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National Fitness Day 2021

Being able to be active and move our bodies is something we often take for granted. National Fitness Day is a chance to celebrate physical activity as well as highlighting the role it plays in helping us lead healthier lifestyles. This year, National Fitness Day will take place on Wednesday 22nd September and we want to take this time to shout about the importance of being active.

Life after lockdown

As life is continuing to take gradual steps back towards the ‘normality’ we have craved for so long, you may be wondering.. “why do I feel so anxious at such positive news?!” Well, you may be comforted to know that you’re not alone and it’s completely normal to feel this way. So, take a deep breath and have a read of the following 5 tips on returning to the gym after a long break.

5 Tips to Improve your Workout!

People can take different approaches when going to the gym. For example, some people would rather to go alone and figure out what each machine does for themselves, whilst others prefer to go online and research everything before they even set foot into the gym or have guidance from a Personal Trainer from the get-go.

Have you ever stopped to think about your workout routine? It’s very easy to fall into poor habits that you pick up over time, even if you have been taught the proper methods before (driving and writing are key examples of this!).

So, here’s some key things to look out for…

01 Skipping your Warm-Up!

A warmup is essential to any good workout. Without properly warming up and raising your pulse, it makes you more likely to feel light headed and dizzy, meaning you’ll have to finish your workout sooner. A light jog on the treadmill, a few minutes on a bike or a cross trainer, or even a quick circuit involving a variety of different exercises (ie star jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, etc) are all good for steadily bringing up the heart rate and preparing your body for exercise. As well as bringing the heart rate up, it’s also important to do some dynamic stretching to ensure the joints are ready for the start of exercise. If you don’t warm up the joints properly, you’re more likely to injure yourself, meaning you’ll have to spend more time out of the gym recovering! Finally, if you’re planning to do some resistance or strength-based training, it’s always important to do warm up reps at a lower weight, to ensure the muscles are prepared for the increase in weight, especially if you’re trying to go up in weight.

02 Cutting your Cool Down!

As annoying as it is for some, staying in the gym for an extra few minutes to cool down once you’ve finished your workout is very important. If you don’t bring your heart rate back down to the level it was pre-exercise, you become at risk of blood pooling in your lower limbs. At the end of your workout, spend 5 – 10 minutes on the treadmill, walking at a slow, rhythmical pace to allow your heart to catch up with what you’re doing. Post-exercise stretching is also an important part of cooling down. When we exercise, our muscles are contracting to support the weight they are lifting, so the muscles gradually get tighter and tighter throughout the workout. Static stretching when you are finished helps to lengthen the muscles again, reducing post-exercise stiffness and also helping to improve your flexibility.

03 Half Repetitions!

You’re part way through your workout, and you’re feeling the burn in your arms as you bring the dumbbells up for your final set of side raises. You bring them up with control, but as soon as your arms reach the top of the workout, you let them drop immediately without controlling it. We’ve all been there, we’ve all felt the exhaustion that comes when you’re getting close to the end of a set, but it is so important to maintain the control in your arms and bring the weights down slowly. By letting them drop without having any tension in your arms, you’re only performing half of the movement. The end of an exercise, or the eccentric contraction of the muscle, is just as important as the contraction phase (the beginning), as they help to develop your muscles differently. Next time you feel like you’re going to drop the weight on that last rep, take a pause, breathe in, and control it on the way back down. Your muscles will thank you!

04 Get Hydrated!

On average, adults should drink 2000ml-2500ml of water per day. When we are exercising, we should be drinking a minimum of 500ml of water up to two hours before starting, plus an extra litre of water for every hour spent exercising. That’s ¾ of what we’re mean to have in a day! Without appropriate levels of hydration in the body, exercise can be greatly impaired, as it could cause headaches, which can result in a loss of concentration, which can lead to injury. After we have finished exercising, we are meant to have 1 litre of fluid for every kilogram lost during exercise.

05 Technique.

A e you doing the exercises properly to achieve what you want? With resistance and free weights training, something as small as a change in hand position while picking up the barbell can change which muscles the exercise you are doing will activate more. For example, if you are doing a bench press, having your hands closer to the middle of the bar activates the triceps more than a traditional or wider grip will. Don’t be afraid to ask a fitness instructor in the gym if you believe you are not doing things in a way that will help you achieve your goals in the gym.

Now that you know some more some of the bad habits you may have developed in the gym, and how important it is to change them… It’s time to get back into the gym and give yourself the best possible chance to reach that new personal best!

