Men’s Health: Exercise and cardio
Weight loss, improved sleep, lowered stress, better immune function – these are just some of the reasons why physical activity needs to be a non-negotiable pillar of your life. But before we jump in, a quick note on semantics: ‘exercise’ suggests an activity that happens independently from the rest of our lives. We go to the gym. We shower. We forget about it. However, this way of thinking isn’t serving our bodies. Instead, we need to start seeing ‘exercise’ as ‘movement’, which happens continuously throughout the day.
Get the steps in
Putting one foot in front of the other doesn’t feel like rocket science. We all know how to do it, and most of us are afforded the ability to do so. But modern life has made this fundamental process pretty hard. We sit in our cars, at our desks, on our sofas. And yet, increasing your step count is one of the easiest and simplest ways to get you more active. Some would even call it a ‘gateway activity’ into other forms of movement. Aim for at least 10,000 steps daily. And try to walk at a pace that leaves you a little breathless.
Have walk’n’talk meetings at work
Walk over and talk to a colleague instead of emailing them
Always choose the stairs over the lift or escalators
If possible, use a standing desk at work
Meet friends for a walk, not a coffee – or, just have a coffee while you walk
If you arrive early for an appointment, walk around the block
Try to park as far away from the supermarket entrance as possible
Cherry-pick your cardio
Ever coveted your friend’s enthusiasm for rugby? It’s about time we debunk the myth that physical activity should feel like an arduous chore – something we must do to stay in shape. Movement is fun; it should fill you with as much excitement as your rugby-playing pal! Think carefully about a form of cardio – any heart rate-raising activity – that will rouse you off the sofa.
Find an activity that excites you
Perhaps it’s a high-energy spin class, a five-a-side football match, or a friendly game of badminton that inspires you to move? Find something you love and commit to getting sweaty three to four times a week. You could even break your session up into bite-size chunks: 15-minutes in the morning, 15-minutes at lunch, and 15-minutes in the evening.
Did you know?
The importance of rest days can’t be overstated! Take two whole rest days every week.
Newsflash: your muscle is an organ – and one that needs regular work. Building muscle strength may result in better body composition, reduced risk of muscle loss, and improved bone health. (10) Set yourself the goal of doing some form of strength-training twice a week. You can use free weights or your own body weight against gravity. Make sure your workouts hit all the major muscle groups of your upper and lower body, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, chest, shoulders, back, arms and core.
Punctuate your day with micro-movements
Besides committing to longer cardio and strength workout sessions, you can also inject more activity into your day with short bursts of movement. We’re talking no more than five minutes of work a pop. Got a spare few minutes before your next meeting? Put on your favourite song and dance. Waiting for your bath to run? Do some yoga stretches. Want to wear out the kids? Play a quick game of tag. Try moving like this three to four times a day.
Workout while you wait
While you wait for your coffee to brew, try doing a set of five squats, five lunges and five press-ups. Repeat until your java is adequately steeped and you’re feeling energised (perhaps you won’t need that cuppa after all?).
Hold yourself accountable
Can’t muster up the motivation to move? Enlist the support of a workout buddy who will help hold your workout goals accountable. If you agree to meet a friend at 7.30 am for a run, you can’t let them down. Ultimately, you both need to keep your side of the bargain.
To complement your fitness schedule, you may wish to consider the following additions.
Tart cherry juice
Tart cherries are a rich source of antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, which gives them their deep hues. Increasingly, tart cherry juice has become a go-to for scores of sportspeople, many of whom use it for recovery after exercise. Drink it: tart cherry juice.
If muscle gains are on your agenda, you’ll need to ensure a plentiful intake of protein. The perfect afternoon pick-me-up or post-training snack, protein powder will help you achieve your sporting goals. Eat it: whey (dairy) or pea (plant-based) protein powder.
Epsom salts are rich in natural minerals, which may help relax aching muscles when added to warm bathwater. An excellent choice after
a challenging workout.
- Westcott WL. (2012) Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Curr Sports Med Rep. 11(4):209-16.