THE REALITY OF incorporating exercise into the average working person’s life can be challenging to say the least.

Going to the gym or going for a run is the last thing you want to do after a long day in work.

However the benefits both long and short-term are too crucial to push aside out of laziness.

Although our lifestyles are busier than they were a few decades ago, we have managed to work longer hours, while simultaneously taking out most or all physical activity from our routines. Between driving to work, taking the lift and sitting at a desk all day, it is becoming more and more difficult to lead an active lifestyle.

Still, the older we get, the more important it is to find a way to stay fit – as Damien Maher, fitness guru and creator of the befit4life programme (www. bfit4life. ie), explains.

“As you get older it becomes more important to stay in shape to retain your independence, ” he said. “When you age from your 20s to late 30s onwards you either use muscle or lose muscle. If you have not been exercising you can lose up to 10 lbs of muscle every decade. And if you are gaining one pound of weight a year, that could be a gain of 20lbs of fat. This raises your body fat percentage and increases the risk of contracting different diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and different forms of cancer.”

Many people believe that getting fit means losing weight, and while this may be true, in many cases it does not mean dieting is the solution to becoming fit.

Maher clarifies this point.

“Research shows that diets don’t work. Dieting makes the problem worse by further reducing muscle tissue and the rate we burn calories, ” he explained.

So in order to stay fit and healthy it is imperative to include some form of fitness into your routine. Setting aside specific time for exercise can be not only unrealistic, but daunting too. Knowing that every second day you have to go to the gym turns it into an unwanted chore in our already over scheduled lives.

If you are dreading something you are choosing to do, chances are you will not continue to choose to do it.

The key is to find a fitness regime that suits you. If you are not the kind of person who will go to the gym, try a class.

Your local YMCA probably has a range of excellent classes to get you fit and keep you interested, from aerobics to combat. If the problem is finding the time to exercise then try to make exercise a part of your daily routine. Cycle to work, take the stairs, or go for a walk during your lunch break. You’ll find yourself feeling more energetic and more capable of facing your hectic lifestyle, not to mention the benefits that a simple exercise routine can have on your body in the long-term.

Maher has found that unintentional injury, which most often results from a fall, ranks as the sixth leading cause of death among people over 65 years of age. Muscle weakness has been identified as one of the biggest potentially modifiable risk factors for falling, and a more energetic and fit body will be far more capable to withstand such incidents.

In terms of benefiting from the fitness routine you choose Maher believes there is a key to success.

“If you are attending a gym and you are not obtaining the results your time merits, you may have to apply a different approach. To achieve success you must adhere to the concept of the FITT principle, ” he explained.

The FITT principle stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. Frequency refers to ongoing fitness. Deciding to sporadically sprint will not increase your fitness or have any real positive long-term effect. Instead you must find a fitness routine that you can keep up with on a regular basis. The intensity of your fitness regime refers to how hard you push yourself. At the start of your new regime you will invariably find it tough, but as you continue it will become easier, so in order to continue to reap the benefits of the work you put in you must increase the intensity of the routine as your fitness level increases.

Time is how long you spend on your routine, while type refers to suiting the needs of the individual.

“The workout length should never exceed an hour; we produce testosterone that builds muscle for the first 20 minutes and maintain it for circa 45 minutes – after this we produce cortisol, which eats muscle, ” said Maher. “And not everyone has the same training goals, aims or objectives.

Exercise programmes should reflect individual aims. Each training mode has a very specific training effect or benefit exclusive to that type of training.”

In order to make any successful long-term change our goals must be attainable and realistic. So if necessary start small, but above all else adopt an exercise regime that you will stick to, any positive and lasting change in a person’s health must take the form of a lifestyle change.

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