Why exercise is about so much more than looking good
-Jan 16, Jenny Paul, Fitness -
Exercise is about far more than looking good in a bikini, especially as it’s widely accepted for its ability to combat both stress – which is fingered as the factor lurking behind so many diseases – and depression as well as helping you stay healthy for longer.
Much has been made of Jennifer Lopez this week, who posted a video of her latest fashion collaboration with Italian stiletto king Guiseppe Zanotti on Instagram last week (below), which shows her posing in swimsuits and short sparkly dresses whilst wearing dazzling heels, and amassed a whopping 6000 plus comments on how great she looks at the age of 48.
The New York-born superstar has to workout hard and often as part of her job – for which she is paid millions of dollars each year – and the rest of us certainly don’t need to put that level of effort into working out, unless, of course, we want to.
But, regular exercise is about far more than looking good in a bikini, especially as it’s widely accepted for its ability to combat both stress – which is fingered as the factor lurking behind so many diseases – and depression (which is now being labelled ‘the silent killer’) as well as helping reduce the risks of contracting other life-threatening dangers such as heart disease.
Put simply, working out on a regular basis will help you live for longer, as well as giving you that all important regular dose of happiness endorphins.
Gunnar Peterson is the Los Angeles-based trainer that was responsible for Jennifer Lopez’s 50lb weight loss after she gave birth to twins Max and Emme back in 2008. He has a client list of celebrities including; Giselle, Kendall Jenner, Ciara and Matthew McConaughey, plus he has trained a host of professional athletes – most notably Olympians – over the past twenty-seven years.
We wondered what his tips are for the rest of us, who want to get back into fitness after a long, lazy festive season with little exercise, lots of desserts and lashings of wine. He says you can get in a really great workout in less than one hour and that in just forty minutes you can fit in a five minute warm up, thirty minutes of exercise, followed by a stretch and a cool down.
“People often say that they’re too busy to work out but everyone can find forty minutes a day to work on their fitness,” Gunnar insists. “Work out at home if you can’t make it to the gym. It’s absolutely possible.”
You can workout anywhere and that once you start not only will your fitness levels improve, your whole life will start to change for the better:
“Working out is as easy as getting off the sofa and deciding to do it,” he says. “There’s no special trick – just decide to do it and start. You’ll thank yourself for it as you start to feel better, it doesn’t take long to get your fitness levels improved and everyone likes to feel healthy. Once you start exercising regularly, that spreads over into every other area of your life. You’ll have more energy and boosted confidence levels from knowing that you set a goal and stuck to it. So you get better at making long-term and short-term plans.”
Improve your fitness with exercise – improve your entire life
If you can start to factor regular exercise into your week, soon you’ll feel healthier, happier, and less likely to reach for glycation causing sugary treats, which in turn will slow premature ageing:
“Once you’re in a routine of exercising, you’re likely to make better diet choices as you’ll want to continue looking after yourself,” the A-list trainer explains. “So you’ll opt for a healthy option for dinner that will nourish you instead of something that’s of little nutritional value. People start looking at their favourite sugary treats and fried take-away snacks differently. They think, ‘I just burned this many calories off in my workout – do I want to eat it in five minutes or shall I have something else that is good for me?’
“Feeling better mentally makes you look better because you’re happy and smiling, so it’s really about far more than forcing yourself into exercise. Don’t make it this big thing, just do it, make it fun and about looking after yourself and you’ll look forward to working out and it will become second nature to you. A lot of people get bad tempered if they stop exercising and that’s because it’s a great outlet for physical and mental energy.
“If you have had a bad day, going off and doing some exercise will make it all seem better whereas having a double cheeseburger and a bar of chocolate will make you feel even worse. Plus, you sleep better too if you’ve exercised.”
Gunnar points out that there’s a whole host of other options for exercising – you can even work out in the office, or at home, if you want: “You can go for a brisk walk, which will clear your thoughts and is better than doing absolutely nothing. Take a route that goes up stairs, or up hills as well as flat and downhill and you’ll get your heart-rate up.
“Most people live near a park and that’s an excellent option for working out. You’re in the fresh air and you can take a skipping rope with you and jump rope while you are there.
“Even a few minutes of that gets your heart rate up and you start sweating – which is great. A lot of celebrities take a skipping rope with them when they travel and skip in their hotel rooms – five minutes of that is better than nothing at all.
“If you can’t afford equipment, you can make your own weights by filling up two one litre bottles with water and doing arm curls – using the bottles like dumbbells. You can do side lunges, squats, push ups, planks. You can use the park benches to do bench dips (which you can also do off the edge of a bed or a sofa), and if you listen to your favourite music while you’re doing it you’ll really enjoy yourself.
“Just going for a bike ride is an excellent form of cardio – you don’t have to go for miles, start with short, manageable ones and you can gradually make them longer as your fitness levels quickly build and your muscles adapt and grow stronger.
“Another exercise which most people tend to enjoy is going for a swim: it’s relaxing, fun, clears your head and if you do some fast laps and a few slower ones you’ll be working out without even knowing it.
“Exercise is often better if you find a friend to do it with you as you spur each other on and motivate and encourage each other.”
Throw away your bathroom scales for good!
Gunnar has one final tip for measuring results – don’t be a slave to the weighing scales – in fact, better yet, throw them away!
He explains: “If you get on the scale and it hasn’t moved you’re going to feel demotivated. Weight goes up and down for a lot of reasons. You can be carrying water weight or it could be a hormonal fluctuation and a lot of scales aren’t accurate anyway. If you really want to know how you’re doing, take a picture in front of a mirror at the exact same time once a week or once every few weeks. It has to be the same lighting and angle each time and has to be the same time of day always, as our bodies change after meals. That way you can see changes for yourself and be motivated to continue.”
Eat like an A-lister
As for diet, Gunnar isn’t a fan of refined sugar or white flour and recommends consuming fruits and vegetables instead, saying that the slow-burning carbs in vegetables are better than heavy, white flour – which makes people feel sleepy. He also advises to get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water, as well as eating the recommended amount of calories per day instead of doing starvation diets – which are all essential to give you the energy you need to feel great every day.
When we think of the hours we have spent recently watching back to back episodes of The Crown on TV, we decided that perhaps finding forty minutes several times a week to lengthen our lives would be absolutely possible.
Looking for something new to try? how about infrared yoga barre? or perhaps you fancy trying the A-list workout your body will love? And don’t forget that HIIT is the best type of exercise you can do if you want to turn back time (or at least slow premature ageing).