How Stockport Moving Together helped Mary’s COVID recovery

Stockport Moving Together is a joint initiative between Stockport Council, Life Leisure and other key local partners to identify and deliver projects that will support those recovering from COVID-19 and build resilience in the fight against the virus.

Exercise provides a host of medically proven health benefits, so a key goal for Stockport Moving Together is to help Stockport’s most vulnerable residents get fighting fit in the battle against COVID.

One year on from the nation’s first lockdown, Stockport Moving Together has provided one hundred COVID Physical Activity Packs, along with an exercise programme, which are now being delivered to care homes across the town, as well as to individuals who need help recovering from the virus.

These individuals include the likes of 66-year-old Mary, from Stockport, who received a Physical Activity Pack to help her recovery after contracting the virus last October. She has kindly shared her experience on receiving her pack from Stockport Moving Together and how it has helped her recovery from the virus over the past few months.

Mary said “I was excited to receive my COVID pack, which included a pedal exerciser bike, an exercise band set, the PARIS home activity guide and the Otago Strength aMary Smith_COVID Recovery Pack_Mar21nd Balance Programme.

“Owing to my disabilities and health conditions, I have had to shield since March 2020. I had brain stem strokes in 2007 and 2015. These have left me partially sighted and with poor balance and mobility. I fall easily and mobilize with 2 crutches. I’m also aphasic and have memory issues. I must have instructions one at a time and have swallowing problems; I choke easily. I also have severe osteoarthritis. I’ve had both shoulders replaced and my right knee, so pain is a big issue.”

“I contracted COVID in October 2020. To receive the COVID pack was a fantastic affirmation that I can still do somethings, albeit slowly! It helped to raise the mental fog of depression and anxiety, which was beginning to overwhelm me. The layout of the books with text and diagrams is helpful and clear, given that I use a magnifier.”

“The COVID pack itself is really nice. I like the bag keeping everything together. I typically use the bike in the evenings watching Channel 4 news or the latest briefing or bulletin from Boris! I’ve progressed to the medium light resistant band.”

Alongside receiving a recovery pack, recipients benefit from the specialist advice and ongoing support with a Life Leisure PARiS Coach to create a programme of exercises suitable for their personal recovery. Due to restrictions, this has mostly been facilitated through telephone consultations and digital classes and sessions.

Mary added “Dave Lornie has contributed much to my ongoing rehab. He has excellent communication skills and a brilliant sense of humour. He’s incredibly observant. He presents each session in a relaxed manner, adapting the exercises to each members’ need or disability.”

To benefit from our movement for health programmes you must be referred by your GP or hospital or individuals can self-refer via the website. Enquiries for the physical activity packs can be emailed to

For more information go to

For more information about One Stockport, visit

For more information on how to establish healthy habits, visit

Festive Fitness Fun

There’s no doubt that Christmas will be a little different this year. While you may manage to spend it with some loved ones, it’s unlikely there will be any big family get togethers, visits to Christmas markets or the annual office party.

The good news is, you’ll probably save a lot of money. The bad news – being stuck at home certainly won’t get you in the festive spirit and may lead to more indulgences than normal. To help, here are some ideas for you and the family to help you feel Christmassy and enjoy a little bit of healthy exercise along the way!

Christmas trail
After what’s been a pretty miserable year, it’s no surprise that people have put more effort into decorating their homes, with most residential streets lit up already. So why not turn this spectacle into a bit of healthy family fun?

Make a note of some of the more exciting houses around and make a pilgrimage on foot to see them up close with the kids? Or, perhaps challenge your friends and family to get a picture outside the brightest display in your neighbourhood and send pictures to each other? The only rule is, no driving allowed. Walk, jog, run, scooter – whatever you fancy, just no car.

Whatever method you choose, to get the most out of the idea you should walk quickly enough to feel warmer and feel your breath getting a little shorter.

Of course, if you want to up the ante, you could all run around the streets together to see how many decorated houses you can find. Make it more fun by encouraging the kids count how many snowmen, Santas, elves and reindeer they see along the way.

Prepare for reindeer visitors!
Why not give your usual outdoor fun a festive twist by encouraging the kids to create a reindeer den in the garden? Walking or running around to find the right materials and then bending and twisting to arrange the perfect den. It won’t seem like exercise to the little ones, but it is actually giving them a whole-body workout.

