Maybe it’s the lighter mornings and longer evenings. Maybe it’s the feeling that a holiday is on the horizon but Summer is a time where more people get the itch to do something about their fitness.
With its sprawling green space and quick access to the hills, Cardiff has much to offer for those wanting to up their fitness.
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The State Of Health In Wales
It may seem obvious but it’s worth highlighting the benefits of why being fit is a valuable asset to your life. Before sharing the benefits here are some figures about Wales;
- Over 370,000 people have heart disease in Wales, with at least 80% having more than one condition (1).
- According to public health Wales there has been a 4% increase in levels of adult obesity between 2003-2015. Around 60% of adults in Wales are overweight and obese (2)
- More than 30% of Wales spend less than 30 minutes a week being active and NHS Wales spent £35 million in 2015 treating conditions related to physical inactivity. The overall cost to Wales relating to physical inactivity is estimated around £650 million a year (3).
The Benefits of Fitness
The benefits of getting fitter are vast. While many feel they should be fitter, it is not always the case that action follows intent.
Yet, the case for pursuing a fitter lifestyle is a no brainer:
- In a study of 1.2 million individuals, participants who exercised 3-5 times a week reported having on average 1.5 fewer bad days over the month compared to the non exercise group (4).
- In another study featuring inpatients in a psychiatric unit, over 63% felt happy or very happy instead of sad following a 60 minute exercise session (5).
- A meta-analysis (study of studies) found moderate exercise between 3-5 times a week lowers blood pressure by an average of 3.4/2.4 mmHg (6).
- A key factor in a path towards diabetes is your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Individuals with diabetes have insulin resistance as remarked in a recent article of mine. Studies have shown exercise improves sensitivity to insulin, with one even showing low level intensity (50% VO2 Max) exercise improved insulin sensitivity upon assessment the following day (7).
- In interviews with 1500 people over a 10 year period, researchers found those who had the highest level of physical exercise were twice as likely to avoid strokes, heart disease, cancer and diabetes & be in optimal physical & mental shape 10 years later (8).
As a personal trainer based in Cardiff I regularly find a big hindrance for people wanting to get fitter is knowing where to start. With all the information out there it is easy to get bogged down drowning in advice of what you should and shouldn’t do. It is best to take a step back and break it down.
What is ‘fitness’?
Whilst there have been many definitions of ‘fitness’, a suitable one for this article refers to fitness as a state for the purpose of (a) performing daily activities with vigor and (b) being able to perform capacities associated with low risk of premature diseases (9).
So, if you are physically inactive all day (a trait of those developing premature diseases) and are out of breath getting up the stairs (a daily activity), it would be apparent you have low levels of fitness.
How To Get Fit In Cardiff?
In order to get fit you have to establish a clear benchmark. It is no use relying on whether you feel fitter. Whilst it is certainly good you feel fitter and will improve mental & physical wellness in your overall life, having a clear benchmark will give you something to strive towards.
How To Set a Benchmark
You can set up an easy benchmark in one of 3 ways:
Number 1 – Improving Time
An improvement in time is a common marker of fitness. Entry into the military requires recruits to run a certain distance under a certain time as part of their fitness requirement tests and VO2 Max tests (scientific cardiovascular indicator of fitness) are time based.
In your quest for fitness, it simply requires you to do a particular physical activity, time how long it takes and then retest yourself a couple of months later having worked to improve your fitness.
In Cardiff, an easy option for this is the Cardiff Parkrun. Set on the Taff Trail, park run is a weekly 5km run with the same route. You are timed which enables you to track your progress.
Number 2 – Rep to Time (AMRAP)
AMRAP stands for As Many Reps As Possible. In this method you would perform a particular workout (say 5 squats, 10 kettlebell swings, 5 Burpees) within a specific time limit (say, 10 minutes). The idea is you would improve the amount of total reps you could perform as your fitness improves.
This method is popular within the Crossfit movement with their signature WODS named after girls. For example, “Cindy” is 20min AMRAP 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 Air squats.
The most important factor for you is choosing a workout that is challenging BUT manageable. If you do 10 minutes, you want to be able to do a workout you can carry out for the whole 10 minutes not be lying on the floor unable to move after 5.
The beauty of this is you can do it within your own home, or if you want to use the numerous sites in Cardiff, such as Bute Park, it is equally as useful there. Alternatively, I provide personal training where we can continually monitor your fitness progress in an organised way.
Number 3 – Perceived Rate of Exertion (RPE)
The perceived rate of exertion is a common tool used in fitness science because it is easy to understand. It is a scale that the practitioner (that would be you) uses to explain how strenuous they rate whatever exercise they are doing.
While this is not as objective as the other methods it is still a good way of noticing an improvement in fitness. It is best using the RPE within a fixed context, for example performing a 2000m row on the rowing machine. To use the RPE effectively you would perform the exercise like a 2000m row and note your RPE at various stages as well as immediately after (500m, 1500m & 2000m).
After a period of around 3 months, you would perform the exercise again noting the RPE at the same stage. If your fitness has improved you would note lower RPE at each stage.
Fitness Means Forming a Routine
In between the before and after benchmarks it is important you have a regular routine of exercise. Aim for at least 3 times a week, choosing something you enjoy doing. Fitness gets difficult if you are doing something you both dread and hate. The sweet spot is doing something you find challenging AND enjoyable.
Whatever you choose Cardiff has many options to satisfy your fitness needs and if you feel you need extra help I work with people like you on a daily basis to improve their fitness and health. Just fill out the form below to get more info on how to get a free session.
6 & 7 Nystoriak, M.A. and Bhatnagar, A., 2018. Cardiovascular effects and benefits of exercise. Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine, 5, p.135.
9 Pate, R.R., 1988. The evolving definition of physical fitness. Quest, 40(3), pp.174-179.