Dr Clare Bailey: The gym-free way to get fit

We all know about the importance of running, walking and keeping active. And many of us, including me, are pledging to do more of this. However, these are all forms of aerobic exercise designed to improve your heart and lungs. But what about resistance exercise, where the intention is to improve your strength? This is also important for your health and metabolism but much more neglected.

gym-free way to get fitYet we know that unless you do something about it, after the age of 30 you lose three to five per cent of your muscle mass every year. Having more muscle means you will look more toned, but it also means that you will burn more calories – and there is now evidence that it will also improve the quality of your sleep.

So how do you keep your muscles in good shape? Well, you can, of course, join a gym and do weight training, but I prefer something much simpler which I can do at home or in the park that uses my body weight.

I do a number of different resistance exercises, but the best two when it comes to helping build and preserve muscle are press-ups and squats. The first builds your upper body, while the second works the muscles in your bottom.

My husband Michael Mosley is a big fan of press-ups. He became particularly keen after reading some research that showed that men who can do 40 or more press-ups in one go had a 96 per cent lower risk of having heart problems over the following decade than those who could do ten or less. He rolls out of bed and does press-ups most mornings and the changes are impressive. The great thing about press-ups is that they work many different muscles. They tone your shoulders and triceps, as well as the core muscles around your middle. They also strengthen your chest muscles and help your pelvic floor.

I am not even close to doing 40 press-ups at a time but until recently I had never managed more than two. Having started doing them on my knees, I can now do 12-14 press-ups on my toes, in one go.

As for squats, they are not only fantastic for toning up your bottom, but they work almost every muscle in your lower body while strengthening hamstrings and abs.

Start slowly to make sure you’re doing them correctly and be cautious if you have problems with your knees. If you have arthritis, building up the muscles in your thighs will protect them in the future; however, if it hurts stop doing them.

For press-ups

Lie face down with the palms of your hands under your shoulders and the balls of your feet touching the ground. Keep your body straight. Lower your body until your elbows form a 90-degree angle and then push up. If this is too hard, do it with your knees on the ground.

For squats

Stand with your feet apart. Bend from the hips, keeping the weight in your heels. Make sure your back is straight. Keep bending until your legs are at a 90-degree angle – as though you’re preparing to sit in a chair. Breathe in and exhale as you squat. Then push up without bending your back. If you find squats difficult, start by leaning against a wall, as this can help reduce pressure on your knees.

Visit bit.ly/35H4uso for easy exercises to get started

Feeling sad? Try this bright idea

woman smiling
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I’ve written before about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which strikes people down at this time of year. SAD is also known as the winter blues and common symptoms include feeling sleepy, irritable, having a lingering low mood and craving carbs. SAD seems to be caused, at least in part, by not being exposed to enough sunlight at this time of year.

I’ve recently downloaded a free app called Lux Light Meter, which uses the camera on your phone to reveal just how gloomy life indoors really is. Light energy is measured in units called lux and I was surprised to discover that even when it is sunny outside, the light in our house rarely goes above 200 lux. Outdoors, on a bright day, it is more like 10,000 lux.

So if you want to perk yourself up, go for a walk in the bright, early morning light.