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Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

There are so many reasons to exercise, our bodies literally need it, yet it’s important to look beyond just the physical and realise it’s not only about the strength of our muscles or which dress size we’re in but also the often overlooked, yet hugely beneficial effects on our sense of well-being and mental health.
It is proven that regular exercise can help alleviate and manage several specific mental health issues namely, depression, anxiety, PTSD and stress, it also improves general wellbeing status’ such as memory and thinking ability, sleep patterns, energy levels, moods and resilience to life changes.

Feeling happy with your appearance and knowing what your body is capable of, no doubt contributes to an increase in self esteem, yet on a chemical level physical activity actually boosts the production of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain, which all have very positive effects on many aspects of mental health. Improvements in conditions such as mild to moderate depression can be so good it help sufferers actually avoid having to take medication and endure their unpleasant side effects.

Stress relief can be found by way of mere distraction, spend an hour in a Pilates class or jogging in nature and your mind can be diverted away from negative thought patterns to give the nervous system much needed respite, promoting healing and fortifying the immune system. Gentle stretching and walking can induce a sense of calm and more intense anxiety issues causing tension and stress in the muscles can be relieved with the production of endorphins through more vigorous exercise, which also promotes a sharper more focused mind.

Other changes in the brain include neural growth, new brain cell development reduces age related cognitive decline and improves mental agility and symptoms of PTSD have been proven to be reduced with activities involving both the arms & legs such as running, hiking, swimming, mountain biking, rock climbing and dancing.

So get exercising to get happy! 😉

– This article has been published in the January edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Vitamin D for December

December is the month with the shortest day of the year and the least amount of natural daylight, which is a crucial resource needed for our bodies to be able to manufacture Vitamin D.
We need Vitamin D, it is vital to our wellbeing and is instrumental for a range of functions, including musculoskeletal health, psychological wellbeing, circadian rhythms and a strong immune system.

We can obtain vitamin D from foods such as egg yolks, oily fish, red meat & liver though our amazing body actually creates its own vitamin D through the exposure of bare skin in natural light.
The amount of exposure time needed is dependent on the colour of your skin, the darker your skin the more time you will need, for example fair skin can gain sufficient amounts in as little as 10-15 minutes, however those with darker skin will need significantly more and in some cases may benefit from supplementing their intake to ensure they are getting the right amount. Vegans may also need to supplement this vitamin. Primarily though seek your daily top up outdoors in the daylight and fresh air as often as you can.

As many of us are working from home right now, we’re not even absorbing the natural light we would normally get from our daily commute, so it’s even more important to make a conscious effort to get outside in the daylight at some point each day and if you combine a 20-30 minute brisk walk, you’ll efficiently be getting both your daily exercise and your vitamin D requirements met together, both of which will help fend off the December blues, which in extreme cases to those who are exceptionally sensitive to the diminished light, can trigger the onset of a depressive syndrome known as S.A.D or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

With all that said then, I’m putting my laptop down right now and popping out to get my own quota before sundown!

– This article has been published in the December edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Home workout equipment essentials

If you’ve recently taken to working out at home or you are planning to, whether its because your gym is currently closed or you’ve decided you’d prefer it that way right now, below are a few of my favourite pieces of equipment for use at home.

To be clear, I’m not talking about costly cardio machines and bulky multi-gyms that take up loads of space, on the contrary all that is needed for an effective home workout is a few key pieces, ones that are relatively small, inexpensive and can easily be stashed away in cupboards or the shed.

First and foremost, a selection of resistance apparatus is a must, dumbbells are the most versatile, as are kettlebells and medicine balls, all in a variety of weights. See them as investment pieces, as you are unlikely to need to replace or update them. Other equipment that create resistance and add variety are Thera-bands, made from stretchy latex or fabric in a multitude of resistances and sizes. These are perishable and will need replacing at times, yet they are not expensive.

Exercise mats are always useful, for grip and cushioning, also to protect surfaces such as your carpet, tiles or wooden flooring from getting scuffed. They can be rolled up and neatly stored away.

Small cardio equipment that never fails to get the heart pumping are skipping ropes and steps.

One other indispensable piece of kit is a Stability-Ball, or some call it a Swiss Ball.
You can do so much with them, from ab work to it being your workout bench.
This is the only piece you might find tricky to store though, they are a little cumbersome and since deflating & inflating for each use is impractical, you’ll need to find a safe place to store it where it won’t get punctured.

Now if you’re not sure what to actually do with all that stuff, you may well benefit from consulting a Personal Fitness Coach on Zoom.

– This article has been published in the November edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Leggings Lamentations

Ever bought a pair of leggings that seemed great in the shop, only to find they won’t stay up while you’re jogging? Or realised your lovely new purchase goes ‘see through’ as you bend over!! Eeek!

As a person who practically lives in this particular piece of apparel, I’ve fielded these issues & more and suffered the embarrassment of the odd wardrobe malfunction too. So allow me to impart some practical advice, as all leggings have not been created equal!

When choosing the right leggings your first consideration should not be how they look, sounds like dating advice doesn’t it but may I suggest choosing first based on the activity you want them for.

