Add some fun to your fitness regime, says Spandana Birajdar
The benefits of exercise have been known since the dawn of civilisation. Exercising not only keeps you in good shape and strengthens your body externally; it makes you strong from inside, making you resilient to diseases and healthy in the mind. Still, it seems like a lot of work, making time from our busy schedule to basically go through some physically exhausting, tiresome, and potentially injurious routine, day after day.
Here at Diabetes Health, we believe that anything worth doing should also be fun to do. So here are some novel ways you can add that extra zing to your fitness regime. Find the activities that you have most fun doing, and better your chances of staying motivated and getting the most of your fitness regime.
1. Nordic walking
If you feel that normal walking is mundane, then try Nordic walking. This technique involves using specially designed walking poles in a way that harnesses the power of the upper body in order to propel you forward as you walk. You move in a similar way to ordinary walking and swing your arms from your shoulder with your elbows straight like a soldier marching. When properly used, the poles take the weight off the knees and lower body joints, which makes you feel lighter on your feet and is easy on the joints. Hence this activity is suitable even for people with joint conditions and people who carry extra body weight.
Since it is a low stress, total body workout, it is ideal for weight loss and great for your body and mind. It will keep your body fit, toned and healthy. Anyone can do it regardless of their age, weight or gender. This type of workout can help lower your blood pressure, reduce your cholesterol, and relieve back, shoulder and neck pain. After a few weeks you will notice the difference i.e. more relaxed muscles, better conditioning and better health. Since this activity is similar to moderate-intensity aerobic activity regular Nordic walking can lower your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. It is like any other form of exercise and can also be used as part of an exercise program to lose weight.
Nordic walking can be done in any location, urban or rural. All you need are a pair of Nordic walking poles (which are different to those used for trekking) and walking shoes. But it’s recommended that you learn the technique from a qualified instructor. They will generally offer a taster session so that you can make sure it’s something that’s right for you first. Most of these instructors also run local groups, which you can join for regular walks once you have learnt the technique.
According to a National Health Service article the recommended physical activity levels for:
- Young people (5-18 years) should do 60 minutes every day.
- Adults (19-64 years) should do 150 minutes every week.
- Older adults (65+ years) should do 150 minutes every week.
It is one of the easiest an innovative ways to add a little variety to your walk.
2. Spinning classes
If you love cycling but are skeptical to ride on roads and in traffic then spinning classes might be the next best option for you. These classes are a conducted in a fitness studio with various lights and music setting to create an energized atmosphere. The instructors guide you through the various workout phases. It is a great way to get in a vigorous workout, burn calories and keep your muscles in shape, especially during the rainy seasons. The session starts with a warm up which usually lasts for a period of five minutes. During this time there is no resistance while pedaling. Once you are done with the warm-up then the main exercise begins, which lasts for 40-60 minutes. The instructor will guide you through various speeds (resistance) and positions i.e. sitting, standing or sprinting. By doing so your stomach, feet and back are exercised. Thus, it becomes very necessary that you keep in mind your capacity and body type, otherwise you might injure yourself.
The advantages of spinning classes are that:
- it is an effective workout.
- it provides varied routines to break the monotony.
- most bikes have devices that track the calories you burn, mileage and even your pulse, thus enabling you stay motivated
- it can be done all year round
Spinning makes your heart pump at 80 per cent its capacity as compared to 50-65 per cent normally. It improves your overall metabolic function like digestion. An hour of spinning session can burn anything between 800-1200 calories. However, your body cannot take more than one hour of spinning a day. Also these classes must be undertaken under proper guidance and training because the repercussions of not spinning right could lead to severe back problems. In addition, people with knee problems, osteoporosis and back problems may actually worsen their condition if they do not follow proper techniques.
3. Core exercises
When you say ‘core’, most people think of core as a nice six packs or strong and toned abs, but the truth is that abdominal muscles form a very small part of core exercises. These exercises promote muscle strength. If you thought core exercises just involved abdominal crunches and sit ups then you may be surprised. Building a strong core involves exercising a variety of muscles from your hips to your shoulder.
