Comment: Variety in exercise can spice up your life

University of Edinburgh students take part in a rowing class. Picture: Greg Macvean
University of Edinburgh students take part in a rowing class. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THERE is a fitness class to suit everyone, says Ashliegh Murray

FOR many of us, the latest research highlighting the dangers of inactivity – maybe combined with overindulging during our summer holidays – will be the prompt to set goals that include a more active lifestyle.

We all know physical exercise is vital for our health and wellbeing, but finding the motivation to get started and stay active can be a challenge. That’s why finding activities you love, and making exercise a fresh, exciting prospect, is so important.

Our September offer – Edinburgh Leisure’s biggest promotion to date – is designed to give new and existing members the opportunity to try as many new activities as possible. With up to two months free for new members, and free upgrades or day passes for existing members, everyone will be invited to add a new element of fun to active living.

This is a great opportunity for people to try new gym workouts, swimming and water-based activities or any of our 700 fitness classes – whatever takes their fancy.

As well as keeping things interesting and motivating yourself, there are real physical benefits to an active lifestyle which is varied and fresh.

My colleague Michael McLaughlin, a gym instructor at Craiglockhart, said: “If you do the same exercise the whole time, your body gets used to it and reaches a plateau. We try to educate our customers in the importance of stimulating the body in different ways to avoid training plateaus and in turn, continually improving their fitness.

“New exercises will ‘shock’ the body, challenge different muscle groups and make you work hard again. This reaps real results and, just as importantly, the new challenge keeps things interesting.”

There are many people for whom being active at all is a novelty, and supporting them in achieving more is one of our not-for-profit organisation’s core aims.

Michael said: “We offer a welcome induction to new customers to help them feel relaxed. We’ll help create tailored programmes with realistic, achievable targets that work for their lifestyle. Then after a while we can start to mix things up – the great thing about being a new customer is there are so many things to try.”

For many, fitness classes are what makes working out fun and also presents plenty of opportunity to mix things up.

Adrenaline-pumping cardio classes, such as the popular Insanity, boost the heart rate, while strength and resistance classes such as Body Pump improve body definition and help you feel stronger everyday – like when carrying the shopping or lifting a baby.

Some people love working out in the water. There’s something calming about being in a pool, so classes such as Aqua Fit are perfect.

Dance-based classes have soared in popularity in recent years. Zumba and Sh’bam are such fun it’s impossible to get bored, and great to do with friends. As well as getting fit, you are improving co-ordination and motor skills.

Then there’s the mind and body classes such as yoga and pilates. Anyone who sits hunched over a desk all day is at risk of tightening muscles and aches and pains; these exercises are fantastic for improving posture and reducing stress.

I’d urge everyone to try a good few fitness classes this autumn – with great coaches and inspiring music you’ll feel more motivated and enjoy increased energy when the colder days set in.

For others, it’s all about getting in the water. If you haven’t had fun in the pool since primary school, maybe it’s time to rediscover the joy of swimming. Swimming is great cardiovascular exercise, it tones and strengthens and works all the muscles. It’s also relatively low impact and wonderfully relaxing – especially if you finish your session with a sauna or even our Turkish baths.

We’re urging the communities we serve to try something new to help you achieve a healthier, active life. If you haven’t been active for a long time and are not sure what you’ll like, have some fun trying the different options.

New activities and goals are exciting. That’s how we want our customers to feel about physical activity: exciting, fun and something you can’t wait to do. Living a more active life helps you feel more energised and optimistic. And when the nights are drawing in, going to that workout you love could be just the thing to cheer you up.

• Ashliegh Murray is a fitness class manager at Edinburgh Leisure. For details of Edinburgh Leisure’s services, facilities, funded community programmes and the September offer, visit

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