Friday 27 July 2012 will see the start of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, one of the biggest sporting events to ever come to the UK. It will bring together thousands of athletes, at the peak of physical fitness, to compete in a range of events.
While the Games will create an exciting spectacle to watch, they can also serve as inspiration for those who are looking to take up a new sport, or just increase the amount exercise they get.
But while the hammer throw, synchronised swimming or the pole vault may prove a little ambitious for those just starting out and looking to get fit, there are many activities that you can fit around your everyday life to help you get in shape.
Where to start
A great place to start when looking to get fit is through walking, a simple activity which many of us do every day. It’s easy to forget that it is also an Olympic event! Guidelines suggest that 10,000 steps a day is the ideal amount and with the weather getting warmer, it is easier to fit walking into your daily routine. Parking the car a bit further away from your destination and going the rest of the way on foot, for example, or getting off the bus or train a stop early can all help.
One activity that many people begin is “get fit drive” which is jogging or running. And while you may not feel up to completing a marathon, there are easier ways to get started. The Couch to 5K programme, put together by the NHS, is designed to get people of any fitness level up to running five kilometres in nine weeks, through a series of podcasts which increase the activity week on week.
With an estimated 3.1 million people in the UK riding a bike each month, cycling is the third most popular recreational activity in the country. Its popularity is partly down to the fact that, with the right equipment, pretty much everyone can enjoy cycling. It also has the benefit of providing a form of transport that can be an alternative to driving or using buses or trains. If you feel inspired by watching the London 2012 athletes in the velodrome, riding at least 150 minutes a week is a great way to build up your cardiovascular fitness.
Be inspired to eat better
Beyond the hours and hours of training, Olympic athletes get to the top of their fields by carefully regulating their diet. And while you may not be going for gold at London 2012, watching what you eat can also help you improve your well being.
Getting your five a day of fruit and vegetables is a great place to start in eating more healthily. Remember that almost all fruit and vegetables count towards this target, even if they are frozen or tinned. Fruit juices also count towards this.
One of the best ways to make sure you are eating as healthily as possible is ensure your diet is balanced. Making sure you are eating foods from all the major groups, including fruit and vegetables, starchy foods such as rice and pasta and proteins such as fish and cheese, and fats and sugars. All of these groups balanced together will create the best possible diet.
If you feel inspired to get healthy while watching the London 2012 Games, remember that it is not as difficult as you may think. More information on getting involved can be found at the NHS Choice website at www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Olympics/Pages/Olympicshome.aspx