Ryan Martin: The longest journey starts with a single step – ease yourself into fitness

How are you getting on with your New Year ­resolutions? According to a recent study, January is the most popular time of year for people to set themselves healthy challenges and 54 per cent of us believe we need to exercise more. However, 37 per cent of us struggle with motivation in ­January and it’s likely that we will have given up all together by the time February comes around.

Ryan Martin is Health Development Officer running Get Active Classes at Edinburgh Leisure

One of the biggest reasons for failing New Year resolutions is that we set unrealistic goals that can’t be maintained longer than a few weeks.

So, rip up those resolutions and don’t try to do everything at once, especially if you are new to ­exercise or haven’t done much in a while. Focus on changing one thing, whether that’s walking more, getting out in the garden, starting a new exercise class or taking up a sport.

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At Edinburgh Leisure, it’s my job to help and support people to get active so they can lead more active healthy lifestyles and I’d like to share some ways you can make healthier changes that will last all year round.

Firstly, start small and then gradually build up your activity levels over a period of time. It could be as little as 10 minutes, building up to 30 ­minutes in one go.

Before you know it you’ll be ­meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your strength and fitness improves.

Indeed, you might even be shocked when your body craves being active and you start enjoying yourself.Most physical activity is accessible no matter what your age, stage or ­level. Ignore those feelings of self-doubt and remember nobody will be watching or judging you. Don’t compare your abilities to others – this journey is all about you. You’re not doing this to become an expert, you are doing it to feel better.

You don’t need any specialist equipment or have to join a gym to get active. You can exercise at home, get outdoors or find things in your local community.

In Edinburgh we’re fortunate to access amazing walks from our doorstep, whether that’s in the Pentlands, the local woods or along the canal. Make being active a social occasion and grab your friends or join group activities. Why not sign up to your local community Zumba class, sports group or club – it’s a great way to get to know more people in your community. It also means you won’t want to let others down and you’re more likely to keep going regularly.

Think about your lifestyle and where you can fit exercise in. Motivation will get you started, but it’s habit that keeps you going. You could set your alarm 30 minutes earlier or use your lunch hour to fit in a walk or run. Planning it into your day means you are more likely to do it. If you don’t enjoy slogging it out on a treadmill, then don’t force yourself to do that.

The best way to get and stay active is to find something you love doing. That way it will become part of your life and not something you resent doing. Don’t be afraid to try new activities or sports, you never know you might find that you love walking, dancing, tennis, running, golf, climbing – the list of possibilities is endless.

So, lace up your trainers or hiking boots and get out there – one small step at a time. If you’d like a helping hand to start your active journey to improve your health and lift your mood, then why not call 0131 458 2260 or email [email protected] to ask about our Get Active Classes, which are ideal for those new to activity or who haven’t been very active in a while.

You can try gentle exercise classes to music, low-level circuit training, seated yoga and active aqua. The classes are designed to be fun and you’ll be encouraged to work at your own pace. They focus on building and improving your strength, flexibility and stamina – leaving you feeling fitter and stronger. It’s also a great way to meet others in a similar position and an easy way to begin including regular physical activity in your life all year round.

So, don’t put it off any longer – get active, stay active and enjoy life.

Ryan Martin is health development officer running Get Active Classes at Edinburgh Leisure.