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It’s no secret that regular exercise has a myriad of health benefits, both mental and physical. 
 
Sadly, it’s equally true that exercise is a dirty word for many people. Often this can be traced back to those dreaded games lessons at school which put them off exercise for life. And, as someone who was always last to be picked for any teams – not to mention a fully paid up member of the “two left feet” club (!) – Elaine knows all about this first hand… 
 
What’s so sad, is that there are many different forms of exercise – particularly these days – which are light years away from those inflicted at school. And, even better, many of them don’t really feel like exercise at all. Just something that’s fun to do. 
 
The key, as always, is to find a form of exercise you enjoy doing and then do it regularly. Even better, one that easily fits into your day to day life. This is why we regularly talk about the benefits of walking, which can quickly become part of your life. Simply park the car further away from where you’re going or walk to the local shops rather than driving. Or, perhaps, cycling or jogging. 
 
Maybe you prefer the discipline of going to a class and there are many less strenuous ones to choose from. Yoga, Pilates, Ballroom Dancing. 
 
If you enjoy going to the gym, great, just make sure that your programme is tailored to your particular needs / likes. 
 
Ideally, you should aim to do several different forms of exercise each week. That way, you improve not only your overall fitness but strength and flexibility too. However, it’s much more important that you do some exercise rather than none. So, if you only fancy doing one form of exercise at the moment, that’s fine. 
 
If you need an added incentive, don’t forget the fascinating research we’ve mentioned before, that doing a form of exercise you enjoy has a greater benefit overall than doing one you hate. So, if you prefer tap dancing to going to the gym, that’s fine, you’ll still get the benefits from that form of exercise. You’ll feel much better for it rather than dragging yourself off to do something you hate. Not to mention actually doing it regularly… 
 
While we’re on the subject, let’s quickly dispel a few exercise related myths we regularly hear from clients. 
 
Younger people don’t need to exercise 
 
We’re not quite sure where this piece of logic came from (!) or, perhaps, it harks back to the days when people were more physically active but this is not the case. Everyone benefits from regular exercise, whatever their age. 
 
Older people don’t need to exercise either 
 
Again, this is completely untrue. Exercise has been found to have a myriad of benefits for older people and not just in terms of improving their overall fitness. These include improved co ordination and strength, fewer falls, improved blood flow generally – particularly to the brain – and improved mood / spirits. It’s also been found that regular exercise reduces levels of negative biomarkers which indicate many health issues, particularly Heart and Cardiovascular problems. 
 
Mental exercise is more important than physical exercise for older people 
 
You’d be amazed how often we hear this from older clients, particularly with all the current advice for avoiding Dementia. All exercise is important, both physical or mental, with the former having many health benefits for older people. 
 
Those with health problems shouldn’t exercise 
 
Again, this is untrue. However, a little common sense is needed in choosing the exercise that’s most appropriate for them. While it may sound counter intuitive, time and again it’s been found that gentle exercise - and stretches– reduce pain, as well as the progression of many different conditions. Exercise also helps to boost – and normalise – the metabolism which, again, has a knock on effect on many health problems. 
 
You don’t need to exercise to lose weight 
 
Yes and no. In theory, it is possible to lose weight by simply addressing what – and how much – you eat. However, this is the hard way to lose weight and can lead to many problems later, not least as it sends the body into food conservation – famine – mode. When a normal diet is resumed, much of the weight lost is then regained, as the body maximises fat stores in anticipation of future food scarcity. 
 
A two pronged approach of cleaning up the diet alongside taking more exercise, is a much easier way to lose weight. Exercise not only boosts the metabolism, so increasing the speed at which food – and fat stores – are burnt up, but also helps improve muscle tone and general appearance of the body. 
 
Exercise turns fat into muscle 
 
It would be lovely if it was that simple but, sadly, this isn’t the case. Fat and muscle are two completely different types of tissue, have different functions and are located in different parts of the body. 
 
Fat is found just under the Skin, between muscles and deep inside the body around the organs. Muscles are found throughout the body. Some are under conscious control, such as those which move your Arm or Leg. Others are outside our control, such as those in the walls of the Digestive System or Heart. 
 
Exercise uses fat to provide the necessary fuel and, at the same time, helps to increase muscle strength and bulk. Together these help to achieve the desired result, rather than fat being converted into muscle. 
 
Once you’re in shape then you can stop exercising 
 
This one always makes us smile but is another case of wishful thinking (!). Like so many other things in life, it’s a case of “use it or lose it” with improvements starting to be lost in as little as 7 days. Worse still, it takes much longer to regain the benefits, than it did to lose them in the first place. 
 
As life becomes more sedentary – with current estimates that people spend more than 10 hours every day sitting – incorporating regular exercise into your life becomes more and more important. And, as we often say, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Choose exercise that you like and do it regularly, as well as keeping active during the day. Walk rather than drive, use the stairs rather than the lift, stand when you would usually sit. It all makes a difference and will improve your health in many more ways than simply being more toned and energetic. 
 
And, before we go, one of our favourite cartoons that sums things up perfectly… 
 
As always, the choice is yours. 
 
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