t be tempted to get back to your exercise programme before it is properly healed – undue stress and strain on a current injury could lead to months and even years of discomfort.

J = JOGGING

This is one of the easiest, most convenient and cost effective forms of aerobic exercise. The downside though includes impact injuries on the feet, ankles and knees. Always warm up, stretch, pace yourself and listen to your body. A good pair of jogging trainers is also very important. As with all exercise if you have heart, lung or back problems remember to consult your doctor first.

K = KEEP IT UP!

Fitness is something that you have to keep up. As with a car, without regular attention and maintenance, it will not perform properly. Make your exercise activities fun and motivating and reasonably challenging. This will help ensure that you derive continuous pleasure and health benefits.

L = LAUGHTER

For this section I considered factors such as: Lactic Acid, Low Density Lipoproteins and Lipase. Then I realised I was overlooking one of the body and minds truly great work-outs…laughter! A heartfelt and joyful belly laugh instigates a feel good an endorphin ‘rush’ and raises our levels of immunoglobulin in saliva and blood. In turn this boosts vital substances which inhibit the growth of dangerous tumour cells. To find out more about the power of laughter and the way in which it has been shown to defy conventional medical science, I would recommend reading the biography of the one time ‘Goon’ Michael Bentine titles ‘The Reluctant Jester’.

M = METABOLISM

This is the rate at which we burn up energy and it does slow down as we age – particularly if we are inactive. There are though a couple of well established metabolism myths. The fact is that whether we are short, tall, very thin or overweight our metabolic rates are very similar. The other is that aerobic exercise is the best way to increase metabolism. Although this is very good, the fact is resistance (weight) training is the true way to speed up your resting metabolic rate and reduce body fat.

N = NUTRITION

To get the very best from your body you need to support your exercise activities with correct nutrition. It is possible to eat well – three or four well balanced meals a day – and to still lose weight. Exercise makes the body a far more efficient calorie burning machine – but only if the calories come from good healthy foods in the first place

O = OUTDOORS

Whilst I fully subscribe to controlled gym based work-out and would advocate this approach to fitness for anyone, there is no doubt that outdoor pursuits are of great value to health and fitness. The benefits of jogging, rowing, tennis, rugby, football, and the likes are pretty evident and well documented. Improved stamina, muscle endurance, muscular strength, calories are burned off and the body is healthily ‘stressed’ and toned. But don’t forget activities such as golf, a round of which involves a four or five mile walk, regular physical exertion, little to no impact and a wide range of body motion. It is actually one of the best preventative sports against heart attacks.

P = PULSE RATE

Rest two fingers on the inside of your wrist just below your thumb, count the number of beats you feel for ten seconds. Multiply these by six to determine your pulse rate per minute. The target heart rate for an adult woman should be approximately 91 – 102 beats per minute. If it’s below you might not be challenging your heart enough, if it’s above you are probably pushing yourself too hard.

Q = QUIT EXCUSES

The most commonly used excuses for not exercising are: * Haven’t got time * Not the sporty type * Want to relax in spare time * No one to exercise with These are all either fundamentally untrue or very easily remedied.

R = RELAXATION

There are a variety of methods that can bring us a great sense of relaxation. Special ‘passive’ exercise methods can be very effective. Perhaps the easiest gradual relaxation is to lie flat on the floor and breath normally. Tense and then relax each muscle in your body from toe to the neck. This way it is easy to locate the tense muscles and apply extra focus to relax them

S = SWIMMING

I had to get it in somewhere! Swimming is a superb stress buster. It is a gentle and yet rigorous way of working the heart lungs and all the main muscle groups. Because the body is supported by the water, there is very little stress put on joints, tendons and ligaments. As with all exercise, if you are new to it start gradually – perhaps four lengths of a 25 metre pool with a minutes rest after each. You can build endurance by shortening the rest time and increasing the continuous swimming time.

T = TRAINING

Training can be broken down into lots of different components with help in many different ways depending on your goals. Overall fitness is broken down into three main categories – aerobic, anaerobic and flexibility and there are exercises and apparatus to

U = UNFIT

The general effects of being unfit may not always be obvious but they are accumulative and can creep up on you. You can become lethargic have shortness of breath, you lack stamina, concentration and attention span can be effected, weight increases and joints suffer. Even a little gentle exercise can help alleviate these symptoms!

V = VIDEOS

Over the last decade or so the fitness video market has exploded with the likes of Jane Fonda, Cher, Cindy Crawford and even myself bringing fitness routines into the home. There are usually entertaining, fun and informative – the secret is to find which ones work for you and keep you motivated and entertained.

W = WARMING UP

It is very important that you warm up thoroughly before start exercising. Some gentle cycling or even jogging a little on the spot boosts circulation and aids joint flexibility. These actions can be repeated at the end of a session to help prevent joint or ligament damage as well as stiffness.

X = X-TRAINING (cross-training)

One of the more modern and now massively popular methods of exercising. Hugely effective cross-training encompasses all the most vital elements to complete ‘balanced’ fitness – aerobic conditioning, muscle strength and endurance and flexibility. X-Training also provides the variety which helps keep you interested and motivated.

Y = YOGA / YO-YO DIETING ?

Renowned for its rejuvinating and toning benefits yoga also burns calories and can help relieve stress and tension. The method of relaxing your muscles combined with gentle and precise movements and positions of yoga adds flexibility to your spine and limbs Yo-yo dieting is a common amongst many people. For a quick fix they sacrifice long term benefit. For example body wraps, non-carbohydrate diets, calorie depravation amongst other might appear to work The truth they really don’t. Sudden loss of water and body weight actually forces the body to create more fat cells to protect itself against starvation. The result then is sudden weight gain with interest – hence the term yo-yo.

Z = ZEST

Energy and motivation is something everybody needs to get and stay fit. The positive aspects of being fitter, stronger and more supple far outweigh any of the perceived negative hurdles. Exercise gives you body confidence and is a great deterrent from illness. Find activities you enjoy stick with them and get fitter – it really can be fun and it really is life enhancing!

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