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Which type of exercise is right for you (and how can you keep it up)?

When the new year rolls around, many of us make it our resolution to exercise more to improve our health or physique. But if you're new to exercise or haven't done a workout in a while, it can be difficult to get started.

Should you go to the gym, or buy some equipment to use at home? Do you even need equipment? Or should you try running?

The right exercise for you will depend on your goals. In this article, we look at the different types of exercise and how to get started.

If you want to lose weight

One of the most common reasons people decide to start a new exercise regime is to lose a few pounds. Exercise can certainly help you to do this, but your diet needs to support your goal too.

To lose weight, you need a calorie deficit – in other words, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Don't undo your hard work by eating twice as much as usual after you work out.

It's also important to remember that when people say they want to ‘lose weight’, what they often mean is they want to reduce fat.

After all, your weight is just a number on the scales – you’re probably more interested in getting rid of your wobbly bits.

So if your weight doesn't decrease, don't lose heart. Muscle weighs more than fat so you could be toning up without moving the scales. Try measuring yourself instead – you might be losing inches on your waist, hips and bottom without seeing huge decreases in your physical weight.

If you do want to get in better shape, here are some exercises that can help:

Cardio

When you're trying to lose weight and improve your health, cardio is great because it gets your heart rate up quickly and keeps it in an aerobic state, which leads to calorie burning. Cardio is also great for strengthening your heart and lungs, so it has a lot of health benefits.

Cycling and running are good cardio exercises; if you want something that's easier on your joints, you might prefer swimming. There are also plenty of cardio machines on offer such as treadmills, bikes, steppers, and rowing machines.

Start by doing 30 minutes of cardio, two or three times a week. This will help you ease into regular exercise and get used to working up a sweat.

Find something you enjoy and mix it up every now and then, so you don't get bored of doing the same workout.

Resistance training

Resistance training involves using weights to improve your physical strength and endurance. Combining your cardio sessions with resistance training will produce the best results in losing weight.

Some people avoid weight training as they think it will make them look bigger or too 'bulky', but this isn't the case. It takes heavy weights, a specific diet and a lot of commitment to bulk up, so don't be scared to add weights to your routine. You'll find you tone up faster than if you do cardio alone, and you'll burn calories too.

If you're not sure where to start with resistance training, there are lots of YouTube tutorials on how to correctly perform each exercise. You could also invest in a personal trainer or use a fitness app that has workouts lined up for you and teaches you how to exercise safely.

If you want to gain muscle or build strength

If your goal is to gain muscle mass, the best way to achieve this is by progressive overload – gradually increasing your weights or the number of reps you do each time you work out.

If this is your goal, it's probably a good idea to get yourself a gym membership. That way you will have access to all the equipment you'll ever need, rather than spending money on a few dumbbells and then needing to buy more in a few months.

Most gyms have a free weights section as well as machines, and it's important you learn how to use the equipment correctly to avoid injuring yourself. If you're nervous, find a friend to go with you. It could be a good motivation for both of you to have support while you get to grips with the gym.

Alternatively, you could book a couple of sessions with a personal trainer, who will teach you how to use the equipment safely and effectively. This will give you the confidence to head into the gym solo and know exactly what to do.

And remember, everybody was a beginner at some point!


If you want to improve your mental health

If you want to use exercise as a tool to improve your mental health, our number one tip is to find something you enjoy. You can get your body moving in so many different ways, but if you enjoy it, you're more likely to stick to it and feel good afterwards. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Swimming
  • Weights
  • Boxing or martial arts
  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Gymnastics
  • HIIT (High-intensity interval training)
  • Badminton or tennis
  • Trampolining
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Team sports – netball, football, rugby

If you are struggling with low moods or anxiety, it can be hard to get started, but exercise doesn't have to be complicated. It could be as simple as putting on some music and having a dance in your bedroom every morning or going for a brisk walk up a nearby hill.

When you feel more confident, you might decide to join some in-person or online classes to try something different like kickboxing or salsa and meet new people while you're at it.

Try a few different things until you find something you like.


Sticking to your new routine

The main reasons people fail to achieve their fitness-based goals is because they either have unrealistic expectations and quickly get discouraged, or they don't have a proper plan in place.

Set realistic goals

Rather than focusing on the big goal, break it down into smaller milestones. For example, instead of saying, 'I want to lose three stone', focus on losing one pound a week. This makes it much more manageable, and if one week doesn't go to plan, you can refocus the next week rather than giving up completely.

Think of it as a fitness journey, rather than a destination. Make small changes to your diet and plan an exercise routine that is sustainable, rather than trying to upheave your entire lifestyle in one go.

If you focus on being better this week than you were last week, you'll progress quicker than you think.


Make a plan

It also pays off to have a real plan on how you're going to achieve your goals. If you want to gain muscle, how many gym sessions a week are you going to commit to? What changes to your diet can you make to help you make progress?

Schedule your sessions into your diary, write down the weights you use so you can keep a track record and ensure you are gradually increasing your weights each week.

Track your progress

There are loads of fitness apps and gadgets that can help you track your progress – record your steps, map your runs or rides, calculate your calorie consumption, track your weight loss.

Even something as simple as taking a photo each month so you can see how you are physically changing shape can help keep you on track. The more you achieve, the more motivated you'll be to keep it up.

You don't have to get a PB every week, but when you do, you'll feel great.

Reward yourself

Don't forget to celebrate your successes. If you hit your milestones, give yourself a little treat.

For example, when you've lost your first stone in weight, treat yourself to a new pair of jeans. Or if you exercise four times a week, four weeks in a row, reward yourself with your favourite meal.

You can even sign up to challenges for charities whereby if you achieve a certain number of steps or you run or cycle a set number of miles in a month, you get a medal. Raising money for a good cause can give you the motivation you need to get moving.

Remember your why

Whenever you feel yourself slipping, remind yourself why you wanted to start exercising in the first place.

Maybe you want to get in shape for a wedding. Perhaps you have health issues because you are overweight. Maybe you want to feel stronger and fitter. Or perhaps you want to improve your mental health.

Whatever your reason, keep this in mind and don't give up. Once you get into a routine, you'll find it easier to stick to it.


Need a dedicated workout space?

Having a dedicated workout space at home provides many benefits. If everything you need is there ready for you, it's much easier to get going. Plus, you save time and money by not having to commute to and from the gym, and you don't have to worry about the weather.

At Smart Modular, we love building bespoke garden gyms for our clients. Whether you want a simple yoga studio or you need reinforced floors and ceilings for your equipment, we can design and build your perfect space.

Get in touch to book a consultation or check out our gallery for inspiration.

Smart Modular are UK leading designers, manufacturers and installers of garden studios. If you'd like to book a no-obligation design consultation, contact our friendly team.

Book your free design consultation and start planning your garden escape today

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