With Christmas approaching and the dreaded January ‘diet’ I’m continuing on my mission to support people to think about managing their weight differently. One of my Christmas wishes is that no one embarks on a fad diet come Jan 1st. Full of fake promises and bad science they are truly a really depressing way to start the year. And I think the same should go for exercise – too many people link it directly to losing weight through burning calories – not only is this misleading but we’re also missing the bigger picture!

I’ve previously discussed the benefits of viewing habits separately in eating and training terms rather than diet and exercise. This month I’m continuing my quest for sound fitness information with some insights from personal trainer and owner of  Fit Shack Jacqui Sechiari. Jacqui is passionate about keeping the body moving for optimal strength, flexibility and health.

Jacqui, it’s great to hear someone so enthusiastic about the body and how it is designed to move. Why is it so important to move away from using exercise as a way to lose weight? 

In my opinion, the two things should be kept separate if you want to be “healthy” (I don’t really use the term lose weight). We should exercise because of the beneficial effects that is has on the body, primarily the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. In laymans terms this means a healthy heart, blood vessels (affecting blood pressure), increased lung capacity, stronger muscles and bones, increased flexibility and mobility, not to mention the psychological factors. This is about MOVEMENT! However, we also have to be mindful of what we put into our bodies – you cannot out train an unhealthy diet! Unfortunately, many clients only exercise so that they can go home and not feel guilty about eating a Mars bar, hence the perceived relationship between the two things.

What would you say to someone who has never embarked on strength training before?

I would say start slowly with bodyweight training, preferably with a Personal Trainer for at least the first 3 months. You need to make sure that you have the correct form before you start loading with weights or you are likely to get an injury. Women need to be educated about the benefits of strength training, especially as they get older. One of the main benefits is that bigger muscles increase your metabolism and help to burn fat. As women get older, strength training can help to prevent osteoporosis, which will be of concern as we move into our older years.  I have written an article on 10 reasons why women should strength train for more info.

And it’s NEVER too late to start.

Thanks Jacqui, I’m really interested in the behavioural science research that looks into how we form habits. It takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to become the norm. When it comes to training and eating we are far more likely to succeed if we design our lives to make these good habits easier to follow.

Interestingly, it is the thinking of the habit that takes the work, once the actually habit is underway we are likely to see it through (for example we won’t walk out of an exercise class once it’s started!)

So this brings us to the thoughts in our head. Jacqui you always seem to be in the right mind set – how do you ‘do’ that?!

It’s about having a goal, visualise yourself getting to that end point, then go for it. As the saying goes, ‘we are what we eat’ I also believe that ‘we become what we think’. Have positive thoughts, these will turn into positive attitudes and behaviours which will naturally draw you towards healthy habits. Spend time with positive people who bring out the best in you and will spur you on. Keep pressing on towards that goal, and make sure you are checking your progress!

Excellent advice and I agree. I’m off to find my tribe (with my trainers on)!