It seems that every January, many millions of us make the same vow, that this will be the year when we finally fully embrace that exercise routine, shed the pounds and tone up, all the way to the physique (and mental wellbeing) we’ve always wanted.
Yet, every year, many people setting a more active lifestyle and better fitness as their New Year resolution fail in this endeavour. And with continuing coronavirus restrictions leaving gyms and leisure centres closed and great numbers of us cocooned inside our homes, you might not fancy your chances of 2021 being the year you finally get into those good workout habits.
But in truth, there’s no need to be so fatalistic! Even in difficult circumstances, there are always ways in which almost all of us can heighten our physical activity levels. So, let’s take a look at some of the possibilities that remain open to you, even if you are entirely home-based right now.
Taking up running
It’s the classic exercise option that many of us take up in a New Year – and with the ample scope it offers for physical distancing outside, it might have become even more relevant in the COVID-19 era. If you’re feeling intimidated, you may want to start with the NHS’s Couch to 5K running plan.
Focusing on activities you especially enjoy
It might seem like an obvious tip, but all too many people fail at their fitness-oriented New Year resolution because they throw themselves into a new, daunting and unfamiliar physical activity that they literally have to force themselves to do.
Trying out new things on the exercise front is great, but you need to have a certain level of natural interest in a particular activity if you are to stick with it.
One good tip here could be to think back to things you might have enjoyed doing in the past, and that might have had positive implications for your fitness you didn’t even realise at the time – for example, embarking on hiking trails or attending dance classes. As far as the latter is concerned, for instance, there are some great online dance cardio classes and videos out there to discover.
Starting slowly, and gradually working up
This is excellent fitness advice at any time, but it might have become even more pertinent amid the mental health challenges the pandemic has brought us.
Don’t start aspiring to run a marathon when you’ve only just started running, for example – ensure you can run for five minutes without becoming winded first. Or if you’re getting into swimming, don’t worry too much about those aches and pains after your first hour’s swim.
In other words, concentrate on what is manageable, setting a series of mini goals to help ensure your fitness momentum is maintained this year. This approach, in itself, can do wonders for both your physical and mental health.
Investing in the right fitness tracker or smartwatch
Granted, a fitness tracker won’t necessarily cause you to get active this year, any more than a gym membership did in previous years! But the most suitable wearable could still be an invaluable aid in your quest to improve your exercise habits in 2021.
Just make sure you choose a device that is well-matched to your particular circumstances and needs. With smartwatches and trackers typically incorporating all manner of functionality ranging from step counting and recording how many floors you’ve climbed, to heart-rate monitoring and goal-setting, this Which? guide might help you to narrow down your options.
Getting into gentle calisthenics
The term “calisthenics” refers to a form of fitness that uses gravity and a person’s body weight to train their muscles. It’s not just about the more spectacular feats you might have seen at your local gym or in YouTube videos, such as a ripped guy lifting his whole upper body above a pull-up bar.
Even if that kind of thing might be your longer-term goal, there’s no shortage of online videos and classes focusing on gentle calisthenics, or “radio calisthenics”, which can work great as a form of morning exercise.
A lot of typical calisthenics routines such as push-ups, squats and crunches can be done almost anywhere. So, this could be an interesting line of enquiry for you if you really are stuck at home for all – or most – of your exercise endeavours at the moment.
Making the most of the great outdoors
Depending on the other people who may be in your household or ‘bubble’ and the exercise rules that apply where you are by the time you read this, it’s still likely that you can at least walk with a friend at the local park, or even enjoy a kick-about with your children or grandchildren.
Every little thing you can do to improve your activity levels at this time is likely to be invaluable. Don’t forget that when young ones are involved, you can help set a great example to them of the importance of always keeping active, pandemic or no pandemic.
Doing small things around the house
Worthwhile exercise doesn’t have to be a structured ‘fitness routine’. Simply avoiding physical inactivity – for example, by dancing to your favourite music in your living room, or doing a spot of gardening – can make a positive difference.
Science backs that up, too, research having indicated that even just 10 minutes of leisure activity each week may lower your risk of premature death. So, never think to yourself that any particular physical activity “isn’t worth it” for your all-round wellbeing.
So, there you have it – just a few things you could be doing right now to become more active in 2021, and end that cycle of motivated starts and de-motivated failures that may have characterised your relationship with exercise so far. Make this the New Year when it all changes for the better!