Eating healthy foods as part of a balanced diet is essential for a good lifestyle, but to improve your overall wellbeing, there’s so much more involved. A daily dose of gentle exercise can be the perfect side dish to eating better, aiding both wellness and mindfulness. Rather than burning yourself out with an intense CrossFit or Boxercise workout, think about exercises that help make you feel better in yourself in a more relaxed manner.
Exercise holds many benefits for both your physical and mental health¹. It can:
- Reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases – please refer to the NHS website for more information.
- Improve balance, lowering the risk of falls
- Help with sleep
- Lower risks of anxiety and depression
- Increase blood flow
- Maintain a healthy weight
It’s recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week². This can be achieved through a variety of activities and adapted depending on your age, condition and abilities. If your fitness levels aren’t bordering superhuman and you just want some exercise inspiration that will work well with your healthy eating plan, these ideas might be just the ticket.
Start a daily walking exercise routine
Walking is one of the easiest exercises to help you get active and feel better. It’s free, you can do it almost anywhere and it can work towards improving your heart health, burn fat and calories and improve your stamina³. Even just a daily walking routine that lasts ten minutes at a fast pace will have a positive impact. Moving at around three miles-per-hour is the sign of a brisk walk, when you can still talk but not sing.
This can be a social activity, and the fresh air will help lift your mood too⁴. Arrange regular walks with friends in the local area or find someone who goes the same way as you to work – both can give you greater motivation too.
The number of calories you burn when walking depends on variables such as your weight and the speed of your stroll. Someone weighing around 65kg burns about 7.5 calories per minute when walking⁵, for example.
Start your regular walking exercise routine with the following steps:
- Get the right gear – comfortable footwear that provide support without causing blisters is vital.
- Find some motivation – it could be simply having to walk to work, school or the shops. Alternatively, grab a friend for a catch-up walk rather than going to the pub.
- Track your route – use smartphone apps, Fitbits or other technology to see how far you’ve gone and at what speed, giving a good idea of calories burned and motivating you to beat your best next time.
Try work-based exercises
Most of us spend the majority of the week sat behind a desk. It’s this sedentary lifestyle⁶ that can lead to health problems and impact your mental wellbeing. The recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day is intended to counteract this, but some research suggests⁷ it’s the prolonged periods of sitting that cause the health risks.
Exercising at work can break up these excessive sitting periods and improve your health, such as⁸:
- Take the stairs – part of your walking exercise routine might involve always using the stairs. If you feel comfortable, start sprinting up a few flights.
- Walking meetings – when the weather’s nice, take small meetings outside, walking and talking as you do a few laps of the office.
- Water weights – use your water bottle as a small weight, covertly doing a few arm curls sat at your desk or stand and do some less conspicuous arm circles.
Consider a swimming exercise routine
Swimming is an excellent workout, especially for those with injuries or people who find running and walking difficult. The water supports your body, relieving any stress on your joints. Plus, you can create a swimming exercise routine that suits your own pace and ability, taking it slowly at first and building up, depending on how hard you want to push yourself.
While the water resistance strengthens muscles and provides a good cardio workout, swimming has been found to improve mental wellbeing as well⁹. Before starting a swimming exercise routine it’s important you have the right gear and proper form. Creating a universal swimming plan is difficult as individuals have different capabilities, but for beginners the following can be a good place to start¹⁰:
- Aim to swim three times a week on alternate days, allowing time to rest and recover.
- Warm up with ten minutes of easy swimming at a slow pace.
- Swim two fast lengths followed by a 15-second break, repeating for ten minutes.
- Increase this to cover 100 metres with a 20-second rest, 15 times.
- Cool down with around four slow-paced lengths, changing stroke if you want.
If you want a less strenuous exercise with most of the same benefits, then aqua aerobics are a great alternative. The water pressure puts less strain on your heart by moving blood around the body and it also prevents overheating¹¹.
Many exercise practices from the East are good for body and mind. Yoga is a popular exercise routine that improves muscle strength, tone and flexibility, while putting your mind at ease. There are many yoga classes across the country, or you can get started at home with instructional videos.
Tai Chi is a Chinese non-contact martial art that uses a series of movements that blend into each other. To many it may even seem more like a form of dance. The smooth motions are relaxing and improve the overall feeling of wellness. There’s a strong focus on balance, which is an essential part of fitness, and the steady pace makes it a suitable exercise for people of varying fitness levels.
All of the above exercise ideas provide the perfect accompaniment to a healthy eating plan that can improve your overall wellness. Find more tips for healthy eating to combine with your exercises here.