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What it really takes to maintain a healthy level of fitness

In the words of Dr Ivan Cohen, “most people overestimate the amount of exercise they need to do in order to gain a healthy level of fitness”. So often, we associate exercise with horribly hard work and being uncomfortable, which is hugely demotivating, but the truth is that maintaining a healthy level of fitness doesn’t have to be like this.

To help you discover what it actually takes to keep fit, all while doing exercise that you enjoy, here is the truth about the common myths and misconceptions around exercise that many of us hear and hold.

Myth 1: Exercise needs to be hard to be healthy

Dr Ivan Cohen made it very clear to us that “the level of effort to achieve all the benefits of exercise is actually much less than what the public perceives and is well within the vast majority of the public’s ability”. So if you are feeling like the only way you can maintain a healthy fitness level is to train like an Olympic athlete, that’s just not the case.

According to the NHS guidelines all it takes to stay healthy through fitness is 2 days a week of strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) and at least at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.

There are 7 days and 10080 in a week, so it’s easier than you think to fit enough exercise in to stay healthy around your schedule. Moreover, no one is saying the exercise you do has to be grueling or unenjoyable, just a little light exercise of your choice a few times a week will get you to the perfectly healthy place you want to be.

Myth 2: Keeping fit is about improving your appearance

First off, if you are comfortable and happy with the way you look and anyone tells you to change that, tell them to fuck off. You are perfect as you are and no one has the right to impose their beauty standards on you. Secondly, maintaining a healthy level of fitness has nothing to do with ‘improving’ or changing your appearance, it’s all about maintaining a healthy heart and breath rate, keeping your body strong so it can support your day to day activities, reducing the risk of disease and feeling positive.

Numerous studies, including Dr Ivan Cohen’s have shown that moderate intensity, regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer occurrence, cancer mortality and drastically improve mental health. In fact, the foundational study for Run/Walk for Life Dr Ivan Cohen conducted, found that many of the people participating who had been receiving professional treatment for stress and depression were able to reduce that treatment and eventually with their professional’s consent were able to go off all treatment.

The way you look is and should be irrelevant to maintaining a healthy level of fitness. The reality is that staying fit is all about keeping you well from a medical perspective and truly happy. Exercise is a tool to celebrate what your wonderful body is capable of and to feel good about in and outside of the moment, because it brings positivity and health into your life. Focusing on appearance only - at least in my experience - takes away the enjoyment and motivation to move.

Myth 3: Exercise is a solitary pursuit

Some people do like to exercise alone, and that’s perfectly fine if that’s how you as an individual work best. However, research has shown that for the vast majority of us, exercising socially or in groups produces something called the Kohler effect where our drive to keep going and performance during physical activities increases. So communal exercise is highly beneficial to motivating and keeping us on the path to maintain a healthy level of fitness.

In the words of Dr Ivan Cohen, “for people who want to run or walk, one of the best things they can do is to do that activity with friends because that transforms the whole idea of ‘work’ in exercise into a social activity”. Not only will working out with friends or a group of people you like motivate you, it will distract you from feelings of discomfort and worry around exercise, and make the entire experience more enjoyable.

Under normal circumstances I would recommend finding a group exercise class where you feel comfortable or getting together your friends to form a fitness group but with the current lockdown/pandemic situation I know it’s difficult to do so, so instead why not call a friend while exercising? Join a zoom class with others? Or check out one of these great apps?

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