Take It Easy on Yourself
You don’t have to pound the streets or whizz up and down country lanes on two wheels to get fit. Here’s our guide to a more gentle way of exercising
There were two kinds of people over lockdown – those who busily posted up their latest 10km run route, and those who busily took a walk to the fridge and back!
If you have got out of the habit of exercising there are plenty of ways for men and women to get back into gentle exercise.
Want you back for good
Pilates is well known for being good for backs, but is definitely a whole body exercise. It promotes a balanced, toned, flexible and strong body, by increasing muscle strength and tone.
If you thought Pilates was just for girls, think again, as Liz van Hullen at Tring Pilates Studio, explains: ‘Joseph Pilates invented Pilates when working with hospitalised prisoners of war, on their rehabilitation. It was designed by a man, for men. There are even some Pilates movements that bear specific considerations for men.’
Well loved by ballerinas, rugby players, event riders, and golfers, Liz says: ‘Pilates is recognised for its qualities in promoting flexibility and managing back pain – neither issues that are specific to women.’
It’s great for people who sit at a desk all day, and you can start off with a really low level of fitness. Breathing techniques also help to improve aerobic health.
You don’t really get sweaty, so it’s perfect for a lunchtime workout. And if you’re a stranger to exercise? ‘It’s never too late,’ says Liz. ‘Pilates generates a mind to muscle connection and goes on to lengthen, stretch and strengthen.’
Go with the flow
‘Tai Chi is more than just a physical exercise, it is beneficial for mental health and well-being,’ says Catherine Birkinhead, who teaches in Berkhamsted, Tring and Cheddington.
Sometimes referred to as meditation in movement and originally an ancient Chinese Martial Art, many people turn to this gentle and yet powerful form of exercise for its health benefits. ‘It is particularly complementary for recovery programmes of illnesses including Covid-19 as it can help to strengthen the lungs and chest cavity as well as the immune system,’ explains Catherine.
Its relaxed, flowing movements are low impact and can develop flexibility, strengthen joints, tendons and muscles, develop coordination, balance and core strength, and also ease stress.
Catherine adds: ‘It can easily be adapted to your own ability level and slow mindful movement means students are unlikely to overdo exercises and hurt or injure themselves during training.’
Train your mind and body
As well as the physical benefits, yoga can help manage stress, improve sleep, reduce headaches, help to ease back and neck pain and improve immune function.
If you are new to yoga, or returning to exercise after a break, Pauline Gibbons at Tring Yoga Studio recommends beginner classes to ‘introduce you to basic postures and allow you to move on to a more challenging class or stay where you feel happy.’
Classes vary enormously in intensity. Some are very meditative and gentle such as Yin or Kundalini. Others are more challenging such as Flow, Ashtanga or Strength Core and More (originally designed for men but now open to all).
And the good news is it’s never too late to start yoga. Pauline says: ‘We have members of all ages, shapes and sizes. We believe in adapting and modifying any practice to suit the individual rather than trying to get the individual to suit the practice.’
Get some help
If you don’t know where to begin with exercise, getting an expert to help you is a great idea.
Personal trainer Adele Lambert, who has her own private studio in Tring, explains: ‘For someone a bit older who wants to get back into exercise, the key is doing something they enjoy, listening to their bodies and bearing in mind any health, mobility or joint issues.’
She suggests indoor cycling as it takes pressure off the knees, and provides a cardiovascular workout. Kettlebell workouts offer all-round cardiovascular exercise while targeting specific muscle groups.
Adele says: ‘Personal Training sessions work particularly well for people getting back into exercise. People are engaged more as they know they are doing exercises that are designed specifically for them. They see results quicker and are more likely to stick to their plan.
‘If someone hasn’t exercised for a while they need to be careful of overdoing it and putting themselves off or injuring themselves. Personal training can help you exercise safely and effectively if you have medical issues, have been pregnant, and are post or peri menopausal.’
There are many other gentle forms of exercise to consider. Enjoy a social game of golf, a leisurely cycle ride or a swim. Great for cardio fitness and kind on the joints.
Whatever exercise you choose to do, have fun and as Adele Lambert says: ‘Reap the benefits of the endorphin rush and feeling better, looking better, being more agile and having less postural issues or joint problems as you age.’