Boost your Heart Health: Benefits of Exercise for the Heart

We are currently in the midst of British Heart Week, which goes from 7 to 15 June, and we’re reflecting on all the things we can do to help keep our hearts strong and healthy. There are so many benefits of exercise, including a strong correlation between exercise and heart health.

Here are some of the benefits of exercise when it comes to keeping your heart healthy:

Manage blood sugar and insulin resistance 

Exercise helps to lower the levels of glucose in your blood and makes your body more sensitive to insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This makes you less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a condition that can damage blood vessels and nerves. If you already have type 2 diabetes, exercise can help you manage it.

Maintain a healthy weight

This isn’t just for vanity purposes! Obesity is one of the leading contributors to heart disease as it puts extra strain on several of your body’s functions and increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Reduce plaque build-up in the arteries 

Exercise helps to keep your arteries clear and reduces the build-up of plaque in arteries. This improves blood flow, decreases the risk of heart attack, and makes you less likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Help the heart work more efficiently 

Exercise strengthens the muscle layer of the heart, improving its ability to pump blood through the body. Working out causes more blood to flow to your muscles and leads to higher levels of oxygen in the blood, which is great for your heart!

Reduce C-reactive protein (CRP)  

Being stagnant leads to an increase of CRP (a protein produced by the liver), which can cause inflammation in the body and can lead to heart disease. Exercise helps to lower CRP levels.

Lower stress levels 

If you feel stressed out often, this can lead to high blood pressure. Exercise has been proven to have a positive influence on stress and anxiety. Even if you have a super busy schedule, try to take 30 minutes per day to get in some sort of movement – your heart will thank you for it!

Improve metabolism 

This ties back into the benefit of helping you maintain your weight. Regular exercise increases your resting metabolic rate, which makes your body more efficient at converting calories into energy. Having a healthy level of body fat for your frame will help you maintain a healthy blood pressure and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. 

What’s the best type of exercise for heart health? 

All forms of exercise are great for your heart, particularly aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Aerobic exercise is a particular favourite among experts for the way it improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Some great examples are running, swimming, cycling, and sports like tennis and basketball – basically anything that gets your heart pumping and gets you breathing faster!

Resistance training is also proven to be great for your heart, helping to reduce body fat and increase lean muscle. About 60 minutes per week is perfect, split between two or three sessions with time to recover in between. Training with dumbbells, resistance machines, resistance bands, and body-weight exercises are all great forms of resistance training.

While each is effective on its own, hitting the right balance between aerobic and resistance training is the sweet spot to help you really enjoy the benefits of exercise for your heart!

Please note that if you have a history of heart disease, certain exercises may not be suitable. Always speak to your doctor before beginning a new workout routine. 

What are some other ways you can keep your heart healthy? 

So, we understand the importance of exercise for the heart. What other practices can you add into your life to help encourage a strong heart?

Quit smoking. Smoking damages arteries, which forces your heart to work harder. If you’re a smoker, try your hardest to break the habit.

Eat nutritious foods. A healthy diet full of whole plant foods and lean proteins leads to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, and helps you manage your weight. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats like nuts, and lean sources of protein should make up the bulk of your diet. Limit ultra-processed and sugary snacks, and swap processed and red meats (which are high in unhealthy saturated fats) for heart-healthy options like oily fish, lean chicken, and plant proteins like tofu and tempeh.

Prioritise your sleep. Being sleep-deprived makes you more likely to develop high blood pressure and makes it harder to manage your weight. Aim for eight hours each night.

Avoid sitting for long periods. Being dormant for long stretches of time increases the risk of high blood pressure and obesity. If you work at a computer, try to stand and walk around for a few minutes each hour.

Train as a fitness professional to help others build healthy hearts 

Most of our courses are based around forms of exercise that improve heart health! Click each one to learn more about the course, view upcoming course dates, and get in touch with us to help launch your fitness career.

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How to Become a Runner: Tips for New Runners

Today, 5 June 2024, marks this year’s Global Running Today. Running is a fantastic form of exercise – it’s great for cardiovascular health, it leads to better sleep, it can lower your chance of developing arthritis, and as any dedicated runner will tell you, the runner’s high is real! 

If you haven’t jumped on the running bandwagon yet, why not give it a go this summer? Here are some of our top tips on how to become a runner: 

Find your pace 

Don’t expect to master a 5k your first day out running! Start with short runs and gradually increase your speed and distance as you get more comfortable and build up your endurance. 

Listen to your body 

When you feel yourself getting tired or short of breath, it’s perfectly fine to take a break. Stopping to catch your breath or walk for a bit isn’t cheating! It can help you keep your energy up to help you run for longer. Pushing yourself too hard could lead to injuries or burnout, especially when you’re first starting out. 

Invest in good running shoes 

The trainers you wear for the gym may not cut it when you’re out running – footwear designed specifically for running offers a different level of support and helps to prevent injuries. If you want to make sure you’re getting a good pair, some running shops will measure your gait to find the perfect match for you. 

