We have reached a turning point where exercise, fitness and healthy lifestyles are concerned. This is partly to do with the impact of the past year of Covid-19 related restrictions and partly because the regime we have lived with for so long is now lifting.
Now the focus for many people is on how best to move from one mindset (locked down) to a more healthy state of mind (active and open).
Against this context, I have been asked many times, by those who have been inactive or hunkered down over the past year, about how best to restart or begin a fitness lifestyle. There is a lot to this question that takes in diet, structured exercise and objective setting, but the most important consideration right now, in my opinion, is the best mindset to adopt when moving forward on a fitness lifestyle after such a difficult year.
Without the right positive and energetic mindset, finding the focus and motivation to overcome the immediate hurdles when emerging once again onto the fitness stage will be difficult, if not impossible. The other consideration that I think should be prioritised is how best realistically to progress so as to build confidence and strength.
With this in mind, I advise everyone to take time to consider the advice offered recently by the Michael Mosley (pictured) BBC podcast.
As Mosley points out in the podcast, strength training is the best way to build fitness, mental engagement and motivation to grow a fitness lifestyle. His advice is to focus on a fitness plan that incorporates press-ups (great for giving the cardiovascular system a good workout) and squats (my favourite exercise, as these improve strength, stability and brain functions).
Mosley also emphasises on the podcast that if you have not been doing a great deal of exercise (during the lockdown, for example), those who are not as fit as others get the biggest brain benefits from squatting because the brains of such people are not as used to cushioning the changes in blood flow that squats induce.
So, starting from a position of low fitness can actually be beneficial and not a barrier to embarking on an exercise programme.
For anyone in this position, or getting back into the swing of all things, I would recommend starting with a strength training programme that begins realistically and which utilises the benefits of squatting and press-ups (or similar chest exercises). Add in around these other strength-building exercises and moderate cardio’ as confidence and fitness builds and the fitness process will have begun.
Moving on from the challenges of the past year is going to be difficult for most people. But starting with an achievable exercise plan is also the best way to become stronger, fitter and more resilient for the future, whatever it holds.