There is no shortcut to a healthy state, no magic fruit that lets you hit your five-a-day target and no single exercise that gives you a shredded physique in minutes. It takes time and effort to get in shape and stay in shape. But if you follow these tips you’ll be able to reap the benefits (for they are legion) with a little less struggle.
1. Prep For Success
The fast track to a better diet is found by using your weekends wisely. Use the extra time you have on Saturday and Sunday to meal prep, making large batches of healthy meals that you can portion up to cover at least a couple of midweek lunches and dinners, avoiding the dietary perils of takeaways and meal deals.
2. Mix Up Your Exercise
Variety is – cliché alert! – the spice of life, and many sports and activities support each other in ways you won’t realise until you try it. For example, strength training for your legs and core will make you a better runner, while those addicted to dumbbells will find Pilates works muscles they’d never even considered.
3. Adjust Targets On Trackers
If you invest in a fitness tracker, don’t just sit back and assume that following the preset targets will lead you to glory. Adjust the steps, active minutes and calorie targets regularly to build on your progress, or make them more realistic if you never get close and have started to ignore them. If you don’t engage with your fitness tech, you’ll quickly discard it.
4. Add In Short Bursts Of Activity
It’s the oldest quick fitness fix in the book: take the stairs not the escalator, or get off the bus a stop early and walk. Any activity is good activity, and will only encourage you to do more. And if you really want to up the ante, try sprinting up the stairs (safely now) each time you take them – a recent study found that short bursts of high-intensity stair-climbing can make a significant difference to your cardiorespiratory fitness.
5. Keep Tabs On Your Visceral Fat
You can be skinny on the outside (at least your arms and legs), but fat on the inside. Visceral fat is the type that builds up around your organs and often results in a pot belly. It’s linked with heart disease, several cancers and type 2 diabetes. Check your waist-to-height ratio (WtHR) to see if you’re at risk. Grab a piece of string and use it to measure your height, then halve it. If it doesn’t fit around your waist, get exercising – visceral fat is the first type to go when you start working out.
6. Value Your Rest Days
When you start on a fitness kick, it’s tempting to exercise every day while motivation is high. This is a bad move, and one that will see your enthusiasm burn out within weeks, because you’re always knackered and won’t see the massive improvements you expect for your Herculean efforts. Why? You’re not giving your muscles the time they need to recover and grow.