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So you want to get healthier in 2020 but are you still craving your daily dose of Christmas chocolate? Alasdair Jones, our lead outpatient physiotherapist, provides some helpful advice about improving your fitness… and you don’t have to join a gym!

About Alasdair Jones

Alasdair is passionate about ensuring his patients benefit from the latest research in Physiotherapy, and is currently exploring the latest ideas in tendon injury.
View Alasdair Jones’s full profile

Now the Christmas food-festival has finished, is joining the gym the only option available if you want to get fitter this year? Getting fitter doesn’t mean you have to join a gym, there are plenty of options out there for everyone! Read on for some tips.

A patient being guided on an exercise bike by a physiotherapist

Some people love the structured nature of a gym program, and others need a personal trainer to motivate them, but some people simply want to know the fastest way to get fit.

If that’s you, then this bit might hurt…Really and truly, there is no quick fix!

The body responds brilliantly to repeated, consistent, gradually increasing load, and not so much to a sudden increase in intensity, or a massively increased total work throughout over a period of time. 

The best part about this is that you don't have to attack the gym, going hell for leather in January.

Instead, research has proven that you should choose something you enjoy, and set small, achievable targets so you get that sense of achievement regularly which motivates you toward the next goal.

Q. What iF you haven’t done exercise at all for some time? 

Here are two simple examples of getting a little fitter without joining a gym:

  • Going for regular walks in a pair of sturdy shoes, gradually building the time walked
  • Taking the stairs every time you have the chance to do so

Q: Is it better to reintroduce exercise gradually rather than booking a marathon in six months time?

I think everyone knows this is a no-brainer! It’s tempting to really push yourself, set enormous goals when every gym, every advert on tv or on social media is tempting you with cut price offers, a six-pack by February, or the fastest 10k time in six weeks.

But, however amazing an athlete you were, those muscles and tendons will have adapted to a less active lifestyle, and be ill prepared for an onslaught of pounding the streets (or treadmill).

If you want to avoid tendinopathies, muscle tears, stress injuries or experience serious de-motivation then you need to get yourself a proper plan in place.

This means seeking professional advice as to the current state of your health. You should also meet with a strength and conditioning specialist - they can help you to build a programme to reach your dream targets.

It’s all too easy to aim wildly at a marathon six months away, when you have no idea of your current strengths and weaknesses. 

Some people tell you it’s just a psychological battle – that’s simply not true. It’s both a psychological challenge as well as a physical challenge.

It’s always sensible to break up your exercise programme into bite-size chunks, each one just a bit chewier than the previous one. This will mean that you stay on at the gym, at your boot camp, in the swimming pool, on your Peloton, etc. 

And then next year, you can revise your goals again.

Q. Why do you think so many people join gyms in January but then stop attending?

I love the fact that there are so many people who clearly want to do something good for themselves in the New Year.

I think that the fitness industry tends to fail these new subscribers after their good January intentions have lapsed. This might be due to not helping people set realistic goals in the first place – without that, we’re setting people up to fail. 

Within physiotherapy, one of the key parts to our assessment is the shared goal-setting. The person (or patient) leads the conversation as to what they want to achieve, while putting realistic expectations in as part of the essential structure to stay motivated and deliver long-term success.  

Q. What are the best exercises can people do at home or in the office? 

The best exercises are those which anyone can do anywhere.

There’s no point in setting yourself a 100 squat daily challenge, if you’re not going to find the time to do it.  There’s no point in giving yourself a mile a day jog target, if you simply don’t make the time to get it done.

Very simply, any exercise is better than nothing, but in a perfect world, we should be encouraging people to get strong, and do something out of the ordinary.

It’s true that housework burns calories, and you might satisfy yourself with that. However, making minor changes, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift at work, or doing 10 squats every time before you sit down (at home or at work) can make big differences,

Again, the above depends on your goals. 

If you want to run faster, further and for longer, then simply doing press-ups isn't going to make much difference to you. Equally, if you want to lift 100kg, then going for a daily jog isn’t going to help much. 

The key is to:

  1. Work out what you want to achieve
  2. Set relevant goals to help you achieve it

This can be daunting, so a good physiotherapist can help you build a programme to help you succeed. They will show you examples of good technique, and guide the speed of your progress so you get the most out of every session.

Further information

The London Clinic’s physiotherapy team can help you with expert advice about how to be heathier and improve your fitness safely for the long-term. To find out more, please call our friendly team on +44 (0) 20 7616 7651 or email physio@thelondonclinic.co.uk.

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