Your health Nov 08
Creative ways to improve your fitness
Work it out!
No time to exercise? With a little creative thinking, you can not only improve your fitness, but enjoy other benefits too, says Deborah Kilpatrick
On the way to work
Most of us commute to work by bus or car, but living in the city presents many opportunities for building exercise into your journey. Get yourself a bike, a helmet and some reflective clothing and cycle; run there and back; or even walk briskly. Getting up early just three days a week to do this means that by the weekend, you’ll have fulfilled your fitness requirements and can enjoy yourself with a clear conscience.
If you don’t fancy arriving at work feeling hot and sweaty, take a packed lunch and go for a walk in the lunch hour. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a gym in your office building, the solution is right on your doorstep.
You save money on bus fares and parking tickets, not to mention time trying to find a parking space and avoid germs on crowded public transport.
Out with friends
Who says a new healthy routine has to mean missing out on a proper social life? Finding a fitness buddy can do wonders for your motivation and the level of intensity you work out at. Also, if you’ve arranged to meet someone for an exercise session, it’s much more difficult to back out. Why not team up with a like-minded friend and arrange to go for a walk, run or swim, or set up a weekly tennis match?
Research shows that regular contact with friends helps us live longer and promotes mental and physical well-being.
Playing with the kids
As any parent knows, keeping the little bundles of joy occupied at the weekend is as physically draining as a workout. So, why not earn brownie points with the kids and build up your fitness at the same time by throwing yourself into their games.
Try ‘galloping’ up and down the garden or park with one of them on your back, alternating leading legs at each turn. Yes, you’ll look silly and be exhausted after five minutes, but it’ll do wonders for your legs and bum, and will raise your heartbeat as much as any high-intensity workout. Add excitement by turning it into a game of tag with other children: whoever manages to catch the ‘wild horse’ gets to go on your back next.
Simple games like hide and seek and ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf’ can be great exercise if played with enough enthusiasm. Or rediscover the joys of jumping in puddles on rainy days, climbing trees, running through piles of leaves, rolling down hills, sledging and snowball fights. Babies and toddlers can be popped into a buggy and walked for miles, or look for a buggycise class in your area.
You’ll be the most fun parent around and building regular activity into your family life will teach the children lifestyle lessons they’ll carry into adulthood. Whisking them outside for playtime will help avoid boredom and squabbles on those long weekends and holidays – and hopefully they’ll be tired out earlier at night, leaving you more time to rest those aching legs!
Doing the housework
While a spot of light dusting followed by a tea and biscuit break isn’t going to do anything for your fitness levels, an energetic bout of housework can count towards your weekly exercise requirements. The important thing is to make sure that you work hard enough to raise your heartbeat and keep it up for at least 20 minutes.
Turn up the music, have a dance around to warm up (make sure the curtains are closed first!) and then really go for it with the hoover and mop; give the worktops and bathroom a bit of elbow grease; stretch your muscles by reaching up to neglected cupboard tops; or take a tip from all those trim-waisted 1950s housewives, grab the scrubbing brush and give the kitchen floor a good seeing to.
Walking to the local shops rather than driving to the supermarket, then carrying the bags home, will reduce both your waistline and your carbon footprint.
The saintly feeling that comes from looking round at a sparkling clean house is priceless.
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