Health & Fitness

How to sustain New Year health fitness plans

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Summary

  • The Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted lives world over, offered a stark reminder of the significance of embracing healthy lifestyles to boost immunity and ward off infections.
  • According to the WHO, physical activity helps to prevent and manage non-communicable diseases such as heart ailments, cancer and diabetes.
  • It also boosts mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Aside from helping with relaxation and sleep quality, exercises also improve brain function and guard against memory loss.

The festive season is almost over. And as people count down to the New Year, many have begun setting health and fitness targets for 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted lives world over, offered a stark reminder of the significance of embracing healthy lifestyles to boost immunity and ward off infections.

"The coronavirus disease came with no cure or vaccine. We were told that the only saving grace would be how healthy you are as a person. This has helped me to realise that it's important to always keep healthy. You never know when another disease will come your way," says 34-year-old Paul, an Information and Technology specialist based in Nairobi.

He is among the many Kenyans keen on adopting and sustaining healthy lifestyles as they begin the New Year. But this may be an uphill task, as many people often find it difficult to honour their New Year resolutions, especially in the area of physical fitness and nutrition.

For instance, with aim of pushing themselves to engage in physical exercises, most people usually rush to pay gym membership fees and purchase numerous workout clothes.

"I have done that for two years now. I am usually psyched up at the beginning, then at some point I start getting busy and begin missing sessions. In the end, I realise that I am wasting money for services I don't use regularly. So I end up quitting," states Paul.

Even though spending money on gym membership and numerous fitness clothes may be helpful, fitness experts note that to sustain an active lifestyle, people need to focus on building the self-discipline required to stay physically active.

"We've been made to think that working out is an expensive affair. Therefore, those that can't afford gyms think they can't exercise. Yet, that's not the case. The ability to meet physical fitness targets lies within you," says Arnold Oyuru, a Health Fitness & Wellness Coach.

Exercise can simply be defined as physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning the body.

Based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week. For those doing vigorous exercises, a minimum of 75 minutes weekly is recommended. The physical activities should comprise both aerobic and strength exercises for maximum health benefits.

All these exercises can be performed at home or nearby surroundings with minimal or no financial cost at all.

For instance, aerobic exercises such as running or brisk walking can be done within the neighbourhood and not necessarily on a treadmill at the gym. People can also choose to do jump rope exercises in their house or run up and down the stairs if they live in a high-rise building.

Similarly, strength training exercises like push-up, sit-ups, squats, lunges and planks can also be done in a room at home.

"Once money is no longer a factor in a fitness plan, your eyes open and you begin to see that the issue was never about finances or time. It's all about you," notes Paul who switched to exercising at home due to the pandemic.

He states: "If you can't get time to do exercises just right outside your house, then you will never manage to do them anywhere else. I have always blamed finances, traffic or office assignments for my inability to fulfil my fitness goals. But now I know that my lack of self-discipline has been the problem all along."

Paul notes that exercising amidst the pandemic gave him an opportunity to work on his self-discipline. And that gives him confidence that he will be able to achieve his fitness goals for 2021.

Another secret to sustaining health fitness goals throughout the year, is viewing physical exercises as a lifestyle instead of a means to an end.

"Most people choose to workout because they want to lose weight or have a well toned body that looks nice. These are some of the benefits of being fit. But if they are all you are after, then you are likely to stop exercising once you attain those goals or if you fail to achieve them," states Oyuru.

He advises people to look at exercise as a journey without an end. This enables people to reap the overall health benefits of physical fitness, which go beyond weight loss and well-toned bodies.

According to the WHO, physical activity helps to prevent and manage non-communicable diseases such as heart ailments, cancer and diabetes. It also boosts mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Aside from helping with relaxation and sleep quality, exercises also improve brain function and guard against memory loss.

All these multiple benefits of physical activity are usually eroded once people stop exercising. It is for this reason that exercise is considered a lifestyle or life-long journey that people should not get tired of.

Setting realistic workout targets and not being hard on oneself also helps to sustain workout regimes. When people embrace exercise 'loads' that their bodies can accommodate, then they are more likely to keep doing them.

"If you can comfortably run 5 kilometres, that's fine. You can improve on that slowly by slowly. You don't need to force yourself to run 10 kilometres, as this will make you hate working out. Also, on days where you can't cover your usual distance, it's okay to scale down instead of avoiding exercise altogether," notes Paul.