With Christmas and the New Year now in the rear-view mirror, many of us may be feeling a little jaded as we settle back into our normal routines. It is not a surprise that after some late nights and lie-ins, our body clocks are out of sync, which can make it difficult to function. This is a feeling which has been described as "social jetlag", and like jetlag itself, can take a little while to fully get over.
It doesn't help that we may also have negative thoughts about returning to work after fun and games with family and friends, so motivation may well be in short-supply too.
One of the best ways of getting back to normal though is to take part in some exercise. This is good for helping you to lose those extra pounds you may have gained from munching on tasty treats over Christmas, and it can also raise your energy levels. This boost of energy can then help you to stick to your new regime, while exercise itself can help your immune system, which will reduce the chance of you picking up a winter bug.
How much exercise do I need?
- Adults aged 19-64 : daily exercise, getting 150 minutes of moderate level aerobic activity each week. Activities include brisk walking and cycling, something which will leave them a little sweaty but not too out of breath. Alternatively, 75 minutes worth of vigorous intensity aerobic activity has a similar effect, such as a tennis match or a run. Another option is a combination of the two over the course of the week. However, whatever you choose works for you, you should ideally also add muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week, such as lifting light weights, yoga or body-weight exercises.
- Young people : as active as possible, with toddlers advised to be active for three hours a day, while children under five should only be inactive for long periods when they are sleeping. Children aged 5-18 should take part in moderate levels of aerobic activity for an hour a day, with muscle strengthening exercises three days a week.
- Adults over 65 : Those with no health conditions to limit their mobility should try and do the same levels of exercise as an adult aged 19-64. However, many of those with health conditions can usually still take part in some activity, especially with the guidance of their doctor. Many older adults may feel they don't want to exercise - in case they fall for example - but the ongoing chances of a fall are actually reduced by being physically fitter. It helps strength, balance and agility, all of which are very useful. If balance is a concern, tai chi is a great, low-risk way of improving it.
The benefits of exercise
There's no doubt that getting in to exercise can have many health benefits. These include reducing the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, depression and certain cancers. It can also lower the risk of premature death by up to 30%1, while research suggests exercise is good for self-esteem, mood, energy levels and sleep quality.
Top exercise tips
- Joining a gym works wonders for some people. Activities might include sessions with a personal trainer, which will help you with your goals and keep you motivated to ensure you achieve them
- Exercising with a friend might help keep you motivated, you can encourage each other towards hitting your goals
- If you're not used to exercise, don't start off by running a marathon. Start slowly and gradually build up
- Always warm up and cool down properly to boost performance, aid recovery and limit the risk of injury
- Keep yourself hydrated, drink water little and often before, during and after exercise
- If you haven't already, consider checking with your GP if you have any conditions or injuries that may be worsened by exercise or may limit your ability to exercise
- Minor aches and niggles are common and normal during exercise, but if you start to feel a significant increase in your discomfort then stop immediately and rest for a while. Listening to your body helps you to avoid injury
- If you're worried or if the discomfort persists then stop exercising and consider talking it through with your doctor or call the NHS helpline on 111 for advice.