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How to exercise every single day

Words: Melanie Dimmit

Gemma Dawkins has something to tell us – and you might want to stand up for this. “We’re not designed to be stagnant and, since so many of us have to sit behind a desk for hours on end, some form of movement each day is vital to keep our bodies mobile, joints healthy, and brains happy,” says the Sydney-side Barre Body instructor – and she’s right, you know. Science has long dubbed exercise a natural antidepressant, cognitive function booster and reliever of the dreaded PMS and, as Gemma reveals, getting a daily dose of all this goodness needn’t require a huge adjustment to your life. “It’s not necessary – and in fact can do more harm than good – to slog it out with high intensity, gruelling workouts for hours a day,” she says. “Some days, the best form of exercise for you might be a walk outside, a low-impact barre class, or even just a 15-minute stretch session.” That doesn’t sound too hard now, does it? Here are Gemma’s golden rules to get moving every day.

LOVE YOUR WORKOUT

Notice how, no matter how busy you get, you will always find time for the things you truly love (Clueless on Netflix, anyone?) “You might not have time for a 10km run every day, and if you don’t enjoy it, then you definitely won’t have time!” says Gemma. “Find something you actually enjoy doing, and it suddenly becomes easier to prioritise it.” For the ludicrously busy among us, she recommends breaking up exercise into shorter blocks. “You might not have an hour to hit the gym, but you’ll probably find you have a few 10 minute windows in your day when you can do some simple bodyweight exercises that don’t require any equipment. It all adds up.”

EMBRACE INCIDENTAL EXERCISE

Here’s a fun fact: two minutes more of walking each day could reduce your risk of death by a third – according to an observational study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology – and, on a less morbid note, incidental exercise is a relatively easy way to keep moving. “Try simple swaps like taking the stairs instead of the escalator, walking to work instead of driving or taking public transport, or arranging an activity or walking brainstorm with a colleague instead of a lunch meeting,” says Gemma, who’s also found some incidental potential in our social calendar. “Instead of a weekend brunch with friends, hit the beach for a swim or try a new class together. Okay, then brunch.”

LEARN TO MULTITASK

Miranda Kerr slaps on a facemask before hitting her yoga mat, and Gemma has plenty of other suggestions for sneaking exercise into your daily doings. “Talking on the phone chews up lots of time, but our bodies are free. It feels a little silly at first, but try doing some barre exercises like leg raises, lunges and plies while talking,” she says, adding that desks, kitchen benches and chairs make a great makeshift barre. Travelling or on the go? Pack a skipping rope or resistant band. “A few rounds of skipping takes no time and gets your heart rate through the roof. A resistance band can be tied to a door handle or just looped around your legs to give you a huge range of creative exercises to try just about anywhere.”

EAT FOR ENERGY

Running on empty won’t get you far, so Gemma stresses that eating well is vital if you’re making exercise a daily thing. “This means making sure you’re eating enough, and that you have a good mix of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocado, eggs), protein, and fresh fruit and vegetables,” she says. “Cutting out whole food groups isn’t a great idea unless it’s under medical recommendation. I’m looking at you, carbs – delicious and important.” If you’re going to cut out anything, Gemma points to processed food. “Yep, even those ‘healthy’ protein bars – and try to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.”

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

“Our bodies are such incredibly complex, highly intelligent, intuitive instruments. When you truly take time to tune in, often your body knows what it needs.” Feeling heavy and lethargic? Don’t try and smash out a sprint, says Gemma. “Opt for something more nurturing like a Barre Yin class, and focus on the fact that you treated your body with respect.” Save that push for when you’re feeling anxious, highly-strung and scattered, and if you’re feeling exhausted, run-down or unwell, take a break. “Rest is as important as exercise,” says Gemma, promising that, with practice, daily exercise will feel about as natural (and necessary) as brushing your teeth. “You won’t have to stay motivated because you’ll crave the feeling of being healthy, fit and well.”