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Most of us grew up playing one sport or another - whether it was kho-kho and stapoo (hopscotch) in the neighbourhood park or football and cricket at school. As we got older, though, the demands of the job and chasing our dreams took over. Our eating habits and sleep time became more irregular. And before we knew it, we had no time - or inclination - to look after our physical health or mental well-being.

But we can change this, by making a conscious effort to invest in our physical fitness today. There are, of course, many ways to do this. Once you have made up your mind about becoming fitter, here are a few things you should do:

  • Understand your body’s demands as well as limitations.
  • Define your fitness goal: one person’s fitness goal could be completely different from another person's; while you may want to look fit and healthy, someone else could be looking to get stronger. A third person may want to do it just to lose weight.
  • Strengthen your resolve: some people find it helpful to workout with a buddy who can keep them motivated. Another way to ensure you'll stick to your fitness goal is to tell people about it - that way every time you meet them, they might bring it up, support you in your journey, compliment you on your progress and keep you motivated.
  • Understand that a lean appearance is not necessarily an indicator of good health; there’s a lot more than your weight that goes into becoming fit.
  • Before you begin, it is a good idea to get a thorough medical check-up. Especially if you have a medical condition, chronic ailments or injuries.

Read on for a tried-and-tested method to kick-start your fitness journey.

Read more: 15 tried-and-tested tips to lose weight

  1. Set a fitness goal
  2. What to do for fitness?
  3. Start slowly
  4. Make healthier choices
  5. Balance your routine
  6. Set a time table
  7. Try different exercises
  8. Be patient

Congratulations. The new year has brought with it positive thoughts and a genuine intention of wanting to become fitter. Fitness, however, isn’t just turning up to the gym and lifting a bunch of weights. A lot goes on behind the scenes of wanting to look better and healthier. As the famous Chinese proverb goes: “A 1000-mile journey begins with a single step.”

Start by figuring out what it is that you want to achieve: whether it’s losing weight to fit into your favourite pair of jeans, adding muscles, becoming stronger or run a marathon. With these goals come more specific methods of achieving them - by training, following routines, eating well and following all that up with necessary rest. All these factors are essential to achieving the desired results.

Once you have decided you are going to do something about your declining energy levels, you need to decide which fitness routine is going to suit you best. This is where a fitness goal comes in handy. If you’re looking to get fit for a marathon, you have to run. If getting stronger is your goal, then then you need a strength training routine.

If you have never exercised before, it can be a daunting task to decide which fitness programme will be best for you. You can seek inspiration from your friends and colleagues, take trial sessions of different workouts and see which one interests you more.

From weight training, running, cycling, playing a sport to intense regimens like HIIT or Crossfit, there is a whole range of exercises that can help you reach your target - if you’re committed to it. Pick a workout that is in line with your goal and which you enjoy, and do it diligently and with purpose.

If you haven’t worked out for a long time or if you are just beginning your fitness journey from scratch, you have to keep your targets small. Begin with light exercises, whether you’re at home or in the gym, and slowly build momentum towards more intense workouts. The idea behind this philosophy is to look forward to going to the gym, or doing the workout, and not dread it the next day.

Read more: Intense body-weight exercises you can do at home

Your decision to turn up to the gym isn’t the only factor that is going to make you fitter; making healthier choices in your lifestyle is just as important. Practise portion control, go for the healthier option on the menu when eating out, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking and get at least seven hours of sleep daily.

Your diet matters as much as the fitness routine you pick: this too should be in line with your fitness goal. From foods for muscle growth to the keto diet plan for reducing inflammation and for weight loss, there are many options to choose from.

Irrespective of our fitness goals, we should all also incorporate exercises to improve posture in our daily routine - these are simple stretches and back exercises that we can do multiple times a day at home or in the office to relieve the tension and pain from our muscles.

If you have long hours at work and a busy social life, you may have to make a few adjustments. Don't worry, it's doable in one of two ways.

First, some people find it easier to just get a gym membership or sign up for a zumba class or any other workout they like to force themselves to make the time.

Second, some people find it easier to gradually carve out time for exercises. For example, you can start by stealing five minutes at a time from your schedule to do stretches and exercises to improve eyesight at your work desk. See if and when you can carve out a half-hour from your schedule in the day to fit some joint mobilizers, walking lunges and other exercises. When you are able to get 30 minutes out of your day on a regular basis, incorporate brisk walks - doctors say that walking at a pace of 6-7 kilometres an hour for 30-35 minutes a day has incredible benefits for your heart. Now, see if you would like to go running, swimming, dancing or for yoga at least four to five times a week.

Set 30 minutes aside. If it means waking up half an hour early, so be it. Yes, all you need is 30 minutes of your time to begin with, sometimes even less. Remember, one of the biggest challenges of working out is turning up to the gym!

Depending on whether you’re a morning person or a late riser, you can mould your daily schedule to factor in a quick, intense and effective workout almost every day. Healthier choices matter a great deal here: eat on time, sleep on time and pick a time slot for your workout.

A lot of factors may have contributed to your decision to become fitter - lack of sleep or poor food habits may have been factors. Working out regularly also helps in improving your metabolism and the resulting fatigue from your exercise can reduce your stress levels, allowing you to sleep better at night.

If you find yourself losing interest in the workout or exercise routine you have been pursuing, it is time to change things around. While fitness trainers usually make people do a variety of workouts, it is possible that you don’t find the workout or exercises engaging, or sometimes even challenging enough.

Don’t be shy about trying new things. If you like weight training, add Crossfit to intensify it; if you don’t like running, try cycling. If weight training doesn’t excite you, try jiu-jitsu or boxing-based workouts. Fitness is different things to different people and you can always tailor your regimen to suit your requirements.

Whether you’re looking to lose weight or have been working towards getting a six-pack, it will not happen overnight. If you set unrealistic goals, not getting there is going to leave you disappointed. Different body types react differently to exercise. If your fitness buddy or gym buddy gets to his or her targets before you, don’t get stressed over it.

Don't quit your fitness programme just because you are impatient to achieve your goals. Stick to your plan, have faith in your own quest for fitness and the results will follow, much like everything else you have worked hard for.

References

  1. Raggatt, M et al. “I aspire to look and feel healthy like the posts convey”: engagement with fitness inspiration on social media and perceptions of its influence on health and wellbeing. BMC Public Health. 2018; 18: 1002. PMID: 30097034.
  2. Health Harvard Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills..
  3. Byrne, A. & Byrne, DG. The Effect of Exercise on Depression, Anxiety and Other Mood States: A Review. Journal of Psychosematic Research. 1993; 37(6):565-574. ISSN: 0022-3999.
  4. Youngstedt, SD. Effects of Exercise on Sleep. Clinics in Sports Medicine. 2005 Apr; 24(2):355-365.
  5. Reiner, M. et al. Long-term health benefits of physical activity – a systematic review of longitudinal studies. BMC Public Health. 2013 Sep; 13:813. ISSN: 1471-2458
  6. Health Harvard Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Exercise & Fitness.
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