winter exercise

EXERCISING IN WINTER

It’s hard to stay motivated as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, but staying active through the winter months can lift your mood, give you more energy and help stave off those winter sniffles.

If the cold weather puts you off going outside then now is a good time to look into new indoor activities such as tai chi, rock climbing or swimming. Joining a class is fun and sociable and you can help each other stay motivated.

Even if classes are not your thing, you can exercise in the comfort of your own home. Home exercise routines, gym-free workouts or simple strength, balance and flexibility exercises all count towards keeping active and you can do them without leaving the house.

If you can drag yourself outside into the cold, running can be especially invigorating on a crisp winter’s morning. If you are struggling to force yourself out there, then why not find a buddy so that you can hold each other accountable and encourage each other to keep going?

Make sure that you dress appropriately for the weather – several lightweight layers is good so that you can take them off as you warm up – and that you lengthen your warm-up and cool-down routines to take account of cold muscles. Start gradually and build to full pace over 10 minutes or so, and allow a similar length of time for running slowly or walking to cool down at the end. Save the stretching for when you get indoors – stretching outside will just mean that you get cold.

Here are some links to keep you exercising in winter:

Directory to find exercise classes near you - https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/Fitness-activities-and-classes/LocationSearch/671

10-minute home workouts - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/10-minute-workouts/

Strength, balance and flexibility exercises - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/easy-low-impact-exercises/

motivation

KEEPING MOTIVATED

How often have you started an exercise programme, only to find yourself giving up after a week because you just can’t get yourself motivated? Here are some tips to help you regain your mojo and keep going.

1. Schedule exercise

We all do it: “I’ll go for a run later”; “I’ll try to go to the gym in the morning”: and then later comes and somehow we have something better to do and the run gets put off, or the morning comes too quickly and we can’t get out of bed.

You need to treat your exercise sessions as appointments – work out when you can fit them in and put them in your diary. If you can, find a buddy to do it with – you can keep each other accountable.

2. Set specific targets

It’s no use saying “I’d like to go to the gym more” as it is too vague. When you are deciding what exercise you are going to do, you need to set yourself a specific goal such as “I will run 5k three times a week”. That way you can track whether you are meeting your target and whether you need to adjust it.

3. Measure it (or don’t!)

For some people, their motivation is seeing the improvement (faster, longer, heavier); for others, it is really discouraging to feel that they have to perform to a particular measurement. Work out which camp you are in and exercise accordingly – remember that what motivates you won’t always motivate someone else.

4. Enjoy it!

You aren’t going to stick to something that you don’t enjoy, so keep trying new things until something sticks. You don’t have to be pounding the pavements or lifting weights at the gym – dancing is just as good exercise, and if it is more your sort of thing then you will get much more out of it.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

There are going to be days when it doesn’t happen, or it does but it doesn’t feel like you have tried very hard. That’s okay – even Mo Farah has off days! Shrug it off and move on to your next session.

6. Reward yourself…

…but not with chocolate! Promise yourself a treat (new exercise clothes, a day off, a massage) when you reach a certain target – and be honest with yourself as to whether you have achieved it. 

10,000 STEPS A DAY – WHY BOTHER?


We all know that we are supposed to get our 10,000 steps a day, but do we know why? What’s the science behind this “magic number”? And what are the health benefits (and myths!) behind it.

Why 10,000?

In all honesty, nobody is entirely sure why 10,000 steps has become the gold standard for the number of steps you should take in a day. The first mention of it appears to be from a Japanese marketing campaign in 1964, and the figure has since become ubiquitous, perhaps because it is a nice, easy number to remember. It also sounds like a lot while still being a realistic target.

What are the benefits?

As a society we do not move enough – cars, desk jobs, tv and games consoles all keep us rooted to our seats, with little need to get up and walk regularly. But the human body is designed to be active, and too much sitting is not good for it. Setting yourself a challenge to remind you to move regularly will improve the way your body works, and will also do wonders for your emotional well-being. Walking has been proven to help maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve your mood as well as your balance and coordination, and also have a positive impact on various conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

And the myths?

