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From the Jubilee to the Olympics

Tags: Exercise , Fitness


What a year 2012 was! Despite the weather, we had plenty of reasons to celebrate and an attic-full of positive memories to carry us through the dark winter evenings. Alongside our annual sporting and cultural activities – the London Marathon, The Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon, the Champions League and the Tour of Britain cycle race − 2012 brought some extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime events.

The year’s star attractions began in June, with the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In England and Scotland we threw more than 9,500 street parties for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and around 14.7 million people watched the Jubilee concert on TV, just one element of an extraordinary weekend.

Then came the Olympics, running from the opening ceremony in July to the final day of the Paralympics on 9 September. These spectacles were a reminder of how good we are at major public displays and, even through TV and radio, they passed on an irrepressible urge to join in, celebrate and shout the athletes on. For many of us, as we leapt from our chairs in excitement, it may have been an unusual amount of activity.

Exercising is not something most of us shine at (despite the example of our medal winners). The exercise recommendations for adults are 30 minutes a day, five times a week, but only 40 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women currently meet these targets.

But perhaps 2012 may give us the impetus we need to change. As Dr Jeff Breckon, chartered sport and exercise psychologist at Sheffield Hallam University, explains: “If you’re watching something that gets you excited, it can act as a boost to motivation.”

There are good reasons to pick up on that motivation and run with it. “Being active is the most important thing people can do for their health,” says Dr Andrew Murray, the Scottish Government’s Physical Activity Champion. “We know that nine per cent of deaths worldwide are caused by lack of physical activity.”

If you do 30 minutes of walking, five times a week, it reduces your risk of dying early by about 30 per cent. And it can help prevent and treat about 20 chronic diseases. It really is an amazing treatment and preventative.”

But the benefits don’t end there. They carry on bringing that feel-good factor that so many of us felt from this year’s major events. “The thing I like best about exercise is that it increases your quality of life, so it prolongs health and happiness. Find something that you can build into your life, get active and stay active,” says Dr Murray.

Cycling is a good example. The sport has seen a boost this year, thanks to the Olympic Games, and Bradley Wiggins’ win in the Tour de France – following his victory more than 11,000 new members signed up with British Cycling. One reason why this particular sport has benefited is because it’s easy to do. “Cycling is especially easy to build into your life as part of your daily commute,” explains Dr Jeff Breckon.

So finding something that you enjoy doing, and can do easily, is the key to regular activity and all the benefits it brings. If you’ve already found the activity that suits you, and delivers health benefits, don’t give it up. But if you’re still looking, or fancy trying something new, it’s worth looking at the sporting trends for this year and next.

“There’s been a rise in women’s football,” says personal trainer and running coach Fiona Bugler. “At the Olympics it was approached professionally, and was well-played and skilful. Working out at the gym is now much more tailored, in the same way that training for a sport is tailored.”

Apps for fitness and exercise

There are loads of exercise and fitness apps to choose from – here are just a few examples.

Runkeeper – works on iPhones and Android phones, is suitable for running, cycling and other sports, and lets you track your workout performance. Free 

Myfitnesspal – works on iPhones and Android phones, and allows you to log your food intake, check the nutritional information on what you’ve had to eat and drink, record your exercise data and more.

FreeSports Tracker – works on iPhones and Android phones, and lets you track and analyse your workouts. Free

Why not read some of our other related articles - getting outside and finding the right sport for you.

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