Anything that works your muscles harder than usual will increase and develop your muscles, which is important for us no matter what our age. For kids it helps them grow into strong and healthy adults and protect them against injury, and for adults it helps prevent our muscles weakening, reducing the chances of falling and losing our balance as we get older.

An alternative is to get the kids to mark out a reindeer runway. Use anything you can find to build a landing strip and guide Santa and his reindeer into place! Again, this will involve some of that all-important lifting and carrying, as well as enjoying some healthy outdoor fun.

Active advent
Most advent calendars these days include a little bite of chocolate for each day. But instead of chocolate, why not set yourself and the family an active challenge? Of course, we are already a few days into December, but you could run your challenge over the 12 days of Christmas or in the rest of the run up?

One idea is to challenge the family to do a different activity each day – ranging from doing 10 star jumps before you get dressed, doing laps around the garden after school or going for a half an hour bike ride. Perhaps introduce prizes for the best performance.

Rock around the Christmas tree
Social dancing may be off the cards this year, but there’s no reason why you and the kids can’t have a party of your own.

Dancing is a great way to get active and burn some energy. Get into the spirit by turning all the lights off and just leaving the Christmas tree lights and decorations twinkling, or go one step better and get some glow sticks and disco lights!

If the kids need a little more impetus to get involved why not play musical statues or let them choose the music. Bringing the party atmosphere home will lift everyone’s spirits and give you a great full body work out – what’s not to love?

Activate your Christmas spirit!
Overindulging a little at Christmas is inevitable. Let’s face it, we’re all looking forward to the usual roast dinners, advent treats, sweets and well-deserved tipples (for the grown-ups!).

What’s not inevitable though is inactivity. We can all make sure we move a little more during the holidays. So why not incorporate a few of these little ideas into your line-up. As well as getting you all in the Christmas spirit, they will also boost your activity levels without you even noticing, helping us all to stay fitter and healthier over the festive break.

When’s the right time to get back to the gym?

The leisure industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with gyms and leisure centres across the country forced into closure to prevent the spread of COVID.
And with Government guidance about who we can mix with and what facilities can open changing almost daily, it’s no wonder people are feeling a little nervous about returning to their leisure facilities.

On the flip side, many of us want to get back to it. For both the physical and mental benefits …just a bit of that ‘feel good’ spirit! Where I work, we’ve actually moved some group exercise classes to larger halls for social distancing because participation numbers have increased!

That’s why I thought it might be useful to provide a run-down of the kinds of practices and measures gyms and leisure centres currently have in place to ensure the safety of all members. Each facility or sports centre will of course be subject to different regulations depending where they are geographically and their size, so these are just some guidelines to give you an idea of what to expect.

Make space
One of the most important regulations when it comes to COVID is for people to keep two metres away from others.

This means that there will be markings on the floor and fewer pieces of equipment available on the gym floor, with items such as bikes, cross trainers and treadmills removed or blocked off in order to allow space between each user.

It also means that classes will be smaller or, as I mentioned earlier, moved to larger studios and halls to accommodate numbers. Generally, you will be required to book in advance.

Clean team
It’s always been important that gyms and leisure centres maintain a high standard of cleanliness. However, due to the highly contagious nature of COVID, increased measures have been brought in to ensure there is no possible cross contamination between users, so if cleanliness is your concern you can be confident these shared spaces are now cleaner than ever.
Throughout the day and between every group session, staff will also carry out touchpoint cleaning, targeting areas such as doors and toilets to ensure high traffic areas are kept thoroughly clean.

Take control
Just as we are now encouraged to wash our hands as often as possible, your local facility will also be asking members to take control of their own cleanliness when using equipment. Cleaning products should be made available to you to clean equipment before AND after use. It’s also likely you will be encouraged to wear masks in communal areas, although this will not be necessary for children or while exercising.

Leisure facilities will also be advising visitors to bring their own equipment where possible, such as water bottles and mats for floor exercises. Most of us do this anyway, but giving your children easily identifiable water bottles will help ensure they don’t risk picking up the wrong ones during an activity!

No ball games
Fortunately, under 18s and those with a disability are not restricted when it comes to indoor activity, so these specific activity sessions can continue. As a parent it’s important to limit social interaction before and after the sessions to avoid any transmission at the school or sports hall gates!

Unfortunately for adults, in many areas indoor activities of more than six continue to be limited, which means indoor ball games such as five-a-side football, basketball and hockey are not permitted. However, many racket sports can continue.

