The sky

Another great way to increase fitness without forking out big bucks, is by using local stairs or hills.

“Nothing gets the heart rate up like a set of stairs or a good hill, ” Mr Perkins said. “All around Perth, you will find these types of challenges and you don’t need to look for something big, even repeated efforts up a smaller hill will do the trick.

He said it might be a good idea to check with a GP before doing any strenuous hill or stairs work.

“It would be worth discussing this approach with your doctor if you have had any issues with your heart or general health before taking on anything too intense, ” he said.

“But once you have the all clear, this is a great one to tackle.”

Get it right

Get the right repetitions, sets and weight to suit your needs. Take a look around your local gym and you will see people of all shapes, sizes and abilities lifting different weights with different repetitions. You can change the outcome of your workout, depending on the force you apply and the number of times you apply that force.

“You’ve got body builders working to shape their bodies into something from the men’s health magazine, ” Mr Perkins said.

“Then you’ve got weightlifters trying to lift as heavy as they can and then you have got people who are just trying to get fitter in general and tone up.

“If you’re just trying to tone up, then it is best to start with some basic endurance repetitions and light to medium weight — 12 to 15 reps and two to three sets is a good start.

“As you progress, you can get heavier and reduce your reps and add a few more sets and this will help you build a bit more strength and size.”

He said it could be tricky to work out what number of reps and sets worked best for the desired outcome.

“It is probably best to get in contact with your local personal trainer, who will have the skills to pick what works for you. If you don’t know a personal trainer and are looking for one, it is a good idea to ask friends for recommendations because that will help ensure you get someone who is good to work with.

“Another tip is that it is always good to start simple and use some opposite muscle groups in the same session, for example — biceps with triceps, chest with back, shoulders with lats, hamstrings with quads.”

Mix it up

Mr Perkin said there were so many crossfit groups around Perth now and these were popular for good reason. He said at crossfit, everyone worked at a different level, which meant it suited all abilities and fitness levels. “The basic principle is to get through your workout with a certain amount of reps doing whatever workout is decided on the day, ” he said.

“It offers a great variety of exercises and good motivation working with a group. You have to keep the technique correct and work hard and the results will come. And best of all, there are always competitions going on to keep the goal-setting up.”

Jump on it

You didn’t need to spend lots of money on elaborate training gear or personal trainers, Mr Perkin said.
Some of the most simple exercises delivered the biggest results.

“For a great efficient workout which will really make you sweat, try to keep your heart rate up using big muscle groups by doing activities like skipping and boxing, ” he said.

“This can be done on your own or if you get bored with that, think about starting a circuit with some friends and add in push-ups, step-ups or squats.

“You can work at each station for 60 seconds and keep swapping on the minute. Three cycles of this adds up to 12 minutes and you’ll be feeling like a rest. Take a short break and repeat if you can".

He said keeping the heart rate up was important because it kept the metabolism pumping which would, in turn, help burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. “I used to do this with some mates when my kids went to sleep and it makes for a great social catch-up in the front yard while doing a workout for 30 minutes.

Flex it

Being able to move and stretch freely leads to a more positive outlook on life in general as well as delivering a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of falls in the elderly.

According to Mr Perkin, not everyone is born with the same amount of flexibility.
“Natural flexibility is something that is mostly genetic so to some extent, we can blame our parents for being tight in certain areas, ” he said.

“But the good news is, that even if you can’t touch your toes now, everyone has the capacity to improve in this and other areas, but like anything, it requires some hard work.” He said it was a good idea to visit a physiotherapist to find out which areas were problematic and get a list of stretches to help tackle those problems.

“Another great idea is to try something more challenging and mentally stimulating such as yoga. With the variety of yoga classes that exist, there is something that suits everyone and believe it or not, stretching can be a good workout in itself. It may not burn as many calories as a run but you will feel the benefits with easy movement only after a few sessions and that has got to be worth doing.”

The facts

According to the Federal Health Department, some activity is better than none. In 2003, physical inactivity accounted for about 6.6 per cent of the disease burden in the Australian population.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says only one-third of children, and one in 10 young people undertake the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day and that 60 per cent of Australian adults did less than the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day.

