Many New Zealanders use their lockdown time to get fit and active, but where to start if the prospect of daily exercise makes you feel less than excited?
Most of us grudgingly accept that it is in our best interest to engage in some form of physical activity for our own health and wellbeing.
We spoke to three personal trainers to get their expert opinions on how even the laziest of kiwis can get up and move about – and what the bare minimum of exercise we should aim for every day.
The good news is it doesn’t take much to get started, though spoiler alert – this is often the hardest part.
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Many kiwis have felt the motivation to get fit during the lockdown – but where to start if the thought of exercise doesn’t get your blood pumping?
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Just getting up from the couch and leaving the house for a walk will do wonders for your mental and physical well-being.
A “lazy person” does not mean someone is overweight, but rather can be applied to those of us who are genuinely lacking in motivation.
This is why Kelly Small, founder of K-Fit Lab in Parnell, says you should take small steps early in your workout to break down these mental barriers.
“Start each day with a walk around the block and slowly increase your distance or pace each time,” said Small.
Alternatively, she suggests doing brief bodyweight exercises at home to get the blood pumping.
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Starting your workout can be daunting as you build your fitness. For this reason, it is important to set realistic goals and gradually increase your activity.
“You can do a full-body circuit with 30 seconds for each exercise and a 10-second break, with push-ups, squats, lunges, climbers, and sit-ups over four or five rounds.”
When you’re feeling ambitious, try doing 30 minutes of exercise each day – either in one session, or try breaking that up into three 10-minute blocks to break up your work day.
If you’re having a hard time starting on your own, Small recommends trying an online session with a personal trainer who will keep you honest and make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout.
“Online sessions are great for motivation and responsibility. One of my clients moved north and attended online sessions when he was gaining weight and getting lazy. He can do that anywhere – even in his caravan. “
Get your steps in
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Taking between 8,000 and 10,000 steps a day is a good place to start to get fit and active.
Sam Murphy, manager and personal trainer at Tomfit Gym in Albany, says we will all benefit from walking between 8,000 and 10,000 steps a day.
“There has been a lot of research into this and there is a big correlation between daily step count and longevity. There appears to be a bell-shaped curve around that 10,000-step mark that is a direct correlation with increased life, “explains Murphy.
“You can aim for 10,000 steps, but any increase in your current activity is a good start.”
It might sound obvious, but Murphy swears that leaving the house and getting some fresh air will make you feel better, both mentally and physically.
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There are a variety of health benefits, both physical and mental, of getting out of the house and exercising with daily exercise.
“There are just great advantages in getting out of the house and clearing your mind,” he said.
“In terms of mental health, there are tremendous benefits to just going out and being in nature, but things like blood pressure and anxiety also have a tremendously positive impact.”
Gary Mulholland, fitness trainer at Les Mills in Auckland, agrees, saying, “There’s a lot about trying to take 10,000 steps a day, and I’m absolutely attached to that mindset.
“If you’re going for at least one walk, make sure you walk at least a mile or two just to move your hips and body and feel the fresh air.”
Stretching and resistance training
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Stretching supports your mobility – especially important if you spend a long time sitting in a makeshift workplace on the couch or at the kitchen table.
Your body will thank you if you take the time to stretch each day to stimulate blood flow and increase mobility – especially if you are sitting in front of your computer while working from home.
“You don’t have to do a full yoga class, but a few stretches like couch stretch, down dog, and plank are great places to start,” said Mulholland.
“The couch stretch puts you in a lunge position with your knee on the floor and helps open your hip flexors. Especially when we sit more, our hip flexors are shortened, which has other effects on the body. “
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Simple bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, sit-ups and push-ups form the basis for a good and effective home workout.
Once you start doing a few stretches, you may even find that you enjoy doing it. In this case, Mulholland suggests moving into light resistance training by doing squats, lunges, pushups, and a plank.
“Try 30 second squats, which allow blood to flow through your quads and glutes, and then increase the resistance by doing a lunge. After that, do 30 seconds of push-ups and a 30-second plank by pushing as hard as you can.
“If you take at least one walk after these stretches, that would be a great starting point.”