A lot has been made about the wonders of reaching your 10,000 steps a day for the purposes of weight loss. Unfortunately, this particular benefit might have been somewhat exaggerated. It is true that walking burns calories, but how many depends on a number of factors, including your own weight and how fast you walk as well as your diet in general. If you are not walking quickly enough to burn enough calories, and if you are not watching your diet closely, you are unlikely to see this particular benefit of the 10,000 steps.

So what should we do?

There is no downside to aiming for 10,000 steps a day – you will undoubtedly find yourself moving more often and this is good for you. However, a study carried out by the BBC for their programme The Truth About…Getting Fit found that fitting 3 brisk 10-minute walks a day was not only better for health, but also easier for the participants (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42864061). There are ideas for how to fit in this sort of activity on the NHS website (https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/active10/home#mZe5mQxIxbYgaLKQ.97) to help you get started.

Relaxation breathing

WHY IS BREATHING IMPORTANT (apart from the obvious!)?

We all do it all day every day, even when we are asleep, but do you ever stop to think about your breathing? You should. What if I told you that you could reduce tension, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, sleep better, boost your immune system and get more out of you workouts just by breathing? Sounds good, doesn’t it? There is a catch though – you have to be doing it properly.

How many ways can there be to breathe?

I mean, you just breathe in and out, right? Well, yes and no. Most people breathe by inflating their chest, raising the shoulders and tensing the neck muscles in the process. This does provide enough oxygen to function perfectly well, but you are only using about a third of the capacity of your lungs when you breathe like this. It also causes you to breathe more quickly, which the body interprets as a signal that something is about to happen and it goes on to high alert – the start of the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is why a lot of people are in a constant state of stress. It also causes the muscles in the neck to do a job they are not designed to do, which is a cause of a lot of neck pain.

How is it supposed to work?

Breathing is controlled by the diaphragm, a bit muscle that sits under the lungs and supports them. When you breathe in correctly this muscle pulls down, lowering the air pressure in your lungs, which causes air to rush in to fill the vacuum. When you breathe out, this muscle pushes up to force the air back out of your lungs, expelling the waste products that you don’t need (mainly carbon dioxide). This uses the full capacity of the lungs and pulls more oxygen into the body, which allows your body to function more effectively – almost every process in the body requires oxygen so you need a lot of it!

So how do you breathe properly?

Sit or lie down somewhere quiet and put one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Breathe normally and observe what is happening underneath your hands. For most people, the hand on the chest will be moving up as they breathe in. Focus on pulling the breath all the way down into your belly so that you feel it expand under your other hand as you breathe in and deflate as you breathe out – the hand on your chest should hardly move at all if you are breathing properly.

Once you have figured out the correct technique, this is a fantastic relaxation exercise. Setting aside 5 minutes every day to sit, close your eyes and breathe will do wonders for your wellbeing and you will find that breathing properly becomes second nature.

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How to get the best out of your massage

February 8th 2018

We’ve all been there – the massage that wasn’t quite as good as we had hoped; or the one that was fantastic but the effect didn’t last even until the end of the day. So what’s going wrong? How can you be sure to get the best out of your massage every time?

1 – talk to your therapist

We are well-trained, but we are not mind-readers! If you don’t tell us that there is a particular area you want worked on, or that you like a specific pressure or technique then we aren’t going to know. We are happy to take feedback on what works for you and what doesn’t. After all, we want you to go away feeling fantastic – and come back!

2 – take your time

A massage is a time for you to slow down for a while and take time to listen to your body and respond to what it needs. When you are rushing here there and everywhere, you can’t hear what your body is trying to tell you, or respond to its needs, so schedule your massage for a time when you can slow down before it and rest afterwards.

3 – look after yourself

A massage is quite a workout for your muscles, so help them recover afterwards. Drink plenty of water, have a light snack, possibly a warm bath and don’t charge off to do some exercise with your newly stretched and relaxed muscles. Alcohol, coffee and tea won’t help them stay relaxed and supple so try to resist temptation for a little while!

4 – rebook!

Massage should be considered an essential part of your overall wellness. Each individual massage will help, but your muscles will respond best when they have regular treatment to iron out the kinks and niggles and keep them performing at their best. It will also prevent new problems cropping up, keeping you feeling at your best all the time, not just after you leave the clinic.