14 of your most-asked fitness questions, answered
It's time to cure your curiosity on all things fitness. Vitality’s Head of Physical Activity, Jonny Kibble, answers your most-asked questions
Kickstarting any fitness routine at any time tends to begin with a raft of questions.
Whether it be the type of training, eating the right foods before and after a workout or to how to stay motivated.
In this article, Jonny Kibble, Vitality’s resident fitness expert, answers your most burning fitness questions that will hopefully inspire your new fitness journey.
How many times a week should I exercise?
How long is a piece of string? This really depends on your preference. Ask yourself, how many days can you, and would like to, realistically and sustainably exercise?
Bear in mind other lifestyle factors – like spending time with family and friends or when you’re at work.
Doing it this way means you’ll be able to maintain your exercise routine for the long-term and you’ll see real results.
How long do I need to work out for?
Your current fitness levels, the type of training and the intensity all play a part in how long to exercise for. In general, the more intense the session, the shorter it can be.
The NHS recommends 30-minutes of moderate physical activity five times a week to stay healthy.
So, when structuring your activities try to keep this in mind.
If you only have 30 minutes, fitting in a quick HIIT workout or going for a run is a great way to make the most out of the time you have.Or break it down into 10-minute chunks.
There's no reason to view ‘workouts’ as hour-long sessions, it could be adding a 15-minute intense walk into your day.
How do I warm-up and cool-down when I exercise?
The goal here is to slowly warm up the body to mobilise the muscle groups and joints you’ll be using during your workout.
This can be done through some light movement, such as walking, skipping or a gentle jog.
The key is to keep things moving and your heart rate up, so your body is feeling prepped to workout.
For the cool down, you want to look to slow down your heart rate by completing slower cardio movement and static stretches that work on the muscle groups you’ve used during your session.
These could be hamstring stretches, chest stretches against a wall and kneeling lunges to target hip flexors.
What time of day should I exercise?
Whenever works best for you. The time of day you feel most energised.
Some evidence suggests that training late afternoon (between 4 and 6pm) can provide the best outcome due to fluctuations in hormones and temperature throughout the day.
But early risers might prefer to get in their exercises done first thing in the morning, while the night owls among us find it easier in the evening.
Experiment with different timings, you may find different times work better depending on what time of year it is too.
As a Vitality member, you could get up to 50% off a membership at Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Centres, selected Virgin Active gyms or PureGym when you take out a qualifying health insurance and life insurance plan.
And, between 1st September and 30th September 2023, you can kickstart your gym membership with no joining fee. Find more details by logging into Member Zone.
How do I stay motivated?
Making your exercise routine manageable for your given level is crucial, otherwise there will be more push back mentally when it comes to getting moving.
Mentally you’ll find it easier to tackle a 10-minute walk around the block rather than a marathon.
Pick something you can manage moving forwards.
Asking yourself why you want to exercise is something we don’t often do but is an effective way to maintain motivation long term.
Whether it be wanting to feel more confident in their body or be fit and healthy enough to play with their kids for longer.
Can fitness be a hobby?
You can make your exercise fun and ‘hobby like’ by choosing methods that combine fitness with social interaction
For example, joining a cycling or running club, or a football or netball team is a great way to get involved and have some fun, rather than something you ‘have to do’ to maintain good health.
What to eat before and after a workout?
Firstly, make sure that you ate your last large meal 2-3 hours before your workout. Otherwise, you can feel uncomfortable whilst training
Consuming some simple carbohydrates about an hour prior to working out is a great habit to get into – think fresh or dried fruit, some granola, or a cereal bar. This will provide you with some readily available energy during your session.
Post workout, you need to re-build and refuel. Slower releasing carbohydrates to replenish any lost muscle glycogen – or glucose – along with protein helps kickstart the muscle rebuilding process
Foods such as brown pasta, brown rice and potatoes for your carbohydrates, and meats such as fish or chicken and beans, and pulses for your protein.
At Vitality, we’re all about encouraging our members to make small positive lifestyle choices that can make a big impact to their lives.
Vitality members can get up to 25% cashback on Waitrose & Partners Good Health food when you get active. If you have a second qualifying health insurance or life insurance plan, you could get up to 40% cashback. A monthly spend cap applies. Excludes beverages.
Why is fitness important and necessary?
Our lives nowadays are largely sedentary due to how we work. Our bodies are designed to move and be used, this keeps them working well for longer
Exercise can increase our quality of life now, but also in the future, by extending our health span (how long we remain healthy and independent as we age), as well as our life span (how long we ultimately live).
How does fitness affect mental health?
Exercise and fitness can help to boost and improve your mental wellbeing.
For example, exercise has now been proven to be 1.5 times more effective than Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at reducing mild to moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Exercise (as long as it’s not done in excess) can also positively impact hormones, which in turn can improve our mood and mental health.
The production of endorphins post exercise can improve our mood and hormones. such as adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones), can essentially be ‘burnt off’ with exercise, therefore reducing physical stress.
If you are a Vitality member with a qualifying health insurance and life insurance plan you could get 12 months membership to mindfulness app Headspace on us, as well as access to eight online or face-to-face Talking Therapies sessions per plan year with our health insurance.
Where/who do I go to for advice?
Depending what sort of advice you’re after and what facilities you have access to, there are many different options. For any general strength/form/fitness advice a gym instructor or personal trainer from your local gym can help.
If you’re a little more experienced, then there’s plenty of other virtual options out there too. Apps like Peloton, Garmin and FIIT are great ways to improve your cycling, running and general fitness.
Are fitness trackers worth it and what should I buy?
Fitness trackers can help when it comes to improving your health and fitness.
Whether you’re looking to track your step count, or something more specific, they’re a great way to keep you accountable, track progress, and provide some quantitative data around your health and fitness.
Which one should you buy? The key is to decide on what you’re looking to track, what’s important for you, and your budget, that should then help you choose a device that works best for your needs.
Should I approach my fitness sessions with a plan?
You’ll most likely get the best results if your workouts are planned. Planning enables you to schedule in rest days to allow time for recovery and help to keep you accountable in general.
You’ll also be able to track your progress week on week.
At points in our fitness journeys, not having a plan and just going with the flow can have benefits too.
This means you don’t have to stress too much about how you’re performing and just treat training as a time to enjoy yourself and clear your head without worrying about performance.
What type of training increases muscle mass?
Resistance training is likely the best training modality to increase muscle mass.
Completing some form of resistance training 2-3 times a week is a great place to start if you’re new to this type of training.
As a beginner sticking to compound movements – squats, deadlifts, rows and presses – as they target multiple muscle groups.
Be sure to stick to correct form and be sure to gradually increase the weight or difficulty of an exercise variation you choose over time to build muscle.
What do I do to help muscle soreness?
Unfortunately, we all get sore from time to time and this is natural. This is usually due to what we call a novel stimulus, which is training in a way or doing something you don’t usually do.
To help combat muscle soreness there are a few things you can do:
- Foam rolling
- Ice baths
- And general movement straight after a session.
Generally, you’ll find that you’re the sorest 24-48 hours after your workout, especially after long periods of sitting still. It’s important at this point to then focus on adequate protein intake, rest, and sleep.
These are the elements that will help to rebuild those torn muscle fibres from exercise.
As a Vitality member, you could get discounts on a range of fitness trackers. Available with qualifying health insurance and life insurance plans.
Once you’ve chosen your device, you can link it to your Vitality account through the app and start earning active points today.
And, did you know that your phone is already tracking your steps. You’re already doing the hard work, so why not get rewarded for it. Take 2 minutes to connect your phone today and start earning rewards.
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