If your fitness habits have been slipping, how can you reignite your love of exercise? By Imy Brighty-Potts.
Almost half of women have done no vigorous exercise in the past year, according to a new survey.
The findings come from data collected by Nuffield Health, with the majority of women saying they lacked motivation.
The percentages are lower for men, with just over a third saying they had not exercised in that period, and half putting it down to a lack of motivation.
The results of an online survey of 8,000 adults across the UK in February suggested that 38% of women said they had got out of the habit of exercising during lockdown.
So, how can you get back into the swing of things?
1. Build an exercise plan around what makes you happy
Nancy Best, PT and founder of Ladies Who Crunch (ladieswhocrunch.co.uk) suggests a lot of our relationship with exercise is shaped by the language we use – and this needs to change.
“Unfortunately, lots of people still associate doing exercise with awful phrases like ‘sweat is your fat crying’ and ‘no pain, no gain’. Whilst this might work for some, most of us want to keep fit to improve our quality of life, reduce injuries and feel the holistic benefits,” she says.
“Exercise doesn’t have to be intense cardio or bodybuilding. It can be anything that gets you moving – from dancing, to hiking, to pushing your baby’s pram up a hill. I recommend making a list of things that make you happy – like music, or time with friends, and try to build an exercise plan that incorporates these things.”
Photo of Nancy Best. Picture credit: PA Photo/Ladies Who Crunch.
“If you’re absolutely hating a particular form of exercise, stop. There are so many joyful ways to move your body, so keep experimenting until you find your favourites.”
2. Focus on how it makes you feel
“Exercise is a really powerful tool to boost your mental wellbeing. I regularly ask my clients to reflect on their mood rating, zero to 10, before they’ve started moving their body, and then share their rating after exercise, to highlight the difference,” Best says.
“Write this before and after rating down, as a reminder to motivate you when you’re in a slump. Remember, motivation isn’t linear – it’s natural to feel an ebb and flow. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve taken a break from training, instead focus your energy on reconnecting with exercise as an act of self-care.”
3. Set achievable targets
Having something to work towards can be great motivation, and Best recommends starting small – while not focusing too much on aesthetics.
“People can get carried away with huge fitness goals, neglecting broader lifestyle habits, like getting consistent hours of sleep and maintaining general activity levels, with a solid step count goal,” she says.
“Women in particular are bombarded with ‘weight loss’ targets when they start their fitness journey, but focusing on getting stronger, not smaller, is the best way to build a healthy body for life. If you’re lifting weights, tracking your resistance and charting the increase in numbers as you improve is an empowering target I always encourage.”
4. Buddy up
“Starting a new exercise routine can be lonely and if you don’t have a sense of accountability, lots of people find it hard to stay consistent,” says Best.
“Being part of a community, or exercising with someone, can really help drive results.”
5. Take care of yourself
Delayed-onset muscle soreness – or DOMS – might slow down your progress as you dive back into exercise.
“DOMS is definitely a challenge, but prioritising mobility around your broader exercise regime is really impactful to reduce soreness, protect your joints and release muscle tension,” explains Best.
Whether it’s adopting yoga, stretching or low-impact work into your routine, listen to your body when exercising. You’ll likely be much more motivated to workout if you’re not constantly aching.