If you’re out running or working out in the gym, it’s useful to have a key pocket, with a zip for extra security, plus a pocket or side panel to slip your phone into.
The fabric needs to be sweat wicking, go for polyamide as this has antibacterial properties too. Where these two activities split off is fabric thickness, in the gym you’ve gotta make sure your leggings are squat proof – do the squat test in the changing room before any purchases!
Outdoor running will be seasonal, in winter it’s useful to have thermal lined or even waterproof leggings, so you don’t cramp as cold air/rain hits the thighs as you run.

Then we have activities such as Pilates or stretch classes that are less likely to make you sweat, in fact you’ll usually need warming, breathable fabrics, such as cotton, bamboo or wool.
The squat test is again crucial here and the added element of a high waist – so underwear does not appear as you Roll-up, Roll-down, or bend over. No pockets required, especially zip pockets, as they have a nasty habit of digging into your back as you work in supine positions.

Finally elastane is essential – at least 3-5%.

Now you know they are functional, how do they look?

This article has been published in the October edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Fix Your Focus

Did you know that if you think about the muscle you are working, you can achieve as much as up to 20 percent more results than if you where simply ‘going through the motions’ ?
Not only that but by just ‘imagining’ your muscles, studies have proved you can get stronger, tone your muscles and stop or delay atrophy.
Yes that’s right, you read correctly – though I’m not convinced just by believing you are stronger you’ll end up looking like ‘The Rock’ without any physical application…yet I am 100 percent on board with the idea that fixing your focus while you work out will yield better results and in less time.

I’ve seen this scenario happen over and over, where people show up for their workouts week in & week out, yet never seem to change shape or achieve the goals they’d ‘like’ and it’s mainly because they are not actually present with the task at hand.
Being distracted by chatting with companions, or looking at phones or simply not being that bothered to think about the quality of movement and exercise techniques, can almost halve the results that are indeed possible to achieve.

In my Pilates classes I continually remind my clients to focus on or think about the muscle area a specific exercise is targeting, I suggest asking themselves if they are actually ‘feeling’ the correct area working, this helps get technique right and hone in on specific muscles.
One of the main principles of Pilates is ‘Concentration’ so it stands to reason that there would be a big emphasis on the idea of focusing in Pilates, though I believe it should be applied to all forms of exercise to achieve maximum results.

It should be said I am not talking about weight loss here, thats another article for another day, though if being slimmer is part of your wellbeing goals, thinking about it – as long as it’s not obsessively, will surely help to generate change.

This article has been published in the September edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

S.Q.U.A.T TEAM

The S.W.A.T acronym stands for ‘Specialised Weaponry and Tactics’….and that is definitely one way to describe the exercise of SQUATS!

Squats are Specialised, because you need to get them right, as bad technique can cause injury, in particular to knees and backs.
Squats are great Weaponry to have in your exercise repertoire because they’re so efficient at targeting several big muscle groups, perfect for keeping your legs and bum super strong.
Squats need precise Tactics, small alterations to technique, timing & duration can make a huge difference to the muscles being worked and the results achieved.

A squat is a fundamental human movement, seen to perfection in babies and toddlers, yet over time muscle tightness and imbalances impairs squatting ability. If you want to keep the functionality and tone of your lower body, this movement should be part of your exercise sessions and there is a huge amount of variations to chose from.

Heres how to do a basic squat:
Stand with feet between hip distance and shoulder width apart, keep knees soft and tuck your tail bone under, place hands on the hips or hold them out front in a prayer position or arms outstretched. Take a breath in and draw the abdominals gently in towards the spine, then on the exhale bend your knees down into a 90 degree angle. Make sure your knees do not travel forward over your toes by pushing your weight back and into the heels. Your back needs to be in a neutral position with your chest and head lifted, i.e. don’t bend over with your torso, keeping your eyes looking forward will help you do this. At the lowest point take another breath and lift back up into standing without locking your knees or pushing your hips forward. Try to give your bum a little extra squeeze as you return to standing. Take another breath in and repeat.
So, put the magazine down, drop & gimme 20!

This article has been published in the August edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Zoom Boom: Online Fitness Classes

We’ve all had to adapt to different ways of living during these past 3 months and that may have included how you exercise. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed daily walks or reignited an old passion for cycling or running. If however you are among the many people who regularly attend(ed) fitness classes you will no doubt be missing your weekly gatherings. Fortunately modern technology has been there to help bridge the gap with online classes.

It’s looking like gyms and fitness classes will be among the last business sector to reopen, along with the rest of the leisure industry. As I write this article it could still be several weeks before community classes are allowed to operate. Even when we do return to halls and gyms, restrictions to participant numbers will apply, reducing availability, then there’s the need to be prepared should a second lockdown occur, all of which emphasises the need to have online classes available from now on, both from the perspective of the instructor running a business and the client wanting their fitness schedule to continue uninterrupted.

Outside of the recent lockdown situation, there are times when we’d like to be able to do our regular class but physically can’t be there, whether thats due to being away on business or on holidays, or not having any child care, or grounded by bad weather, or transport issues and the new one of being stuck in quarantine when you’re perfectly healthy – the positives for doing online classes continue to accrue.