Stay outdoors
If in doubt – and while weather permits – you can of course keep your activity outdoors. And you might be surprised to find out what’s on offer. Many outdoor fitness sessions, running clubs and team sports are operating, so be sure to check out what your local community groups and fitness clubs are doing.

Sink or swim
As there is no evidence that COVID 19 can spread through the use of pools, swimming pools are deemed safe and allowed to reopen.

As well as being kept clean, swimming pool providers will ensure that pools are properly chlorinated and social distancing adhered to in and out of the pool.
If you have a child who attends swimming lessons it is most likely these will go ahead, but parents should again be careful about transmission.

Do keep in mind though, rules regarding changing facilities may vary so make sure you check with your local provider.

Have confidence
While the numbers we can mix in safely is subject to change depending where you live and the facilities available, you can be confident that your gym, club or sporting group, will all be up to speed on specific guidance for their facility or sport. Just be sure to check which classes are running and book in advance.

Of course, returning to any of these activities is a hugely personal decision depending on your own health and personal safety, and if it doesn’t feel right for you, there will continue to be plenty of online and outdoor options to keep you active and stimulated.

But if you’re itching to get back in the saddle and need a little encouragement, be confident that all facilities open right now have yours and your family’s health and safety at the top of their priority list.

Rate your plate: understanding the foods which fuel our fitness

The British Nutrition Foundation hosts its ‘Healthy Eating Week’ this month which is dedicated to promoting good habits when it comes to feeding ourselves and our families.

I mention this NOT to suggest you go on a diet or make you feel bad about your family’s eating habits, but to use it as an opportunity to talk about food and nutrition.

We all know we should try and eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day and avoid foods high in sugar and fat, but why exactly and is there any more to it?

The Eatwell Guide is a great place to start, it divides the foods we eat and drink into five main food groups – fruit and veg, starchy carbohydrates, proteins, dairy and oils – in order to help us understand what foods will give us the right nutrition and vitamins to keep our bodies healthy and well fuelled.

Green goodness
Fruit and veg should make up more than a third of the food we eat each day – which, when you lay it out, is actually quite a lot! But there’s a reason for that, they’re a great source of vitamins and minerals to help your body work properly, and full of fibre, which can help maintain a healthy gut.

The good news is they are super easy to cook – you can buy them fresh, canned or frozen, and they are also low in fat and calories – unless you deep fry them or roast them in lots of oil of course. All you need to do is make sure you mix it up to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients in your diet.

Of course, getting kids to eat their vegetables is easier said than done. Choose brightly coloured, sweet veggies such as sweetcorn, carrots and peas, and if you’re really struggling, try disguising the vegetables by grating them into a sauce. Other easy wins are making sure there are always sweet portions of fruit on offer such as an orange or blueberries, or making homemade pizza where they can choose which veggies they want to add.

‘Yes’ to carbs
We’ve heard of many ‘diets’ limiting the amount of carbohydrates we intake, but the truth is, they are also very good for us and again, should make up about a third of our day’s food intake.

Potatoes, pasta, rice and bread are a good source of energy and will make you feel fuller for longer so removing them from your diet completely could make you feel hungrier with less energy.

Of course, you can over-do it, so be careful not to eat more than is advised, and where possible opt for wholegrain or high fibre varieties such as brown rice.

Dairy queen
Dairy products – or alternatives such as soya if you are vegan or intolerant – are also an important part of your diet, particularly because they are fantastic sources of calcium which helps us keep our bones strong.

Not only is this important for kids as they grow, but also for adults as they age, strong bones make them less likely to break through falls, and will also help prevent you from losing strength as you get older.

Milk with your cereal, a daily yoghurt, or using cheese a couple of times a week should be enough. It’s important to be aware that dairy is a rich source of saturated fat, so again the key is not ‘elimination’ but ‘moderation’. And be aware, so-called low-fat options are not always healthier – many are actually higher in sugar than their full fat counterparts. So, keep an eye on the labels when choosing.

Protein power
Protein is essential for the body to grow and repair itself, and so an important part of a balanced diet.

Traditionally a stereotypical meal consisted of ‘meat and two veg’, but today we know that you can get your protein fix from a whole range of different foodstuffs, including pulses, beans, eggs, fish and lentils, so it’s an easy one to incorporate no matter what your personal requirements.

