‘New Year, New You’ is a phrase we’ve all heard time and again; it’s the mantra for many people as they kick off their New Year’s resolutions with a promise to get fit and healthy. But if like many people you find the gym expensive or daunting, the good news is you don’t have to commit to an expensive gym membership to get yourself in shape this year! There are many ways you can start the New Year as you mean to go on, by keeping fit at home and outdoors without having to fork out your hard earned cash or feel intimidated by other gym-goers.

Why it’s important to keep fit

Most people would probably answer ‘yes’ if they were asked if it’s important to keep fit, but many people may not fully understand why it’s important. Exercising to keep fit and healthy is important to maintain overall health and wellbeing. In fact, doing just 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week can lower your risk of early death by up to 30%, and it can also help to reduce your risk of developing illnesses like heart disease and strokes by up to 50%.1Research also shows that physical activity can boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy1, as well as reducing your risk of stress and depression2, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.3 With facts like these, it’s hard to ignore the importance of exercise for our health and wellbeing.

Intimidated by the gym?

If you feel intimidated by going to the gym, then you’re not alone. ‘Gymtimidation’ is a term coined to explain the fear that millions of women feel about going to the gym, according to a Sport England study in 2014.

Alternative ways to keep fit without the gym

So what can you do to stay fit this new year, without having to go to the gym?

  • Get outside!

Exercising outdoors in natural environments is a great way to boost your overall fitness, as well as your mental and emotional wellbeing by increasing your energy and reducing feelings of tension, anger and depression.4

So instead of hitting the treadmill, why not go for a brisk walk or run in the local park? The variety of terrain and fresh air all help contribute to a more enriching and beneficial exercise experience when running outside, compared to exercising indoors on a treadmill.

  • Find an exercise buddy

Whilst there are many benefits of exercising outdoors, including fresh air and better scenery, exercising alone outdoors can be daunting for some people. Exercising with a ‘buddy’ such as a work colleague, family member or friend is a great way to stay motivated, feel safe and get enjoyment out of keeping fit.

  • Embrace group exercise

Just like with an exercise buddy, group exercise has soared in popularity in recent years according to UK Active, and it offers enhanced benefits such as increased motivation and challenge, camaraderie and new friendships. It’s the social aspect that people seem to enjoy – so why not take up an outdoor boot camp fitness class in your local park, or join a running or cycling group?

  • Get competitive!

There has been a boom in competitive group exercise, endurance challenges and obstacle course races, with events such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race taking the UK by storm. Why is it that they have been so popular? Because everyone loves a little competition! It gives a great sense of accomplishment, and you can use it to set fitness goals, test your limits and build your body strength. You could even raise money for charity whilst you are competing!

  • Embrace new technology

We are living in the age of technological innovation, so why not take advantage of new technology such as apps and wearable devices – effectively ‘virtual personal trainers’? ‘Wearable tech’ is a term used to describe technological devices that can be worn on your body as items of clothing or accessories, such as fitness tracker bracelets and smart watches, which include tracking information related to your health and fitness. Using wearable devices and apps alongside your daily fitness routine can give you a more proactive way to manage your health and monitor different aspects of your daily activity and wellbeing.

We hope that these ideas can inspire you to make some positive steps to improving your health and fitness, without the gym!

If you want to become more physically active and you haven’t done any exercise for a long period of time then it’s a good idea to see your local GP or health care professional before you get started.

1 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/stress-relief-exercise.aspx?tabname=Common%20problems
2 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/exercise-for-depression.aspx
3 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Whybeactive.aspx
4 Journal of Environmental Science and Technology http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291246

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