Nearly 70 per cent of Australian adults (that is almost 12 million adults) are either sedentary or have low levels of physical activity.

The latest Australian Health Survey found :

  • Body mass index: The underweight/normal weight population were 1.4 times more likely to have done sufficient physical activity compared with the obese population.
  • Smoking status: Ex–smokers and people who never smoked were 1.2 times more likely to have done sufficient physical activity compared with current smokers.
  • Sedentary activity occupied an average 39 hours per week for adults, with close to 10 hours of this sitting at work. People employed in more sedentary occupations (such as clerical and administrative work) spent on average 22 hours a week sitting for work.

Watching TV was the most prevalent sedentary activity, at nearly 13 hours a week, peaking at more than 19 hours per week on average for people aged 75 and over. Using the computer or internet (for non-work purposes) peaked at almost nine hours per week for 18–24 year olds.

Your body is a weight — use it!

Along with high-intensity workouts, the other big exercise trend this year is using your own body weight to get fit.

“If you are stuck at home without much money to spend, you need to get inventive. The good news is you can always use your own body weight to get great results, ” Mr Perkin said.

“Squats, body bridges, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups and dips off a dining- room chair are just a few examples of what can be done. You can go online to find detailed information about how to do these exercises and inspiration for lots more that can be added to mix it up.

“Then, use these as a circuit — moving from a legs exercise to an upper-body exercise and then do the abdominals and then rotate again.

“You can set whatever time you have to spare and work through reps of 10 of each exercise and record how many you did in five, 10 or 15 minutes and then aim to beat it next time. That is a great way to maintain motivation and keep it interesting. And all you need to do this, is yourself.”

Ditch your trainers

Mr Perkin said there had been hype surrounding the benefits of barefoot running for some time.

“The bottom line is that it does work for some people, ” he said. Those who do benefit will notice stronger calf muscles, ” he said.

“Research tells us that running without shoes certainly makes you work your calves more but you do need to start things slowly.

“Barefoot is a nice one to do on the beach or at the oval and will certainly build your leg strength and improve your spring into summer.”

Keeping pace with exercise aids

Curtin University exercise expert Kevin Netto says gadgets such as heart- rate monitors can help people stay motivated about exercise. But understanding how to get the most of them can be tricky.

For heart rate monitors:
  • Ensure the strap with the sensor is in contact with the skin. Place it around the chest in line with the lower part of the sternum (breast bone).
  • Moisten the sensors that contact the skin.
  • Make sure the strap is snug. If it moves on the skin, a false reading will appear.
  • Increases in heart rate lag behind increases in exercise intensity. After intensity is lifted, it generally takes about 5-10 seconds for the heart to catch up. If you start from rest, it may take half a minute.
  • Work out your maximum heart rate (MHR). This is 220 minus your age (in years) or 207 minus (0.7 x age) if you are more active.
  • Use the MHR to plan your workout into zones — ie 55-65 per cent MHR for endurance work, 65-75 per cent for fitness building, 75-85+ per cent for interval and anaerobic work.
  • Use the memory function in the watch to keep a log of your workouts.

    When using a GPS, remember these points:
  • Keep the watch/monitor well charged. GPS is very battery intensive so if you exercise for long periods, the sensor may run out.
  • GPS needs a clear line of sight with satellites to work. Tall buildings can disrupt signals.
  • Use the pacing function. Train to a pace, such as running at 5 minutes/km pace.
  • If you don’t have the pace function, use the speed function to work this out. Running at 5 minutes/km equates to 12km/h.
  • Vary your workouts with speed play — ie run 10 minutes at 11km/h, then 5 minutes at 13km/h, followed by 2 minutes recovery at 10km/h and so on.
  • Program interval training into the GPS and train with a virtual coach or partner.
  • Download your workout to your computer so you have a training diary. One of the biggest predictors of injury is a sudden change in training intensity or volume.
  • Use the software to plan your training before your next big race or event.
  • Join an online community and upload your workouts.


© The West Australian

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