Around 15% percent of your daily intake should be protein, so enjoying a lentil curry, a lean cut of meat, beans on toast or a piece of fish a couple of times a week is going to be doing you good. Pulses such as beans, peas and lentils are particularly good because they are lower in fat and high in fibre.

Choose lean cuts of meat and mince, and eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages where possible as these are higher in fat.

Oil be fine
Oil is an important part of the cooking process, whether it’s for frying or drizzling on salads.
The good news is small amount of fat derived from oil is good for you.
The fatty acids that you get will help the body absorb vitamins A, D and E, which help support the body’s functions.

Unfortunately, while it is good for you, it’s important to be aware of how little you need.
Choose unsaturated oils and spreads such as vegetable, rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils and limit use to a splash or two per meal.

The Eatwell Guide applies to most of us, no matter what our age or weight.
So, next time you’re wondering what to put on the table, think about what nutrients your body might need rather than what you fancy!

Battling the COVID blues

According to the Opinion and Lifestyle Survey, one in eight adults developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms in June this year- twice as many recorded during the same period in 2019.

Of course, this doesn’t come as a surprise, a global pandemic where millions of lives are being turned upside down has a good chance of making most of us feel more anxious or depressed than usual.

Now, while I can’t wave a magic wand and make COVID go away, or even give you an idea of when it’s all going to end, what I can do is give you some tools to help you and your family cope when the anxiety and low mood, and the good news is – it won’t cost you a penny!

Healthy body, healthy mind.
As the saying goes, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, and it’s true!

We know that exercise is good for the body, it keeps your heart healthy and your bones strong, and reduces the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes.
But it’s also a fantastic way to keep your brain positive, releasing endorphins that can enhance your sense of well-being.

Endorphins are chemicals which are released through increasing your heart rate with cardiovascular exercise such as running, swimming or walking. The effort you put in doesn’t have to be particularly strenuous, as long as your heart starts pumping and your breathing gets heavier, the endorphins will rush to reduce the brain’s perception of pain and give you a feel-good feeling in return.

That goes for kids and adults, so if you find that your children are losing concentration easily or getting more emotional than usual, pull on your trainers and get your bodies moving for half an hour – those natural chemicals will be bursting to get out!

Mind over matter
Another huge advantage of doing exercise is that everything else in your life seems to float away in an instant.

A competitive game of football or pounding the pavement for half an hour will take your mind off your worries for some much-needed respite. If you’ve been feeling low for some time or your children aren’t their usual happy selves, then getting outside for a kick about, a game of tennis or simply a run around the park will do you good. Anything you enjoy as a family will be enough to help get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.

Lean on me
Another great benefit of exercise is that it can be a fun social event too. Getting active with pals – abiding to your local COVID restrictions – will not only enable you to put any worries or concerns to the back of your mind, but the social interaction will also help you and your kids build up confidence and enjoy some fun and laughter with friends.

If group sports aren’t your thing, a walk to the park with a mission to say ‘hello’ to all the dog walkers you encounter will be enough to give you that buzz. Approaching dog walkers is a fantastic way to get some social interaction as you can keep conversations as short as you want to!

Make a goal
Of course, if you are feeling low or depressed then just getting dressed could be a struggle, so start as small as you need to.

The idea of going for a 10k run sounds fantastic, but what’s the point setting that target if just getting your trainers on is a chore? Choose something that is achievable, whether that’s doing the vacuuming, walking the kids to school or going for a walk around the block. Anything that gets your heart beating will release those endorphins, and the more you do, the better you will feel.

Kids are alright
If you have a child who is struggling come up with a goal together and try to be their motivation for them.

Telling someone to exercise when they are feeling low is easier said than done, but offering to be by their side and giving them the choice of activity could be enough to lift their spirits enough to give it a try.

Of course, once you get them out and about the endorphins will take over and do their bit, so it’s just a case of persevering with the hard part!

The same goes with kids – start small. If they tend to spend a lot of time in their room and have no interest of joining a sports club or team, try and encourage them come and spend half an hour with the family before dinner and use that time to get moving. This can be as simple as going for a walk, encouraging them to have a wild dance around the kitchen or going on a bike ride.

Being depressed is not unusual, particularly under the current circumstances. It can also leave you feeling low in energy, which might put you off being more active.

But if you can find something you enjoy, something you can commit to regularly either as an individual or a family, you will soon find your mood lifts, it will become a little easier to get out and about each day, and you will have a happier, healthier family!