Greg, a NSW fitness trainer, laments the common excuses he hears and the worrying inactivity he sees…

Do you consume fast foods like McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, KFC, and Pizza on a regular basis?

You DO know that’s not healthy but find a reason why it’s ok this time?

“The kids are tired”, “I’m tired after work”, “It’s late and nothing else is open”, “Everyone else is going there”, “It’s convenient” and “Oh, that smells so good that’s what I’ll have” are sounding quite familiar right about now, right?

There are so many excuses we use to justify what foods we eat when we know it is not the best choice for us. Many of us get distracted by the other demands in life like studying, working, relationships, children, social activities with friends, etc, etc.

These demands just seem to stack higher and higher making you more and more busy. So, what can you do about it? The answer to that is simple… JUST DO SOMETHING! Anything more than you were doing before is an improvement.

Simple things like a regular walk before or after dinner.

Or set the alarm just 2 min earlier each day and spend that time walking up your street. As the 2 minutes build up you will have more time to walk or walk/jog a little further. Then your body won’t even notice the earlier start as you build into it, just 2 min earlier each day.

Before you know it you’ll have 30 to 40 minutes to spend walking or whatever for exercise in the morning. Your body will love the change and it’s a great way to start the day feeling more alive and refreshed.

Do some basic exercises at home such as Squats, Push-ups, and Crunches. You can even set these up as a circuit in your back yard about 10 metres apart and run from each exercise point to the next. This will at least be a start.

A couple doing squats facing one another. Just do something!

And if that sounds like too much, try building exercise into your daily routine. Do a wall squat for 2 minutes whilst brushing your teeth. Do some stretches for 10 minutes whilst watching your favourite soap or sitcom. If you make exercise a secondary activity rather than the focus of what you are doing, you can almost ‘trick’ yourself into getting fitter!

Whilst going to a personal trainer will always give you better results; the starting phase of training is just doing something.

Other things you can try, especially if you do no physical activities at all, maybe:

  • Team up with a friend and walk at lunch
  • Wherever you work, park a block or two away and walk the rest
  • When you go shopping carry one bag at a time from the car into the house
  • When washing clothes, take one item at a time from the machine to the clothes line
  • Walk the dog
  • Walk your partner (you both want to live longer, right?!)
  • Start to excercise. Anything is better than nothing. Get out and get puffing with an activity!

Now do it again (and again!)

So now you’ve initiated some form of exercise: walking, jogging, wwimming, whatever. Congratulations, you’re moving forward. The key now is to DO IT REGULARLY!

Once you have managed to start a regular exercise routine, you will likely find yourself reading and talking more about exercise and health topics.

There are many theories floating around about what you should and should not do: ‘Do this and you’ll get fat‘, ‘do that and you’ll build muscle fast‘, ‘try these because you’ll lose weight fast‘.

Whilst some theories may be right in some cases with some people, there are very few quick fixes that work for all.

How much does diet matter?

There are many uncertainties out there when it comes to fitness, or at least that’s what we’ve been told. But one thing that is certain is that without the right diet your efforts will be short-changed. 

For those who are overweight, it’s worth considering that it may have taken many years to gain the excess weight. As such, we must be realistic and not expect it to just take a few weeks or months to undo all the build up of previous years.

What some fail to understand is that the energy needed to go for a run, or build muscle doesn’t come out of thin air. It comes from the food we eat in combination with water and air in the production of energy.

And remember, not all food is created equal. The food we eat has a direct effect on our energy levels, body shape, and even our self-perception and feelings of self-worth.

Eat more protein‘, ‘Eat less protein‘, ‘Eat carbs‘, ‘Cut carbs‘, on and on it goes. There are many schools of thought on what is best for losing weight, for building muscle and for being healthy.

The biggest thing to note for any diet approach is to maintain a sensible balance to your food
intake. Natural foods from the ground and non (minimal) processed foods are always going to be the
better option.

A higher protein diet does not need to exclude carbs. It should especially include fibrous carbs such as veggies like Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, and salad greens at least twice daily.

An oval wooden platter surrounded by beautiful green vegetables - broccoli, kale, spring onions, lettuce, leeks. What your exercise and just do something

Not only are natural fruit and vegetables our body’s favourite energy source, they are also jam packed with essential nutrients. You would be surprised at the amino acid similarity between spinach and beef (Popeye was right!).

Another phrase you might hear is “I have a slow metabolism”. The causes of a slowed metabolism are generally an Endorcine system disorder, such as possibly Diabetes, Cushings Syndrome, Thyroid Disorders.

For further reading on metabolism, see here.

Most likely the last person you heard claim a slow metabolism wasn’t suffering one of these. What happens in your later years (middle-age onwards) is more related to your food and activity choices rather than your metabolism.

For more information on eating better, improving your health and hopefully losing some weight, see here.

The correct diet compliments your exercise training routine to ensure you get results for your efforts. So, it generally boils down to natural foods being the best foods.

Have you ever seen anything growing naturally in the bush or on the farm with a box, a bottle, or a sachet around it? Of course not.

Everyone has an opinion

Once you have started into a regular exercise routine, you will likely attract opinions on how you should adapt your training or what supplements you should consume to speed up results. You’ll even have people saying not to do this or that because you’ll get fat, or lose fat quickly, or get injured or (and this is a classic for women) get too muscular.

Whilst there are possibly some situations where some of those comments may be valid, I feel a little clarification might help some of you out there. Even if you weren’t wondering about these issues, it may prompt you to question other aspects of your training and what may be the best thing for you.

So, one thing that I’ve heard as a trainer is women saying “I don’t want to get big and muscular”. Generally that won’t happen simply on the basis that a woman’s body does not contain the same levels of Testosterone as a man’s body. 

Although there can be an exception to any rule, generally females are fairly safe so long as they don’t utilise serious growth supplements.

Whilst high intensity training can potentially generate a greater mass of growth hormone per pulse in women over men, it is the intensity and fitness program that will determine the impact of this. The intensity level required for serious muscle growth in the vast majority of women can only be achieved if working closely with an experienced trainer or athlete. You will not ‘accidentally’ fall into this category.

Cardio Exercise or Resistance Training?

So what is Cardio?

A cardiovascular exercise program consists of training practices that involve the intense use of the body muscles in activities that also have an impact on the heart and the lungs.

These activities stimulate both the respiratory and the cardiovascular system, contributing to the increase of the health condition at the level of the internal organs.

What is the value of Cardio Training?

The main benefit of a cardiovascular exercise comes from the possibility to lose fat at an accelerated rate, plus, if you suffer from Hypertension you’ll enjoy benefits from cardio programs even more.

It has been seen that the impact of a cardiovascular exercise on the system also involves the reduction in blood pressure too, hence there will be a lower risk of heart attack or failure.

Cardio training has to be performed carefully though because training too hard, too soon, can cause a higher risk of system failure. You need to be careful of the risk of ‘overdoing it’ when the enthusiasm kicks in at the start of a new program, as this can create a far worse situation than the benefit gained.

An important thing to remember is that the cardio exercise will help you to lose weight by burning up more energy than normal via the very act of the exercise.

Should you then start to miss a few sessions when you have reached your goal weight, you are already potentially heading back towards where you started.

What is the value of Weight (Resistance) Training?

With weight training you have generate the capacity to increase your overall muscle mass. By having a greater muscle mass (I don’t mean big and bulky, just having a better ratio between the amount of muscle and the amount of fat on your body) you now have a greater amount of energy burning body mass.

A young woman using resistance training

This means that you can back off slowly into a maintenance style of training, instead of constantly slugging it out on the cardio training equipment trying to keep up with what you are eating. Resistance training and building muscle actually helps in long term weight reduction.

For more detailed information on resistance training, see here.

Remember too, good food is always key to getting and maintaining a strong and healthy body

Choosing whether to do cardio or weight training will depend on your goals. It is important to choose the right one if you want to lose weight consistently over time. Whilst cardio will definitely help with weight loss, the weight training will help with long term weight reduction.

This post was written in conjuction with Greg B, a personal trainer practising out of northern NSW. It is one of an irregular series of articles from guest writers who have something that they wish to get off their chest.

If you have an issue or opinion that you want to air in these pages please do get in touch.