Fitness experts on how to get into regular exercise, as study finds it ‘significantly reduces insomnia risk’

Ever noticed you tend to sleep better when you’re more in the groove with your fitness regime?

A new long-term study published in the journal BMJ Open this week found that regularly exercising twice a week or more significantly cuts the risk of insomnia.

People who do regular exercise were 42% less likely to have difficulty falling asleep than those who were inactive, and 22% less likely to report symptoms of insomnia, according to the research.

Like the sound of improving your sleep by getting into regular exercise?

Everyone’s fitness journey is different – so there’s no one-size-all approach when it comes to exercise. But here are a few simple tips to help you get into a regular routine…

Set short-term goals

While long-term goals can provide a helpful sense of direction towards a healthier lifestyle, focussing on far-away outcomes may dampen motivation if they seem unreachable.

“Setting short-term goals can act as a stepping stone to help you reach your target,” suggests Olly Banks, personal trainer at Fitness First. “Whether it’s something simple like turning up to a set amount of workouts in a week, or just staying consistent with your nutrition, short-term goals help make positive steps towards the bigger picture.”

Set realistic targets

Martyn Oakey, head of fitness at Everlast Gyms, part of Sports Direct, emphasises the importance of setting attainable expectations.

“It’s great to be ambitious, and we all want to start as we mean to go on, but the worst thing you can do is set a goal that is too ambitious,” says Oakey.  “Set an attainable fitness goal, something that you can work towards that can keep you motivated.”

If goals don’t align with your lifestyle and what you enjoy, motivation can quickly fizzle. By being realistic from the beginning, you’re more likely to stay consistent with your efforts.

Work-out with a friend

Penny Weston, a fitness and wellness expert and director of Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat, says: “Keeping exercise fun and consistent is key: for many people, making it a part of your social life is the way to achieve this.

“Often, we are subconsciously looking for an excuse not to do a workout and will find plenty of other things to do instead, but if you know you’ve scheduled it with a friend, you are more likely to attend as you do not want to let them down.”

A bit of extra competition with a friend could “actually make you work a bit harder” too, Weston notes: “I know that if I run with a friend who can run further and faster than me, I will give it my all to make sure I keep up with them. The beauty of working out with someone is you are there to inspire and support each other.”

Gavin Cowper, fitness expert and owner of Exersci, adds: “Having a workout buddy also provides motivation, support and encouragement, making it easier to stay committed to your goals. Schedule regular workout sessions together, or join a fitness class or club to connect with like-minded individuals.”

Diversify your workout routine

To prevent boredom and hitting a plateau in your fitness journey, try mixing up your workouts with different cardio, strength training and flexibility routines, or explore new classes and bootcamps in your area.

Oakey adds: “There are hundreds of workout trends online that can transform your current workouts into something fresh and exciting.

“If you’re not entirely sure, consult with a personal trainer for advice on whether the trend will truly be beneficial, as well as tips on technique and incorporating this into your current workout routine in a way that avoids injury.”

Celebrate your successes

As our own toughest critics, we often berate ourselves for not meeting goals. Yet, slip-ups are inevitable sometimes. So remember – setbacks are normal and not the end of the world! Focus instead of what you are doing well.

Banks says: “If you set a short-term goal and stick to it, acknowledge and celebrate this, just as much as you would acknowledge when you’ve slipped up.

“We often forget we need to reward ourselves when we reach a goal, instead of just setting another one straight away and forgetting that success.”

You could even motivate yourself with some physical rewards. Oakey adds: “Whilst it’s not the solution for every workout-motivation-slump, it’s no secret that buying new sports gear can add a new layer of excitement for working out. So why not set a goal, and once completed, treat yourself to a new pair of running trainers or workout gear?”

Work-out at home

Finally, remember you don’t always need to get to the gym or a class for a solid workout. Experts say you can achieve excellent results at home using just your body weight – and this is a great option when life gets busy.

Weston says: “If you did want to make things a bit tougher, why not add some water bottles in to use as weights? You can also use towels as resistance bands, and chairs, as long as you have secured them properly, for exercises like tricep dips. Stairs are also great for running up (carefully!) and strengthening your calf muscles with toe lifts.”

:: If unsure, always consult a professional before starting a new fitness regime.

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