Once upon a time, fitness was paramount to our survival. Hard physical labour was part of every-day life. These days our lives are very different, with the conveniences of motor vehicles, machinery and technology. Where previous generations might have been out ploughing a field, these days many of us spend our working life sitting in front of desk and computer.
And whilst modern day conveniences have certainly improved our lives and lifestyles, it has also brought about added complications and a lot of additional stress on both our minds and bodies. So a wide variety of fitness activities have become important as a way of unwinding and ensuring our physical and mental wellbeing.
Technology is also assisting us achieve our fitness goals. ‘Fitbits’ and other such devices track our movements, and live-streaming can help bring fitness classes to just about anyone with an internet connection – very handy if getting to a gym or studio is difficult or near impossible. And fitness or exercise ‘aids’ are becoming increasingly ‘high tech’.
But whether you choose the latest and greatest in fitness trends, or if you prefer tried and tested ancient techniques, there is bound to be something that will suit you.
There are many different forms of exercise and fitness training. Below are a few popular choices, but is by no means an extensive list.
Yoga is an ancient Indian form of exercise, using a series of calm, controlled movements and poses (aka Asanas). It is designed to re-focus and calm the mind, whilst enhancing flexibility, muscle tone, coordination and strength.
It is a perfect way to unwind, slow down and de-stress after a hectic day of work.
Whilst there are many forms of Pilates, the two main forms include Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates. Mat Pilates purely uses a Yoga mat, where you are coached through a series of stretches and exercises, with an instructor. Reformer Pilates on the other hand, includes the use of a specially designed table with a sliding carriage, springs, ropes and pullies to provide greater resistance and more targeted strength training.
Barre has become increasingly popular in recent years, with a variety of methods and styles available, depending on the venue and instructor you choose. It basically uses a Ballet Barre, with a series of Ballet inspired exercises to achieve flexibility, strength and cardio fitness. Some styles are quite traditional and closely inspired by the exercises used by Ballerina’s, whilst others have been further developed to create a more upbeat and high energy cardio and strength workout.
Both ancient Chinese forms of gentle exercise and breathing, Tai Chi and Quigong do have a few differences. Qigong means ‘Energy Work’, and whilst Tai Chi also works with energy, Qigong tends to be somewhat more focussed and more varied to target different areas and ‘energy flows’.
Tai Chi works on a more general level with smooth, flowing movements. Both methods are great for people with limited mobility, and perfect for older people looking for a gentle way of improving or maintaining their flexibility and strength.
Personal Training has become very popular, particularly for those of us who prefer one on one instruction and guidance. Personal training sessions are individually tailored to your needs, and can include a variety of exercises and techniques, both within the gym environment and outside, to achieve greater strength and fitness, with weight loss and muscle toning often the desired outcome.
Weight training is all about strength and muscle tone! Using different holds and techniques, and incremental weights, allows you to slowly build up your physical strength and tone up specific muscles. It can be used alone, or for best effect, it can work alongside other forms of fitness including cardio based exercises.
Toning tables use specially designed tables designed to assist in strengthening and toning your muscles and body. Shapemaster is an example of a toning table. With the ability to target particular areas, it also helps to reduce the impact on your ankles, hips and knees.
How you decide to exercise often comes down to personal tastes and preferences, and your individual needs. Whether you require a gentler approach, or if you are seeking something a bit more high energy, there are certainly endless options when it comes to achieving your physical goals.
If you are unsure about which form of exercise to choose, it can help to talk to a range of different trainers and instructors to get a feel for what might suit you. Many gyms, studios and fitness centres also offer free trial sessions which will allow you to give different activities a go before committing longer term.
Don't forget! When learning new techniques, it is always best to seek professional and expert guidance. BookWell allows you to access the best fitness activities and venues, in your area, so take a look at our fitness centres to find your path to fitness and wellbeing.