If you’ve not already tried your local instructors Zoom classes, I encourage you to do so, especially if it’s familiar. Most of us want social interaction but when thats not possible, online is a great alternative. I never thought I’d be teaching my classes through my computer at the start of 2020 yet here we are!

Promise Pilates Online Timetable for Pure Pilates & Fusion Flow Classes can be found at – https://www.promisepilates.co.uk/timetable/

This article has been published in the July edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Cardio Health: Keep it Up by going Low

Physical fitness has several components, including muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, body composition and cardiovascular endurance. The latter two in this list have had a lot of publicity during recent times and you may have been wondering how to improve your own cardiovascular status and body fat ratio?!

It may be that you’ve tried to go out running, joined an online HIIT class, or even got involved with the kids 9am P.E. session, only to find however, all the jumping and high impact activity overwhelming for your current fitness level, or you may have conditions that simply don’t do well with high impact activity. Also some of us will be recovering from post viral fatigue issues and other illnesses, so a gentler alternative is needed that still works towards the same goals – and that could be LISS!

LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State cardio and as the name describes, it is a low intensity cardiovascular activity, performed over a prolonged period of time (30-90 minutes), at a constant pace or state.
The activity itself could be anything that can be maintained in this manner, such as swimming, cycling, rowing, or using cardio equipment like an elliptical trainer or spin bike, but since the majority of us don’t have private swimming pools or home gyms, the easiest method right now is walking or hiking and what most of us will have easy access to.

You will still need to raise your heart rate enough to feel slightly breathless and warm, so a meandering stroll or stop/start walks with a curious dog won’t quite cut it. In order to fully gain from the fat burning and cardiovascular benefits of LISS training, you’ll need to be able to maintain the pace consistently for the the amount of time you’ve set yourself.
It’s also an opportunity to walk out in nature, in better air quality, which is proven to boost cardiovascular wellbeing.

This article has been published in the June edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Wellbeing 2.0

Now more than ever before, many of us are considering our wellbeing and physical fitness in a way that finally transcends aesthetics. I’ve harped on about this before; but it’s a point worth repeating again and again and again…

I’ve been a wellbeing enthusiast for well over 25yrs now and have gone through many stages with my own health & fitness according to the seasons of life; but one thing I’ve always maintained is the fundamental belief that what you do with your body and what you put in it and on it are key elements to maintaining personal vitality, even if I’ve fallen off from my own advice on more than one occasion. The difficult part therefore and perhaps the most important aspect to maintain – is balance!

If you only ever associated wellbeing/fitness with the way you look, chances are you fell off the training bandwagon too many times to mention. It’s also worth strongly pointing out that ‘looking’ in shape and being ‘healthy’ are two entirely different things. For instance, a fitness model may look incredible, but what they had to do to prepare for a photo shoot isn’t advisable, shredding for instance involves severely dehydrating the body in order to show muscle definition, a body builder may have injected steroids to increase their muscle mass and the pursuit of thinness can border on near starvation – non of these examples are in any way considered healthy!

A functional body with a strong immune system is something to strive for far more than just the way it looks. This state of being involves a range of elements that all need to be in sync and whilst maintaining physical fitness is certainly part of that, the body also relies on having had enough sleep, a balanced nutritious diet and maintaining manageable stress levels to be truly strong, both internally and externally and if ever there was a time and opportunity to educate yourself on these matters, it’s now!

This article has been published in the May edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Pilates for stress relief

Pilates has many physical benefits that are widely reported and scientifically proven. Professionals such as Doctors, physiotherapists and osteopaths, all support and recommend Pilates to their patients and clients; for a whole plethora of physical issues.
A lesser talked about benefit of Pilates is the mental side of it, and in this day and age it can’t be promoted enough, to develop ways of protecting or mental health and finding ways to relieve stress.

Often we associate finding stress relief with other wellbeing services such as massage, or more spiritually based practices such as yoga and meditation; but Pilates offers stress relief in much the same way that crafting or playing an instrument might have.The mind is taken away for the time of your practice and in as little time as an hour, respite from your daily demands and a sense of calm can be achieved.

Traditional Pilates does not involve meditation, chanting or specific relaxation techniques, (however some hybrid classes may incorporate these practices), Pilates is very much about a focus on the body, the breath and the technique of the movements and by engaging the mind in this way your brain is relieved from thinking about other stresses for a time and this has been proven to aid mental wellbeing.

The other aspect that helps create stress relief or a sense of calmness, is through the breath. The breathing technique in Pilates is known as ‘Lateral breathing’ or ‘Thoracic breathing’. It is a lengthened, full breath, that fills the lungs to their maximum capacity and since many of us deplete our system by ‘shallow breathing’, this is super beneficial to our bodies.
These deep, full breaths fill our lungs with extra oxygen and the cells then distribute it throughout the body, making every muscle and organ more functional, which is hugely rejuvenating.

So in times like these, it may well be worth adding Pilates to assist your mental wellbeing not just your physical.

This article has been published in the April edition of Life Magazines – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk