Basic fitness guide

There are so many good reasons to get fit: you'll be healthier and more energetic; you'll feel better about yourself and handle stress more easily. However, getting there is easier said than done. To help you improve your all-around fitness level, here are several tips and exercises to help you achieve your health goals.

Increase your workout intensity

Whatever exercise you favour, increasing your intensity will burn more fat, increase your metabolism, and improve your physique. In fact, increasing your intensity can give you the benefits of longer workouts without spending as much time doing them.

Exercise in the cold

Don't let the winter blues push you to stay indoors and slack off. It's actually a great time to exercise because your body burns more calories in the cold. Furthermore, running in cold weather improves how your body uses oxygen. According to research, doing cold workouts regularly can increase your running speed. Best of all, exercising in the cold on a regular basis will strengthen your immune system and lower your risk of catching a cold or the flu.

Use a rowing machine

Since rowing involves several major muscle groups in your body, it's a more efficient way to exercise. The result: you can burn from 600 to 800 calories per hour, and increase the amount of interleukin 6 in your body. Interleukins are glycoproteins that regulate your immune response and speed up your fat-burning. And since the very motion of rowing is more natural for your body, it exerts less stress on your joints. Just remember to do the right rowing posture to avoid straining your back.

Take longer walks

Placing one foot in front of your other foot (i.e. walking) is a great way to improve your fitness without having to exhaust yourself at the gym. Simply taking a brisk 10-minute walk four times a day can lower your blood pressure significantly and minimise the chance of stroke and heart disease. Walking for about 20 to 30 minutes per day can lower your stress. Extend that to 45 minutes and you can get rid of colds faster.

Play squash

Squash (not the vegetable) is the most physically demanding sport there is. For the uninitiated, squash is a game held in an enclosed court where two players use racquets to hit a small ball against the wall. It's a very effective workout because you run, lunge, twist, jump, and work many muscle groups simultaneously. Squash can burn more than 1,000 calories per hour, which is even more than rowing (see above). It beats other gruelling sports like rock climbing, basketball, pentathlon, and boxing in terms of calories burned per hour.

Get a dog

According to several studies, dog owners are more likely to get into a lot of physical activity, especially when compared to people who don't own dogs or even those going to the gym. How so? Because dog owners are more likely to take regular walks (and perhaps run after their canine pals). Another possible reason is that going to the gym can sometimes be viewed as a chore, while taking your dog out for a walk can be viewed as more fun.

Place exercise equipment around the house

To work out more often, or perhaps to remind yourself to work out more often, you can place several exercise equipment around your home. For instance, you can leave your dumbbells at the foot of the couch so that you can do bicep curls while watching the telly. Similarly, you can hang your resistance band somewhere in the kitchen so that you can perform a variety of quick exercises while heating your food. That way, you can stay more active more often.

Have a healthy, balanced diet

In addition to exercise, a healthy and balanced diet is the one of the fundamentals of fitness. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for variety and moderation in your diet. While you should dedicate a large part of your diet with fruits and vegetables, variety is necessary so that you get a range of nutrients. Moderation, on the other hand, is about restraint in the quantity that you eat. You don't aim for 100 per cent full when you eat meals; instead, go for 50 to 80 per cent full so that you have room for water and digestion.

Incorporate more activity

Interestingly, you don't really have to go to the gym to get fit. All you have to do is start incorporating more activity in your daily doings. For instance, instead of taking the elevator or escalator, use the stairs instead--especially if it's only a couple of floors up. Instead of looking for the parking space closest to the door, get the furthest one so that you can get some more exercise. To make your efforts more effective (and so that you can monitor your progress), try to set weekly goals for yourself and write it down.

Stick to your fitness regimen

No matter how effective your routine, no matter how many calories your sport burns in an hour, no matter how healthy your meals were today, it would all be useless if you don't do it consistently. Sustaining your effort will improve your all-around fitness level. This may sometimes be difficult since you may occasionally get discouraged. The secret is to stay motivated by setting realistic goals, trying a variety of exercises (and foods), finding your reason to keep going, and having fun while you're at it.

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