Keeping Fit With Your Own Schedule
Getting in shape is never an easy task and definitely requires a certain amount of effort in order to attain significant results. Fitness goes beyond physical vanity as it can possibly be an avenue for one to destress and also potentially lead one into a life of healthy living.
Having a regular exercise regime, regardless of age, is beneficial because it helps to offset the negative effects of the modern sedentary lifestyle (ie, at home and in the workplace). The term “sedentary” originates from the latin word “sedēre” and is defined by the person’s posture (eg, sitting or reclining) and the low energy expenditure.1 See Jaclyn Chow, Too Much Sitting, Too Little Exercise, Tan Tock Seng Hospital <https://www.ttsh.com.sg/healtharticles/too-much-sitting-too-little-exercise/> (last accessed 11 July 2018). Negative effects of bad posture would commonly include muscle stiffness, pain in the neck and lower back etc. A survey by Singapore Heart Foundation in 2010 showed that only “19% of adults aged 18 to 69 years exercise regularly and more than half of Singapore resident do not exercise during their leisure time”.2Ibid. Current statistics shown by HealthHub reveal that currently 41% of Singapore’s workforce spends at least eight hours a day seated and 39% do not meet the prevailing physical activity guideline.3 See “Current Situation” in Step Up for Better Health, HealthHub <https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/62/step-up-for-better-health> (last accessed 11 July 2018). The sedentary behaviour and lack of physical activity increases the risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.4 See “Health Risks” in Step Up for Better Health by HealthHub.
Today, there are so many exercise regimes that you may choose to suit your preference and schedule. Personally, I prefer an exercise regime that focuses on strengthening the core and toning up the major muscle groups. Why specifically strengthening and toning up?
Strengthening the Core
Core strength exercises are important because it helps to stabilise and strengthen the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to be able to work in harmony. These are underlying muscles which are useful but yet commonly overlooked. The core muscles are not just valued for sports. It is beneficial to have a strong core as it can increase endurance, improve your posture and prevent everyday injuries (eg, trying to break a fall when slipping).
Toning Up the Muscles
Research has shown there is a direct correlation between the increase of lean mass and the energy expenditure (ie, the rate at which the body burns up calories).5 See Robert Wolfe, The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006) at p 477. By having more lean muscles, it would in turn accelerate the metabolic rate and maintains the calorie-burning process even though you may be sitting down on your office chair.6 See Juliette Steen, Do You Need To Eat More To Build Muscle?, Huffington Post Australia (1 August 2017) <https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/30/do-you-need-to-eat-more-to-build-muscle_a_23057004/> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
Recently I was invited by Pilates Core & Beyond for a trial Pilates Group Reformer class.7 See About Pilates Core & Beyond <http://www.pilatescorebeyond.com.sg/about/> (last accessed 11 July 2018). The workout requires the use of an equipment called the Reformer – a platform which is able to glide forward and backward on a bed of rollers whilst using the tension from springs to increase the intensity of the workout. The Reformer may seem intimidating for a first-timer but it is definitely worth a try. Other than my two main goals of strengthening and toning, it is a healthy and low impact exercise regime that can also enhance your flexibility, coordination, balance and muscular endurance.
Conveniently located at Somerset, the studio is clean, spacious, fully equipped and has segregated workout areas where you could opt between group classes or a private session with the instructor. I attended the group class (of five participants) led by certified Pilates instructor, Mr Wesley Eugene Paul. Group classes are kept small so that the instructor would be able to provide dedicated attention to each student. The guidance of a certified instructor is important because the form and posture of the exercises are crucial in maximising the effectiveness of the workout. During the class, he was patient, gave clear instructions on the movements and helped me to correct my posture to ensure that I do not hurt myself during the workout. The resistance of the Reformer is adjustable to cater for various difficulty levels of workouts. The instructor would be able to modify the exercise to accommodate each individual’s ability.
With consistent work on the Reformer, you would start to improve your foundation and notice greater definition in your arms, legs and abs. I had the opportunity after my Reformer class to have a quick chat with the founder of Pilates Core & Beyond, Ms Geraldine Vander Straten, for her expert view on Reformer Pilates:8 See Geraldine Vander Straten’s profile <http://www.pilatescorebeyond.com.sg/profile/geraldine/> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
What’s the difference between the conventional mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates?
The main difference would be the use of the Reformer machine. It can provide balance to assist in some exercises, and resistance in other exercises.
How does Pilates work on a Reformer?
Research backs Joseph Pilates up in his assumption that moving with an external load such as provided by the Reformer, can make a movement practice more efficient. New movement patterns become habitual faster when performed under load, because resistance encourages a quicker adaptation in the neuromuscular system.