The abdominal muscles have very limited and specific action. Experts refer to the core as many different muscles that stabilize the spine and the pelvis that run the entire length of the torso. When these muscles contract, they stabilise the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. Only when you are able to do this you generate powerful movements of the extremities. The core muscles also enable us to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight bearing and protects the back. Hence core conditioning exercise programs need to target all these muscle groups to enable them to be effective.
Core strengthening exercises are most effective when the upper body works as a solid unit and both the front and back muscles contract at the same time, multi joint movements are performed and stabilisation of the spine is monitored. There are many exercises that strengthen the core. A large number of core strengthening exercises can be done at home with no equipment while some require the use of equipment and gadgets.
Benefits of good core strength
- Reduces back pain – weak and unbalanced core muscles are linked to low back pain. By working on your core muscles you not only reduce strain on the spine but also maintain an appropriate posture.
- Improves athletic performance – all powerful movements originate from the centre of the body and never from the limbs alone. Before any powerful, rapid muscle contractions can occur in the extremities, the spine must be solid and stable, and the more stable the core, the more powerful the extremities can contract.
- Postural imbalances – by training your core muscles you can correct postural imbalances. Postural imbalances lead to injuries. The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness – a type of fitness that is essential for daily living and regular activities.
Pilates is a mind-body exercise. It helps build strength and is capable of creating a sleek, toned body with slender thighs and a flat abdomen. It teaches you about awareness, good posture and easy, graceful movement. It also improves flexibility and alertness. Pilates focuses mainly on six principles.
- Control – Pilates exercises requires complete control of your body, there should be no meaningless, sudden or haphazard movements during a workout. Thus making it a safe exercise regime.
- Breath – Proper breathing oxygenates your blood, increases you circulation and flexibility, deepens the work of your abdominals and brings a sense of ease to your movement. Thus, it is essential that you breathe deeply and fully, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Concentration – promotes mind-body connection and ensures an effective workout.
- Flow – each exercise should have a smooth, graceful and dance-like quality. The same is applicable when you transition from one exercise to another. This enables you to improve strength and stamina.
- Centring – make sure that your position is always centred using proper alignment and form as your centre is a powerhouse, which generates movements.
- Precision – Most exercises in Pilates have low repetitions hence it is better to do each form with precision rather than many half-hearted ones.
The benefits of Pilates
A refreshing mind-body workout – by emphasizing on proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment and concentrating on smooth flowing movements you automatically come in tune with your body and that enables you to control your movements.
Developing a strong core i.e. flat abdominals and a strong back – achieving a strong central body right from your shoulder to your pelvis.
Gain long, lean muscles and flexibility – While traditional workouts tend to build short and bulk muscles, which are easily prone to injury; Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. Having a body with balance strength and flexibility is less prone to injuries.
Creates an evenly conditioned body, improve sports performance and prevent injuries – Since most conventional workouts tend to work on the same muscles. Over a period of time weak muscles get weaker and strong muscles get stronger. The result is muscular imbalance i.e. the primary cause of back pain. Pilates condition the whole body including the ankles and feet, so no muscles is over or underworked as a result you enjoy your daily activity and sports with greater ease and better performance and less injury.
Note: In Pilates the quality of movement is valued over the quantity of repetitions. Also proper breathing is essential as it enables you to execute movements with maximum power and efficiency.
5. Power Yoga
Power yoga exercises are intense and free flowing while the traditional yoga exercises are about meditation and stretching. Unlike other forms of yoga, power yoga does not follow any particular sequence and a set of postures. Hence, variety is the key difference between this form of yoga and the others. Also, no two power yoga workouts are the same. This kind of yoga helps you to build stamina, strength and flexibility.
The different power yoga poses make power yoga workouts very challenging and also puts your mental, physical and emotional abilities to the test. These workouts are known to burn calories, improve muscle mass, reduce fat and increase your basal metabolic rate. The exercises are such that they strengthen the entire boy and aid in developing your will power. The session hardly involves stopping or taking a brief break between the poses and continues in one smooth flow. For this reason, it is a powerful and forceful aerobic workout regimen. It is generally recommended to do a power yoga workout about thrice a week and for duration of 45 minutes each time. However, before you start doing power yoga postures to burn calories, you may want to speak with a medical practitioner.
