Diet and exercise

Wednesday 23rd April

The latest health and fitness trends aren't just for teenagers... They are likely to be the next big thing for the young at heart, too, reports Wendy Golledge.

Shake, rattle and roll

Vibration training involves exercising on a platform that vibrates up to 50 times a second. And no, we aren’t joking. The Power Plate pro7 is the latest hi-tech gadget to come to a gym near you, but it is more than just a new toy to relieve the monotony of exercise (while giving other gym-goers a giggle as you wobble through your workout).

Destabilising your body during exercise means you engage up to 95 per cent of your muscles, which amplifies the effect of anything you do. The result? Increased muscle-tone, circulation and strength. Vibration training is thought to help with everything from osteoporosis and obesity to pain reduction and rehabilitation. Visit Power Plate to find your nearest vibration trainer.

Feeling the burn

Endurance sports aren’t purely the reserve of the toughest of fitness fanatics. Last year, 75 per cent more over-40s took part in the PruHealth World Triathlon than previously, and it’s estimated that one in four marathon runners is now 50-plus. Pushing yourself doesn’t have to mean a 26.2 mile slog, though. In fact scientists now believe that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) – that is, anything that forces you out of your comfort zone, even for just a minute – could be more effective than long periods of moderate exercise.

If you’re feeling brave, the new HIIT fitness class to look out for is tabata. A 20-minute class with just four minutes of pushing yourself to your limits may sound too good to be true, but it has been scientifically proven to get you 28 per cent fitter than merely exercising at a steady pace. Visit www.tabataofficial.com for a step-by-step guide to getting started.

Travel with a twist

If new research is anything to go by, rather than packing beach towels, sunnies and a few good books for our hols, this year we’ll be stuffing a pair of walking boots and a compass into our cases. The number of people going on adventure holidays has grown by 65 per cent year on year since 2009, and is set to grow again this year. Adventure holidays have been shown to improve mental health by imparting a sense of accomplishment, improving self-awareness and helping travellers cope with uncertainty. There are benefits for our physical wellbeing, too, with all that strenuous activity triggering the release of feel good endorphins and boosting heart health.

Use your loaf

When it comes to what we eat, the focus is firmly on good food that is, well, good for us. Take chia seeds. You may not have heard of them, but they’ve been around for thousands of years and were used by the Aztecs for their health benefits. They provide plant-based, heart-healthy omega-3 oils, eight essential amino acids and carry 16 times their own weight in fluid, helping improve hydration levels.

Bread’s on the menu again, too. Often demonised by fad dieters and labelled as the bloating bad guy, bread is now being championed by nutritionists, with one study showing people who eat it are more likely to have a healthy diet overall. Bread provides more protein, iron, B vitamins and complex carbohydrates per penny than any other food, according to the Federation of Bakers, and it contains very little fat or sugar. For something different, why not experiment with rye, sourdough or fruit bread?

And the oil of the moment, perfect for drizzling on your bread, is most definitely rapeseed. It has less than half the saturated fat of olive oil, contains omega 3, 6 and 9, and has the added benefit of being home-grown.

Savvy supplements

Plain old vitamin C is so passé, darling… Our hunger for supplements has increased by 11 per cent over the past four years, and the bigger brands all offer a little something extra. Straightforward single supplements are being replaced by next-generation super-supps, which give you extra benefits. Look out for omega 3s plus a complete multivitamin; or iron with added B vitamins and vitamin C to help absorption. It’s a clever way of cutting down the amount of pills you have to pop.

Record progress

Whether it’s a full-on exercise diary or just noting down what’s eaten each day, studies show that keeping track of our progress makes us more successful when it comes to losing weight and getting fitter. One study found that people who kept a food diary for six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who didn’t.

The latest way to keep track of a healthy lifestyle is with – you guessed it – a gadget. A personal activity tracker to be precise. One of the more reasonably priced examples is the Fitbug Orb (£45). Just strap it on under your clothes and it logs all the important stuff automatically – how many steps you’ve taken, calories burned, how long you’ve slept for and even the quality of that sleep. It syncs with your very own “digital coach”, who sends texts to nudge you towards your goals. OK, so it may a sound a bit James Bond, but it’s more effective than reminders stuck on the fridge…

Source: This article first appeared in issue 26 of benhealth, Spring 2014.

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