It's that time of the year again when you swear to yourself you're going to lose weight and get fitter. Unfortunately for you, stats show that less than half the population actually meet their goals.
Instead of aiming to shed X amount of weight, or gain six-pack abs, make these more meaningful resolutions. They are so doable, and will lead you to a stronger, healthier body.
1. Do something active every day
Health and fitness bodies like the Health Promotion Board recommend 150 minutes of physical activity a week, to stay in optimal health. How on earth is a sedentary person going to achieve that, you ask? The good news: Lifestyle activities count too. If you move often enough, you may not even need a workout routine to clock those 150 minutes!
Do it: Break it down, and you’ll find that 150 minutes a week works out to about 20 minutes a day. Not too bad, isn’t it? Just think about adding more steps to your daily life. Ditch the bus to walk, the lift for stairs, the robotic vacuum cleaner for manual sweeping and mopping. Instead of bumming on the couch at night, go for a walk in the park. To keep tabs on your progress, wear a fitness tracker to log your daily steps, distance covered and calories burned. You’ll be motivated to do more and more when you see those stats!
2. Hit the gym more often
It’s proven: How often you visit the gym after joining is a strong predictor of your future attendance. Some researchers say that habits need 21 days to be cultivated. So if your last visit was one month ago, chances are high that you’ll won’t be going back to the gym in future. Of course, visiting the gym often is easier said than done. Work stress, family commitments and personal health play a big part in influencing your decision to exercise. Knowing yourself and what motivates you will go a long way.
Do it: Are you the sort to be inspired by flat abs and toned bums? Do you prefer to work out at your own pace, or have someone tell you what to do? If you’re more of a lone ranger, you’re better off exercising at home, or a simple gym with equipment. (Watch our favourite home workout videos.) If you like sweating in a group and receiving instructions, group fitness classes like these will energise you.
Before committing to a gym, consider if it’s convenient (near your home or workplace), and has the facilities that meet your needs. It should have welcoming vibes that make you want to return again and again. Classes should be easy to book and available at convenient times for you. Always ask for a free class trial or day pass to suss out the gym. When unsure, buying small class packages instead of a long-haul membership is always a good idea. Increasingly, gyms are offering express lunchtime classes – more opportunities to sneak in a workout.
3. Dial up your workout intensity
If your idea of working out is doing a 30-minute jog on the treadmill at a constant, comfortable pace, it’s time to switch things up. Research has consistently found high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to be more effective than steady-state workouts in burning fat and improving anaerobic fitness. HIIT involves alternating between intense bursts of activity with period of slower-paced activity or complete rest. Intensity levels may vary among individuals. The idea is to go all out – as fast or hard as you can – to reap the most benefits. You should be panting and finding it hard to talk. Another beauty of HIIT: You’ll spend much less time at the gym. HIIT classes usually last no more than 30 minutes.
Do it: If you already have a gym membership, sign up for the HIIT classes on non-consecutive days, starting from once a week. Don’t worry about not being able to keep up! Chances are, there will be one or two more newbies in every class. Let the instructor know if it’s your first time. He or she will pay more attention to you, to make sure you’re working out in proper form and at the right intensity. As HIIT becomes part of your regular workout, you can be sure of seeing results in as little as four weeks!
Besides joining HIIT classes, you can incorporate HIIT in your daily workouts too. While running, aim to sprint for one minute, and brisk walk the next minute or two. When this starts to feel easy, increase the all-out period to two minutes, and/or cut your resting time. The key is to keep pushing yourself out of the comfort zone!
4. Vary your workouts
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a well-rounded fitness programme should include both aerobic and strength training exercises. Why? Aerobic exercises are focused on improving cardiovascular health, while strength training targets various muscles in your body to help you build lean muscle and gain strength. Aerobic activities include running, cycling, swimming and stair-climbing; strength training involves using your body weight, free weights like dumbbells and kettlebells, resistance bands, medicine balls or weight machines. Having a balanced workout routine will stave off boredom, reduce your risk of injuries and make you a fitter person overall.
Do it: If you’re only running, do strength training on rest days. Yoga and pilates are good exercises to start. You’ll be using mainly body weight and perhaps a resistance band or exercise ring in a pilates class. Strength training classes like yoga and pilates are big on core activation, so you won’t just be toning your arms and legs, but the abs and back too.
For yogis, it’s time to add some cardio activity to your routine. Feel breathless easily? Start by brisk walking around your neighbourhood or from the bus stop back home. Increase your mileage and pick up the pace every week, and you’ll find that jogging isn’t as tough as it seems. You may soon be able to do 5km runs!
Also consider cycling: It lets you see things from a new perspective, appreciate your surroundings, plus the fresh sights will take your mind off the effort required. Another low-impact aerobic activity would be swimming. Being in the water is relaxing and cooling. Besides cardio, swimming is a full-body workout too.
5. Try a new sport
Why not? As we get older, our senses turn duller. Our ability to absorb information and pick up new skills declines. Physical reflexes are poorer. Joints become stiffer. To slow down these undesirable ageing effects, consider learning a new sport. It will widen your perspectives and social circle, and also boost your zest for life.
Do it: Now’s the best time to check out new classes, as the fitness scene heats up. Trampolining is fast gaining favour amongst the cardio crowd. (Read about our first-time experience here.) Rock climbing too, with more climbing gyms opening in the recent months.
Get stronger and nimbler by doing parkour or gymnastics at The Yard, a gymnastics-focused space. If you like being in water, give wakeboarding (or cable skiing) a shot at the newly opened Singapore Wake Park. It lets you experience the thrill of riding on water in a safe environment.
This article was originally published on Shape.com.sg.