Are you fed up of doing the same exercises or hitting the same machines to get – or keep – that toned physique?
Scroll through fitness posts on social media, especially Instagram, and you’d be forgiven for thinking all gym workouts and fitness plans must be hardcore, leaving exercisers dripping in sweat and exhausted.But that doesn’t need to be the case, nor is it always entirely healthy. Indeed, a study published in Journal of Endocrinological Investigation in 2008 found that high and moderate intensity workouts increased general levels of the stress hormone cortisol.1 And a 2013 study by researchers at Texas A&M University has linked chronic elevation of cortisol to burnout and other inflammatory conditions and illnesses.2
Handpicked content: 4 exercises that could help relieve stressInstead, shake up your fitness plan with strength-training. It’s now known that strength-training exercises are just as important as cardio – experts recommend weight training and body-weight resistance exercises as a great way to work your muscles without exhausting your body.3 And it’s great for women, too. It’s actually a myth that women get bulky when lifting weights regularly as most don’t have enough testosterone to build loads of muscle.4
Instead, two strength-training sessions a week will:• build bone density, which is important to delay or offset degenerative conditions like osteoporosis5 • boost metabolism, raising the amount of calories burnt at rest6 • reduce stress. Moderate weight training can calm the nervous system and help release endorphins, which boosts mood7
Handpicked content: How good is weight lifting for you?
New fitness trends
Still need inspiration? Here’s a rundown of some of the best new fitness trends in a town, gym or park near you:
The low impact one – LITT
Most of us have now heard of HIIT (high-intensity-interval-training) but less about LIIT, the low intensity version, which is lower impact but still highly effective. The term refers in general to any low-intensity workout taking between 30 to 60 minutes and not involving a hard-core cardio session – yet still generating fat burning. Examples include yoga, Pilates, fast walking, aqua aerobics and trampolining.
The strength-building one – Calisthenics
Calisthenics is best described as gymnastics training for mere mortals. It’s also a way of building major mobility and serious strength. Typical moves include handstands, the splits, pull ups and use of the gymnastics rings. Beginners start with floor exercises to build abdominal, upper body strength and flexibility.
The playful one – hula hoopingNot only is hula-hooping a great way to impress friends at a barbecue, it also builds core strength and burns the same calories as step aerobics or bootcamp classes.8 And it’s actually pretty fun, too. Hooping can be done in classes or alone, in a basement or on a balcony, and there’s lots to learn with endless moves to try. Warning: what you lack in co-ordination you’ll need to replace with sense of humour.
The masterful one – Barre classes
It’s crazy that ballet ever got a reputation for being soft in any way, given the rippling physiques of ballet dancers. Barre classes are group fitness workouts based on traditional ballet training regimes. They’re deceptively simple, involving a strict approach, diligence and lots of repetition. You won’t be dashing about, and might not even let go of the bar, but all those tiny little muscles in your body will get stronger fast, helping develop a healthy posture and all-round strength and stability.Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies. Shop Weight Management
- . Hill EE, et al. Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18787373
- . Brooks K and Carter J. Overtraining, Exercise and Adrenal Insufficiency. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23667795
- . The Independent. 6 reasons why women should lift weights. Available from: www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/why-women-should-lift-weights-6-reasons-exercise-fitness-confidence-strength-fat-loss-a7829436.html
- . As above
- . Westcott WL. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22777332
- . As above
- . Anderson E and Shivakumar G. Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632802/
- . Ace Fitness. Hooping – Effective Workout or Child’s Play? Available from: www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1094/ace-sponsored-research-hooping-effective-workout