- Build up the intensity of activities you already do to make exercise less intimiating, experts said.
- You dont need to go to the gym if you don’t want to.
- You could also get some resistance bands to start increasing your strength from home.
- Read more Working It Out here.
I am just coming out of an illness that prevented me from doing any exercise for a year, aside from a few short walks and the occasional slow yoga flow. I put on some weight and don’t feel fit. I want to get back into exercise gently, but feel so overwhelmed I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to join a gym, but I want to get moving and get stronger. Please help!
I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been seriously ill but how great to be on the mend.
Don’t beat yourself up for putting on some weight and not exercising much in that time — recovering from your illness and maintaining your mental health are more important.
The good thing about weight management and fitness is it’s never too late to start making changes, but it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by the prospect.
It sounds like you’ve got a great approach to getting moving again though. Whether you’ve been ill or just haven’t been exercising for any other reason, starting small and building up is the way to go.
Starting is the hardest part
“After the first week or two you will feel like a new person,” he said. “Fear is a handbrake a lot of people have whether it’s going to a gym, leaving a relationship, or not going for that new job. Don’t let fear control your life, you can do this.”
Build on what you do already
Mike Tanner, performance specialist at wellness studio Bodyism, agreed that starting is often the toughest bit, but you’re actually in a very good position as someone who already does some yoga and walks (walking is fantastic for you!).
If you enjoy those, Tanner recommends starting by increasing the intensity.
Try and go for longer walks, then add in some uphill sections, he said. You could also try walking intervals: walking faster for a short period (try 30 seconds and build up) before slowing down and catching your breath, then repeating.
“Yoga is great, especially for core and upper body strength,” he said. “For example, you can start with chaturanga on your knees and build up to your toes over time.” Chaturanga is a foundational yoga pose which starts in a high plank and lowers the body down (similarly to how you would in a push-up).
Get some bands to add resistance at home
When you feel ready, Tanner recommends introducing some functional conditioning work — practical movements that will carry over benefit to your daily life — to start getting your strength back.
You don’t need to go to the gym or buy heavy equipment though, you can start strength-training with some resistance bands and just your bodyweight.
“Band work mixed with bodyweight training is the perfect first step,” he said. “You can perform gentle circuits of three to four exercises, 30 seconds for each move, followed by a one-minute rest.”
I love working out with resistance bands, especially when travelling. For my lower body, I often do deadlifts and overhead squats with a long-loop band, then single-leg deadlifts and crab walks with the short-loop.
Get a trainer or try fitness classes
If you have the budget, hiring a personal trainer even just for a few sessions is a great move as they’ll help give you the confidence you need to continue on your own.
“Having someone there to support you through the first stages of your training journey can really have a positive effect on the way you portray the gym and will also give you the confidence to train by yourself,” McLaren said.
You could also try fitness classes, which can be a fun way to get moving and learn.
You don’t have to do these in the gym with others if you don’t want to — there are lots of on-demand online platforms, such as Bodyism’s, which offer workouts you can do at any time with options for all levels.
Workout to get strong, eat less to lose weight
calorie deficit — consuming less energy than you’re burning over the course of the day.occurs through being in a
Increasing your activity levels can contribute to this, but the calorie burn from formal exercise is actually a relatively small proportion (around 5-10%) of your total daily energy expenditure.
With this in mind, it’s best to approach weight loss by aiming to eat a little bit less, and then focus on getting stronger and fitter through movement — this helps me maintain a healthy relationship with exercise too.
Don’t push yourself too hard though. Take things one step at a time and be patient with yourself. You can do it.
Wishing you well,
As a senior health reporter at Insider and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition-certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light versus heavy weights, or unsure whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks with some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.