Note: Do not over exert while doing power yoga. Try to follow the slow and steady mantra when you start doing Power yoga. It is believed that an early morning practice of Power yoga is supposed to be very beneficial.
Benefits of power yoga, to name a few:
- it is known to flush out toxins from the body through sweat
- it can heal problems like acidity
- it helps people lose weight and get fit and is known to increase the capacity of the body to burn calories
- it is known to deal with menstrual problems and hypertension.
- it strengthens the immune system and improves blood circulation.
- it improves concentration
Zumba is the latest fad and most people are fast enrolling for their classes. Zumba is a Spanish slang for ‘to move fast and have fun’. Zumba Fitness is a Latin-inspired cardio-dance workout that uses music and choreographed steps to create a fitness party atmosphere. Most types of dance and music featured in the program are Latin American inspired. Classes may also contain everything from jazz to African beats to county to hip-hop and pop. Each class combines dance moves inspired by samba, salsa, mambo and hip hop with classic moves from aerobic and martial arts. Each class is unique and guaranteed to break a sweat
eople of all ages can take up Zumba. You don’t need to know any form of dance to take part as long as you can move there is no wrong way to Zumba. Most Zumba classes last for an hour long with alternating fast and slow routines. Each session begins with a dynamic warm up and ends with a cool down and some stretching. The main workout is broken down by songs and each song has a different dance routine. While most of the dance moves done by instructors are pre choreographed by Zumba, instructors often add their flair, dance steps and create and entirely new routine to their favourite songs. Unlike regular aerobic exercises where you learn to move and add on more moves to it to create a routine, Zumba uses different parts of the song, such as a chorus, particular phrase, sound as the basis of its choreography. The uniqueness of a Zumba class is that the instructors don’t speak much and use hands cues to move in particular direction or simply changes to a new move. It is a fun way to dance your blue away and to top it off you burn calories. As per the Fitness First article “you burn calories – up to 800 in 1 class – as you tone and sculpt your body.” What better way than to dance, enjoy and lose weight.
7. Water walking
If you love the water but fret that you can’t swim, then try water walking. The technique is the same as walking on ground. It is a great workout option, especially in the summers, as it not only helps to get your body in shape, but also saves you from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Water exercise is known to be easy on the joints. The buoyancy of water supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain. On the other hand, water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so as you walk, you’re really strengthening and building muscle. For this reason, it has been endorsed recommended by the Arthritis Foundation in the US.
You can walk in either the shallow end of the pool or the deep end, using a flotation belt. The deeper the water, more strenuous is the workout. However, how you walk in the water makes a big difference in your exercise. The most important thing is that you need to put your whole body into it to experience a full body workout.
Benefits of water walking include:
- Increases muscular strength boosts metabolism.
- Buoyancy in water – the tendency of water to make your body float towards the surface – aids in building better balance.
- Water pressure and resistance can improve circulation and even burn off fat.
- You burn more calories due to difference in your body temperature and that of water.
By following these simple steps you can an achieve an entire body workout
- Increase step size, widening your pace -soaked up to your shoulders in water, take bigger steps propelling your body forward while maintaining balance swinging your arms in wide motion. This helps train the muscles in your hips, stretching the hip joint said to be related to the correction of pelvic distortion related health problems that arise more frequently as you age.
- Kick water with shins for extra resistance – raise your thighs up and kick water with your lower legs using your quads. Bring your foot back down to the bottom surface of the pool and repeat. Alternating foots. This helps train the muscles in your legs and your glutes enabling you to have strong hips and shaping your lower body. Always raising your thigh before kicking is the key for success.
- Touch your knees with your elbows – bring your thighs high above the bottom surface of the pool alternating between each side. Once you have mastered this step do the same exercise by touching the opposite elbow to the knee that you are raising.
- Try to water walk backwards: you will actually train areas of your body that were left over during regular walking.
Before starting any exercise please consult your doctor. Also when you are exercising if you feel that your muscles are aching or stiff. Stop the exercise immediately and discuss your concerns with your trainer. Moreover, you know your body best so do not push your body too hard. Take things slow and gradually increase your intensity.