Updated: Jan 28
The human body is designed to move. We live in an age defined by increasing obesity levels, prolonged inactivity and sitting syndrome - rounded shoulders, lower back pain and weak hips resulting from prolonged sitting - which can lead to a menagerie of physical ailments and "mirror avoidance". There are also unsafe training practices being adopted by those trying to get fit: excessive cardio, unnecessarily dangerous workouts, following programmes too advanced for their capabilities and insufficient exercise variety all create other problems; mainly injury and lack of progress.
For the last 2.5 million years, humans were hunter gatherers who would typically forage, hunt, build, fight, explore and generally be far more physically active than we are now. The shift from manual work towards office jobs is very recent. Today, most of us wake up, sit on the commute, sit at work, and sit in front of the television; a huge departure from our evolved state.
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We need to move more. Creating beneficial exercise habits is easier than you think. Try the options below:
- Walk faster wherever you can even if conditions are not ideal. Choose the longer and/or scenic route if possible. Increasing the amount of low intensity exercise you do has a multitude of benefits (1) (2) (3).
- Play a sport or try a physically demanding hobby such as hiking, climbing, martial arts, dancing, gardening, swimming and football. There is a long list of options many of which you may really enjoy (4) (5) (6).
- Exercise to increase functional strength which helps you in your day-to-day life. Imagine you are an athlete and “life” is your sport. Training to improve at 'life' means day-to-day tasks become easier, chronic injuries caused by inactivity and “sitting syndrome” disappear and you prevent the risk of future injuries e.g. if you have to stack shelves all day, it would be beneficial to develop enough fitness to pick things up from the ground, carry them, rotate and place them overhead or in front of you many times without tiring.
Climbing is a fantastic full-body workout which is challenging and more importantly, fun!
There are many reasons why someone commences and adheres to an exercise regime. Some do it to improve the health of their heart, while others focus purely on looking good on the beach - exercising for vanity is fine as long as it does not become an unhealthy obsession. The number of people - mostly young adults - resorting to unhealthy and dangerous tactics, such as diet pills, steroids or surgery, in order to achieve a certain physique is rising dramatically (7) (8).
WE RECOMMEND EXERCISING IN MODERATION TO IMPROVE YOUR ABILITY TO PERFORM IN SPORT(S) - LOOKING GOOD IS OFTEN A SIDE EFFECT OF TRAINING THIS WAY.
Considering the wealth of benefits associated with regular exercise (9), it is almost always worthwhile. What ever your reasons for exercising are, they should mean something to you not someone else. It is important, therefore, to think about the health benefits associated with exercise:
Physical health benefits - source NHS:
≤ 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
≤ 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
≤ 50% lower risk of colon cancer
≤ 20% lower risk of breast cancer
30% lower risk of early death
≤ 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
≤ 68% lower risk of hip fracture
30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
Mental health benefits - source NHS
Improved sleep quality
Increased energy levels
≤ 30% lower risk of depression
≤ 30% lower risk of dementia
Set a SMART goal for the short, medium and long term. Setting short term goals will help you remain motivated on your journey towards your long term goals. Long term goals are the most important but they represent your end goal and will not be achieved quickly. A clear goal will allow you to select forms of exercise and specific exercises which make your goal easier to achieve e.g. in order to achieve quick and sustainable fat loss, you must do some form of resistance training.
Spend time learning about how to exercise correctly. It is tempting to invest in “miracle” workouts designed to develop “6 pack abs in 6 weeks” but be smart about your choices. Even reading 10 pages on one specific topic and seeing if some of the information overlaps is better than looking for an offer that is TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE BECAUSE IT OFTEN IS! Changing your body in the short term, for the long term, takes time and sacrifice. Read our exercise articles and subscribe to stay up-to-date with the latest exercise tips.
Test what works for you. Commit to a programme for about 6-8 weeks and see if it works for you. What works for a professional bodybuilder will most probably not work for you! Remember, a good programme will incrementally increase in intensity (provided the individual improves their ability to recover). As the body adapts to the stress exercise places on it results may become less evident, so when you stop making progress, change the exercise selection and/or other variables.
Learn the movements. Learning how to move correctly from the start is one of the important things a beginner can do. If you try to increase the intensity too soon you risk serious injury. Start with the basics such as the squat, deadlift, pull-up and push-up and practice them until your form is perfect. It will take time but you will feel and see physiological changes in that time as long as you add resistance gradually. Just because a programme is simple does not make it ineffective.
Ask professionals. Knowledge is power. Ask professional trainers (those with at least 5 years of experience as a PT) for help or approach someone in the gym who you aspire to train like. Be wary, though, always evaluate your sources! You can also ask us via this link for help and we will answer your question as best we can. We may also include you in one of our posts!
Track and evaluate. Track your progress according to your goals. If you want to become stronger then focus on increasing the weight or difficulty of the exercise rather than weighing yourself. Similarly, if you are trying to lose fat and create a more aesthetic physique, the scales will not be very useful. Body fat analysis and progress photos are great ways to track physique goals.
Our general outline for training is:
- Resistance Exercise - 2-3 times per week. Focus on full range of movement for all movement patterns.
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) - 1-2 times per week. Aim to incorporate a skill element such as learning a martial art or taking part in a sport as opposed to tedious cardio on a treadmill.
*Do not exceed 4 combined weekly resistance and HIIT sessions
- Perform more low intensity cardio such as walking, preferably on an empty stomach and outdoors as well as before and after meals.
- View any physical activity as exercise. If you are gardening or doing DIY, increase the intensity by resting less and making it more challenging.
- Spend time warming up and ensure you include adequate recovery work. This includes stretching (mostly moving and weighted), foam rolling, Yoga and sports massages.
Exercise provides us with a multitude of mental and physical health benefits. If you are finding it hard to follow an exercise regime remember that some movement is better than none. Start with something enjoyable and aim to increase your work capacity and ability to recover. Even slightly increasing the amount you move around each day can have a huge effect on your health.
Related Post: 15 Exercise Rules For Beginners
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Related Post: 5 Exercises You Should Master
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.