As the days get longer, people will soon be pressing the button on their “2021-let’s -get-fitter” projects.  A more apt name might be ‘let’s-make-the-best-version-of-ourselves-because -oh-my-God-we-don’t-want-another-year-like-2020”, but that doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

Before we dig out the yoga mat and stuff our faces with kale, let’s look at a list of 10 common beliefs which may have become a little….erm…. worn round the edges.

“Carbs are bad” Carbohydrate, encompassing a wide range of food types, get bad press because we lump them all together. View with caution the cheap, sugary foods (our go-to giver of comfort and joy) – eat one and you want ten! The good stuff (oats, whole grains, potatoes, rice, pasta, sweet potatoes, bread, beans, lentils, fruit, vegetables) feed our brain and muscles and must not be overlooked.

“I have a boring diet but I take a multivitamin each day, so that’s ok, right?” Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients which perform 100’s of repairing and preventative roles.  Joy Skipper (the nutritionist who wrote the recipes for my book) advocates plenty of variety and she’s right. You’ll never make up with a pill what a wide range of food can give you.  One exception is vitamin D, definitely take as a supplement daily.

“I want to lose fat – that means more cardio?” Oh, how easy it would be if those chocolate hob-nobs could be obliterated with a 20 minute jog. THE most important bit about losing fat is making adjustments to your food.  Then start an exercise programme which is suitable for your level.  The food bit is vital.  So is motivation.  Both of those count more than cardio.

“My friend told me that lifting heavy weights make women bulk up”.  I’m rolling my eyes.  Incorporating weights into your workouts will promote strength.  Being strong doesn’t mean big muscles.  It means being strong and (with a few changes to your diet) being leaner too.  We don’t have the testosterone, like men, for bulky biceps, so no, you won’t bulk up.

“My metabolism is too slow so I can never lose weight” Aside from hypothyroidism which requires professional support and medication, this is a common excuse.  Start with resistance work, eat more protein, veg and good carbs but less sugar, alcohol and caffeine.   Then tell me your metabolism is slow.

“I want to lose fat off my hips.  That means more squats”.   Only working the whole body with compound movements will shift fat.  So 250 crunches a day will get you good strong abs, but the fat will still be there.  Bit harshly put, but you’re getting my drift.

“My friend only does yoga. That’s not fitness is it?”  Fitness is a combination of strength, mobility, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance.  So she scores 3 out of 4.

“Exercise is only about physical wellness”. Wrong.  I think 2020 taught us that a daily dose of whatever level has a profound positive impact on depression, low mood, anxiety, ADHD, stress and sleep.

“My trousers are too tight but the scales say I haven’t put on weight”. Then you may have put on fat but lost muscle so the number stays the same.  Which means you’ve been eating more and exercising less, indicating perfectly that using the scales as the only measure of your body composition doesn’t work. Hide the scales, use the tape measure or better still those trousers from !998!

“I’ve never been fit.  I’m 62 so it’s not worth starting now, surely?” No-one’s asking you to train for an Olympic squad, but discovering exercise and improving fitness is one of life’s joys.  Gather some confidence, start slowly, stay consistent.  Speaking as a 61 year old, I’ve never felt so well in all my life.  Fuel your body well, move it in ways you enjoy and there are plenty more decades of joyous health to come.

(Originally written for Woman&Home magazine, April 2021).

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