Published: 18 March. Written by: Laura Potter.
Around 70% of British employers are giving staff the option to work more flexibly as demand for a hybrid working systems increases. But that can throw our fitness habits into disarray. Here, Vitality explains how to maintain your motivation.
For many of us, the pandemic was a chance to get fit, among other things. Indeed, according to Sport England, during the first six weeks of lockdown in 2020 two-thirds of us said being active was important for our mental health. Meanwhile, research conducted in 2021 found that 52% of UK consumers did home workouts – 31.7% of whom hadn’t exercised regularly before.
And the impacts of this increased activity are evident. In fact, research conducted by Vitality, in partnership with RSA (the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), in 2020 had a 28% reduced risk of admission to hospital from Covid-19.
While everyone’s work pattern is different, and post-lockdown life has seen a more hybrid way of working for many, the reality is that many of us are still finding ourselves pushed for time as we resume a more ‘normal’ way of living.
So, how can we ensure that fitness (and its benefits) stays high up on our to-do lists? Here are four simple steps you can start taking today to help you get – and keep – moving.
1. Take small, actionable steps
If you are struggling to keep up your fitness habits, first recognise that this is normal. ‘Just as we had to adjust to WFH, we will also have to adjust to being back at work,’ explains Jonathan Kibble, Head of Exercise and Physical Activity at Vitality. Depending on where your workplace is, you may find that you’re spending more time commuting, and naturally have less time for activities.
While the time you’re able to dedicate to exercise may differ from your pre-pandemic output, it doesn’t mean what you’re doing is any less important or effective. ‘It’s all too easy to get stuck in an all-or-nothing mind frame, thinking: “This is what my exercise looked like when I was working from home and I can’t do that, so it’s not worth doing at all,”’ says Michelle Segar, a sustainable behaviour change scientist. Instead, Michelle recommends approaching what you are actually able to do with a more positive mindset; your routine may have changed, but it doesn’t make what you do any less valuable.
Try this: exercise snacking
If you can’t dedicate hours at a time to exercise, short, ‘snackable’ bursts of fitness – whether that’s a 15-minute HIIT workout in your lunch break or walking the stairs rather than taking the lift at the office – shouldn’t be sniffed at.
‘Do longer activities when you have the space, and when you don’t, enjoy ‘exercise snacking’. They’ll all contribute to your overall exercise total,’ explains Chris Shambrook, Sports Psychology Consultant at The Performance Room.
2. Find your ‘why’
It’s easy to think of exercise as something we have to squeeze into our already busy lives, and that if we don’t, we’ve failed. But it’s just as important to consider why you want to exercise, the benefits it can bring you, and any goals you’d like to achieve while doing so.
‘With more barriers to being active, it becomes important for people to stay focused on why they’re exercising and what they want to achieve from it,’ says Shambrook. ‘That’s a much more compassionate approach to making exercise part of your life, rather than thinking that you “should” be exercising.’
Try this: journaling
Before you embark on your next piece of exercise, whether that’s a run around the park or popping on some trainers rather than hopping in the car to run an errand, have a think about why you’re doing it – and how you’ll feel afterwards. Notice any thoughts and feelings that come up for you, and use them to help you set some personal fitness goals.
Writing in a journal can help you to consolidate your thoughts into actions. But be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself, or to set unrealistic targets. ‘Lots of us decide if we aren’t dripping in sweat, or haven’t dedicated a full hour, it doesn’t count,’ says Kibble. ‘Putting pressure on yourself to exercise usually comes from feeling you have to fit in hours of intense exercise each week, which is not the case.’
3. Build activity in
So you’ve set your exercise goals and you’re committed to embracing fitness when you can. But what if you’re still struggling to find the time to move your body, due to an impossibly hectic routine? It can feel as if, between an eight-hour shift and a never-ending to-do list, there’s barely time for a night out, let alone a whole fitness regime.
Try this: just move more
Shambrook recommends thinking about how to build less structured activity into your working week. Is there a part of your commute that could be more active, for example? Is there a section you could walk, cycle or jog, or could you get off the bus or train one stop before you need to?
Or are there points in your working day that you could squeeze a little bit more fitness into? If you’re working in an office, why not try using a standing desk, or ‘walk and talk’ when making a work call? You’ll be surprised at just how many opportunities to move your body you can find.
4. Try something new
By embracing a flexible schedule and flexible forms of fitness, you may even uncover a favourite new workout in the process. ‘If you’re finding you can’t get to your favourite classes, look for something different rather than stopping,’ advises Kibble. ‘Or, find a gym where certain classes are run several times a week at different times, making it more likely to match your schedule.’
When it comes to finding the right activity for you and your routine, Kibble’s advice is simple: do something you enjoy. ‘We often get trapped into thinking there’s a “best” type of exercise. We then get frustrated when we can’t fit that in, and don’t enjoy it or struggle with it. Fit in what you enjoy when you can, and move as much as you can each day,’ he says.
Try this: find a new fitness favourite
If you’d like to try your hand at something new, look no further than Vitality’s partners. From PureGym to Virgin Active, Peloton to Parkrun, you’re guaranteed to find something that suits you and your timetable. You may even start to love it, too.
Find out more about the next big fitness trends here.
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