From The Straits Times    |

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From personal training to group exercise classes and even fitness holidays, there are seemingly endless ways we can help ourselves stick to a healthy eating and exercise regime. The industry has become a bit of a minefield.

So how do you choose an aid that will help you create successful, maintainable lifestyle changes?

It’s important to consider your starting point, goal, time frame, mindset, level of education around diet and fitness, budget, and how much free time you have.

Many of us live our lives on our phones and would prefer an app to help us through a workout. Others prefer to unplug where possible and find tried and tested books the most useful method.

Shyer women who need person-to-person encouragement could benefit from an online coach, and if they really lack motivation or have a steeper goal, personal training.

The sociable butterflies with tighter purse strings would prosper attending group exercise classes, and the most affluent can enjoy the full benefits of a bootcamp programme or wellness retreat.


Online coaching

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WHAT IS IT: Online coaching is growing rapidly in popularity, and involves following a tailored food and fitness programme in order to reach your goals. It’s the same as having a personal trainer, except they won’t be with you to push you through your training sessions.

WHO IT’S FOR: This is a great option for someone who is highly self-motivated, and doesn’t always have the time to make it to a gym for a class of a PT session. It relieves you of the constraints of time and location – so it’s perfect for busy people.

Frida Harju, in-house nutritionist for health app says: ‘Online coaching can be a cheaper alternative to PT sessions, especially with coaches who are just starting out.

‘However, the one potential downside is that there isn’t someone watching you closely enough to see if your technique is correct – but video tutorials can go a long way to help there. You might also find that online coaching doesn’t stimulate you as much as a gym class or a personal trainer. But if you are determined and follow the program set out for you, you can still achieve success.’

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Some online coaching plans offer generic workout plans while others are totally bespoke with 24hr access to your coach – even on WhatsApp. The price of the course will reflect the level of service.

Jacqui Cleaver, who founded New You Boot Camp in 2006, adds: ‘Personally, I feel the bespoke plans with contact are most effective and best value for money. These courses are suitable for a range of people are so flexible and affordable: you can fit these plans around your life. From stay at home mums to corporate executives to retired individuals – this option fits all.’


Personal training

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WHAT IS IT: Hiring a certified PT can be quite expensive, but they’ll be able to look at your starting point, time frame and current workout routine to create a bespoke plan to help you smash your goals. They’ll be able to supervise your workouts and motivate you through them, while making sure that you are doing them properly, reducing the risk of injury and making the entire process quick and efficient.

WHO IT’S FOR: This option is best for women with a bigger budget, lower motivation and little education around fitness.

Frida says: ‘The fact that you make appointments with your personal trainer may mean you are less likely to miss them, and you’ll stick to your workout regime.’

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Personal training can be very successful, especially for people who find it difficult to stick to a plan or self-motivate.

Jacqui adds: ‘Personal training can be invaluable to someone who is just beginning their fitness journey. A couple of PT sessions to introduce you to the different gym machines and different training styles can be a fantastic investment to increase your confidence and to ensure you have good form.’

She adds: ‘You need to make sure you have a good PT, so check they have a solid track record of great results.’


Books and magazines

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WHAT IS IT: There is a huge amount of information in fitness magazines and books which can be useful and tend to be fun and informative to read. But many are also based on fads and not on sustainable – or healthy – ideas around diet and exercise. So tread with caution.

WHO IT’S FOR: To solely concentrate on this method would only work for experienced fitness people as it will enhance their knowledge. Books and magazines wouldn’t offer enough support for someone looking to learn or be held accountable for their results. Knowledge is power, so the more you know the more you can apply to your healthy lifestyle.

Frida says: ‘Using magazine tips and books on fitness would work well for someone who likes to experiment with their fitness routine, adding new elements every so often.

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‘Seeing suggestions of new exercising can be useful inspiration, especially if they are created with a specific goal in mind, such as “toning arms” or similar. However, you need to make sure that you do these exercises properly, as the magazines and books can’t provide any visual guidance beyond the photographs.

‘When it comes to your diet, books and magazine articles written by certified experts can definitely point you in the right direction, especially if you are keen on eating healthier. However, there are a lot of fad diets around so for a tailored nutrition plan, consult a professional.’


Fitness and Diet Apps

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WHAT IS IT: Apps are a useful way of being fit and actively tracking what you consume. You can choose an app, which is tailored, at your preferred method of exercising, whether it’s running, weightlifting, yoga or HIIT workouts. The vast majority of the apps also come with accompanying video tutorials, which can help you in following the exercises correctly.

WHO IT’S FOR: Apps are a good option for someone who has the motivation to exercise and follow a diet plan, with the additional benefit of being flexible and easily tailored.  They’re great for absolutely everyone and especially for people on a budget but still want to keep track, need motivation and want to reach goals. My Fitness Pal, Apple Health and Nike+ Running are just some of thousands out there – and most are free.

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Frida says: ‘Health apps like Lifesum can provide you with lots of nutritional information such as suggesting a diet plan based on your goals and preferences and giving useful recipes to keep your diet varied.

Jacqui adds: ‘Apps have opened a whole new fitness world to ladies who can’t afford PT sessions and fitness plans. In my opinion, apps are an incredible way for people to stay fit, stick to their plan, meet new challenges and have ongoing support.’


Group exercise classes

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WHAT IS IT: Group exercise classes are a great way for people of all abilities and with various fitness goals to get together and work out in a fun way. There is a wide range of different options such as Zumba, STRONG by Zumba, Les Mills classes such as Body Pump and Body Attack, spinning, yoga, pilates, running clubs, boxing, CrossFit, martial arts and many more.

WHO IT’S FOR: Exercise classes are a great way for someone who enjoys company when they work out, without having to pay the expensive fees of a PT, while still receiving guidance throughout the session.

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Frida says: ‘Having others next to you as you work out can provide you with motivation and help you work harder, but could have the opposite effect if you prefer to exercise on your own. ‘

Jacqui adds: ‘This is a fabulous way to meet and train with new, like-minded people and follow instruction. Classes are affordable and are perfect for women who get bored quickly. Different classes throughout the week give you variety and different challenges, while letting you socialise.’


Bootcamps and healthy holidays

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WHAT IS IT: Fitness retreats are a combination of a holiday and diet and exercise overhaul over a period of 3-14 days, usually abroad somewhere idyllic, led by a team of nutrition and exercise professionals. This method tends to deliver rapid results (+ suntan!) and a detailed bespoke plan going forward, for a high price.

WHO IT’S FOR: A healthy break is the ideal way to focus in on diet and exercise habits and achieve quick, amazing results.

It’s perfect for busy women who find it impossible to get any alone time to concentrate on their health, and can afford to step away from daily life for a fitness retreat.

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Jacqui, who founded fitness break company New You Bootcamp herself, says: ‘Fitness holidays can be considered expensive but if you look at the detail they tend to be very good value for money for what they include.

‘A week away is perfect for individuals who absolutely need a reset button. They are ideal for solo travellers, mums who need a break and corporate high-fliers.’