Mix it up 

A change of scenery can help keep running interesting. Use your runs as a chance to explore your local area and keep things fresh by regularly trying new routes. You may even consider joining a running group to keep yourself motivated.  

Stretch it out 

Warm-up and cool-down are important to help your muscles recover after a run and to help prevent injury. Start your run with some dynamic moves like leg swings, walking lunges, and high knees. Afterwards, stretch out your muscles with some static exercises like a quad stretch, calf stretch, and IT band stretch. Using a foam roller also helps your muscles recover post-run. 

Celebrate your achievements 

No matter how big or small your achievements may seem, be proud of your progress and enjoy the journey! It can be something as simple as jogging for five minutes without a rest or something major like running a half marathon. You could even use a reward system to motivate you to keep achieving – for example, you could treat yourself to a new pair of running leggings when you complete your first 10k or upgrade to the latest fitness tracker when you’ve hit six months of running consistently. 

Ready to get started? Lace up your running shoes and head out for a jog! It may just become your new favourite form of exercise – you’ll never know until you try it! 

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Can you become a Personal Trainer in middle age?

A career in fitness doesn’t discriminate – PTs come in all different shapes, sizes, and ages too! There’s no age limit when it comes to following your dreams or pursuing a career that you are truly passionate about.

In fact, there are several benefits to joining the fitness industry in your 40s, 50s, or beyond! Here are some of the benefits you may experience if you decide to change careers to become a PT in middle age. 
More Life Experience 

Every life experience you’ve had ranging from work and education commitments to personal and family experiences helped shape you into who you are. Your unique combination of life experiences can help you stand out amongst the crowd of PTs, especially if your experiences resonate with clients. You may know how it feels to juggle a full-time job and young children while still trying to stay fit. Maybe you had a health scare that led you to exercise and healthy habits. Perhaps you were able to use exercise to help manage a mental health condition. Whatever your story, it can add to your credibility and genuineness when seeking out new clients. 

Relatability to middle aged or older clients 

Of course, there are some people who would prefer to train with a 20-year-old with huge muscles, but many people want a personal trainer they feel they can relate to. Middle-aged or older PT clients may feel more comfortable working with a trainer who is closer to them in age or who has similar life experiences to them. They know they won’t be judged if they’re not as mobile and flexible as they once were. It may also help to focus on a niche that you yourself can relate to, such as pre- or post-partum, disabilities and physical limitations, older adults, or injuries. 

Transferable skills from your previous career 

No matter what industry you worked in previously, you’ll have learned a variety of skills that are valuable to a personal trainer. Some of the “soft skills” you can emphasise when going for a job in the fitness industry include the ability to motivate, leadership, creativity, time management, reliability, communication, and problem-solving skills. If you ever worked in customer service, business, or sales, you’ll also have a leg-up when it comes to working with people, marketing your services, and attracting new clients! 

Funds to invest in your business 

Chances are you have a bit more money in your savings account than you did a decade or two ago. Having some extra funds can help you cover the costs of any qualifications or training courses you need to take to begin your new fitness career. It also opens opportunities once you’re fully qualified, especially if you have aspirations of starting your own fitness business. 

Drive and Passion 

How many people can say they’re still extremely passionate about the things they loved in their late teens and twenties? That applies to hobbies but also career goals as well. Changing careers and becoming a PT in mid-life can be daunting, but it guarantees a fresh passion and motivation as you begin your new career. This excitement will be apparent to your clients and help them connect with you.

The wide range of PT courses also makes it possible to fit your training into your already busy schedule. You can choose between part-time or full-time courses and decide whether you’d like to complete your qualification fully in-person or hybrid with some online modules mixed in. Our Next Gen Gym and PT course is the most flexible option yet, making it easy to complete fitness training alongside your work or family commitments.

Are you ready to take the plunge and pursue a career in fitness? We’d love to help you get there! Get in touch with our course advisors, and we’ll help you find the perfect option for you. Life is too short not to follow our passions! 

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Celebrating Women in Fitness for International Women’s Day

We love celebrating the women in fitness every day, but for International Women’s Day today, we want to shine an extra special light on all the incredible women who work in the fitness industry! 

Historically, fitness has been a very male-dominated industry, but over the past couple of decades, there’s been an increase in the number of women working in fitness-related positions – something we are so excited to play a part in! And this doesn’t just apply to stereotypically female areas like Pilates and Yoga – the number of female personal trainers is higher than ever before! 

A lot is expected of women – balancing a career, a social life, and family responsibilities. Retraining in a new career, whether or not that’s fitness, is just another responsibility to think about. But with a bit of balancing (and let’s be honest, us women are great at multi-tasking!), it’s possible to achieve anything we set our minds to. And the rewards can be incredible – finding a career that aligns with your values, having the ability to design your own work schedule, and finding more joy, which will then have a knock-on effect to the other areas of your life. 

Here are some tips to help you balance your fitness course alongside your other day-to-day activities: 

Use time blocking

When creating your schedule for the week, set certain amounts of time to focus on things like work, studying, social activities, exercise, and relaxing and do your best to stick to it. 

