It is common knowledge that exercise and physical activity can help us to improve and maintain our health and wellbeing, reducing the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and some cancers.
In addition, evidence is increasing as to the beneficial effects of exercise when prescribed for long-term conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and osteoporosis.
What research is still trying to determine is how to exercise most effectively to gain optimum benefits depending on your background and health profile. However, some key principles can generally be applied to effective exercise participation.
Set smart goals
Firstly, you need to identify what you want to achieve by setting a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART). You can then think about how best to achieve this, by considering what areas of fitness you need to improve. Areas of fitness include things like balance, endurance and strength.
Find a plan to suit you
Once you know what you want to achieve and what areas of fitness you need to improve to do this, you can then look at setting a plan that is individually tailored. This plan will need to ensure that you work your body sufficiently to enable it to adapt and become stronger; gradually increasing what you do each week to ensure improvements in fitness without over doing it.
It is often helpful to keep a diary or training log, so you can monitor your improvements, motivating you to continue towards achieving your goal.
You can increase the amount of exercise you do in one of three ways, you can either increase the frequency of the exercise, its intensity or how long you are doing it for.
To do this you need to consider what time you have available for exercise and what types of exercise you enjoy doing, that you can realistically incorporate into your everyday life. It may also help to think about who might be able to help you by exercising with you or supporting you to make exercise a priority.
Improving your fitness not only provides physical benefits, but can also improve your mental health too, benefiting you, your family and your employer.
Dr Anouska Carter is a BASES Accredited Sport and Exercise Scientist (Physiology) and heads up the Workforce Wellbeing Team at the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University.