Any advice for a first-timer when doing Reformer Pilates?
Take every movement and routine slowly to understand the biomechanics of that particular exercise. The number of repetitions of the exercise is low but maintaining form is the ultimate goal.
Can anyone take up Reformer Pilates?
Yes! Almost anyone can do Reformer Pilates with proper guidance and instruction. At Pilates Core & Beyond, we encourage new clients to take at least three private sessions before embarking on group Reformer classes.
How often should one attend the class to “see” results?
Results come with consistency. For those new to Pilates, I would recommend two to three times a week for the first couple of months. There is bound to be a difference in the way you feel and the way you look. Longer, leaner and more toned!
Desk Exercises for the Tight Schedule
Do not worry if you are “chained” to your desk, I have not forgotten about you. If you cannot get to the exercise, let me “bring” the exercise to you! The gym is no longer the only place for you to squeeze in a quick workout. Even just standing up for a few minutes every hour would help to improve posture, increase blood circulation, maintains the metabolic rate and burns calories. Taking a five-minute walk for every hour of sitting would improve blood flow and arterial function, reduce health risks of prolonged sitting, and it expends an approximate 120 calories in eight hours.9 See “Benefits” in Step Up for Better Health, HealthHub.
Stretches are considered one of the most effective (and discreet) desk exercises if you are deskbound on a tight deadline. You can do frequent stretching exercise without the need for any equipment at your desk every 30-45 minutes. It can improve the blood circulation and may even give you an idea of how to solve an issue that you were just working on! There is a wide variation of stretches available on the internet but for your easy reference I have shortlisted the ones focused on the common problem areas:
Interlock your fingers and with your palms facing upwards, reach up towards the ceiling as high as you can.
Raise your shoulders towards the ears and hold the position for three to five seconds.
Lower Back Stretch
Begin seated and facing forward, place the left hand behind your left hip and slowly twist your upper body to the left. Rest your right hand on your left thigh to deepen the stretch. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat for the right side.
Whilst standing behind the chair (and holding it for support), raise your heels off the ground until you are standing on your toes. From this position, slowly bring your heels back to the ground.
Walking/Standing – Anything But Sitting
Seize every opportunity to increase your step count and break away from the sedentary lifestyle. A quick example would be walking to the common areas of the office (eg, copier, restroom or pantry)? Alternatively, resist the temptation to pull a chair when engaging your colleagues in a discussion. This would give you the opportunity to escape from the “sitting disease”10 See Sitting Disease, Office-Ergo <http://office-ergo.com/sitting-disease/> (last accessed 11 July 2018). and (literally) think on your feet. When leaving the office, consider taking the stairs to increase your heart rate and tone up those leg muscles.
Apart from the National Step Challenge of 10,000 steps per day, HealthHub recommends individuals to “Sit Less, Move More” to improve your health with the following suggestions:11 See “Recommendation” in Step Up for Better Health, HealthHub.
- Sit less – to break up sedentary time.
- Increase incidental physical activity.
- Exercise and play sports.
Exercise is a personal choice and how often you train depends on your fitness goals. I would recommend having a combination of two to three forms of exercises to sustain your interest in the workout process. Lastly, I hope you can find a fitness routine that would work out (pun intended) for you!
Group Pilates Reformer Class: $500 for 10 Classes + 2 Free Group Pilates Reformer Classes (valued at $110)
Private (one-to-one) Pilates Session: $700 for 5 Private Sessions + 1 Free Group Pilates Reformer Class (valued at $55)
For enquiries contact Benny Woo at +65 8127 7324 or [email protected]
|See Jaclyn Chow, Too Much Sitting, Too Little Exercise, Tan Tock Seng Hospital <https://www.ttsh.com.sg/healtharticles/too-much-sitting-too-little-exercise/> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
|See “Current Situation” in Step Up for Better Health, HealthHub <https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/62/step-up-for-better-health> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
|See “Health Risks” in Step Up for Better Health by HealthHub.
|See Robert Wolfe, The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006) at p 477.
|See Juliette Steen, Do You Need To Eat More To Build Muscle?, Huffington Post Australia (1 August 2017) <https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/30/do-you-need-to-eat-more-to-build-muscle_a_23057004/> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
|See About Pilates Core & Beyond <http://www.pilatescorebeyond.com.sg/about/> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
|See Geraldine Vander Straten’s profile <http://www.pilatescorebeyond.com.sg/profile/geraldine/> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
|See “Benefits” in Step Up for Better Health, HealthHub.
|See Sitting Disease, Office-Ergo <http://office-ergo.com/sitting-disease/> (last accessed 11 July 2018).
|See “Recommendation” in Step Up for Better Health, HealthHub.