Create boundaries

Try focusing on one activity at a time. When you want to be focusing on your course, do your best not to think about work, check your phone, or anything else that may make it harder to concentrate. 

Prioritise rest

It’s not all about the grind! The time you take to rest and recover, both mentally and physically, is just as important as the time spent working. 

Take time for yourself

Don’t forget to budget some time for your hobbies and fun activities to make sure you don’t burn yourself out.

One of our newest course options, Our Next Gen Gym and PT Qualification, makes it easier than ever for women to pursue their dream of a fitness career. The modules allow extra flexibility and can work around your unique schedule, helping learners invest in their personal development while also balancing other areas of their lives.

Are you interested in learning more? Get in touch with us to join our next intake of learners! 

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How to Become a Yoga Instructor

If you’re a fan of yoga, the idea of practicing for hours a day – and getting paid for it! – may sound like the ultimate dream. But how do you even get started with pursuing yoga as a career? 

Luckily, that dream may be closer to reality than you realise! By training with YMCAfit, you can complete a yoga instructor course in London or online in as little as eight weeks. Getting certified is important, but it’s just one piece in the puzzle to beginning a successful career in yoga. 

Follow these steps on how to become a yoga instructor, and you’ll be on your way to a fulfilling and exciting new career in no time: 

Attend yoga classes as a participant 

It’s important that you gain a base knowledge of yoga before you start training to become an instructor. We recommend that our learners practice yoga for at least two years before signing up to train as an instructor. 

Choose your yoga style 

There are a handful of different yoga styles, with some the most popular being Vinyasa, Yin, and Hatha yoga. Hatha is the perfect place to start as it’s the most versatile type of yoga and forms the perfect foundation for your career as a yoga teacher. Once you get that base qualification, you can specialise with further study in different yoga styles. 

Enrol in a Yoga training course 

YMCAfit runs courses that focus on Hatha yoga and that can help you become a qualified instructor in as little as eight weeks. You’ll earn a Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga and can choose between online classes or in-person yoga teacher training in London. The in-person sessions are held at YMCA KX, just around the corner from Kings Cross Station. 

Earn your Diploma in Teaching Yoga 

Once you complete your online or in-person course, you’ll have a practical assessment and a theory assessment that will be graded by your course tutor. Receive a passing grade, and you’ll officially be certified to teach yoga! 

Consider joining the Yoga Alliance 

The Yoga Alliance is an international organisation that isn’t mandatory to join, however, it may be required by certain studios. It isn’t associated with YMCAfit or any other specific yoga training organisations and is geared toward individual yoga professionals. Membership in the Yoga Alliance is an extra credential that not only looks good on your CV but will also provide you with valuable resources like online workshops, networking and social events, and discounts on some yoga brands. 

Start teaching! 

There are a couple different things to consider… Do you want to work as a full-time or part-time yoga instructor? And would you prefer to work with one specific studio or freelance across several different gyms? Whichever option you choose will help you get your foot in the door of the yoga community. 

Upskill with CPD (Continued Professional Development) courses 

There’s always something new you can learn when it comes to yoga! Once you’ve been instructing for a little while, consider upskilling with a Continued Professional Development course. YMCAfit offers supplemental CPDs in Vinyasa Yoga and Yin and Restorative Yoga

Network in the yoga community 

Attend different workshops and events around your city and continue to go to yoga classes as a student. Not only will you learn new skills, but this is also the perfect way to meet others who share your passion. It may open doors to teach at new studios, and you may find yoga-lovers who would like to attend your classes. 

Market yourself 

Social media and online advertising are excellent ways to take your yoga career to the next level. Start gaining a following by posting helpful yoga-related content on Instagram or TikTok and design a website where you can promote your services. 

Once you tick off each of these steps, you’ll be on your way to a successful and fulfilling career as a yoga instructor! 

Are you ready to turn your dream into a reality and become a certified yoga instructor? Click here to learn more about our courses or book a call with one of our course advisors. 

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Student Success Story: Harminder Singh Swaley

Harminder completed a Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy and is now the owner of an award-winning massage business in Brighton.

Harminder Singh Swaley

Massage Therapist

One of our favourite parts of what we do is getting to see how our learners’ qualifications allow them to flourish in their career and turn their dreams into reality. Today, we’re sharing the student success story of Harminder Singh Swaley, who completed a Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy with us in 2018. He now owns the award-winning Infinity Massage Therapy in Brighton

Harminder developed an enjoyment for massage at the young age of five years old when he began offering massages to family members – massage is an important part of Indian culture. As an adult, Harminder entered a career in sales, and while he enjoyed the regular interaction with other people, his heart wasn’t in it. That’s when he made the decision to retrain in a career that would make him feel fulfilled, and he began his YMCAfit massage course in Brighton. 

After finishing his massage course in 2018, Harminder spent a year working part-time and honing his craft, then in 2019, he accomplished his dream of opening his own massage business, Infinity Massage Therapy in the heart of Brighton. It has steadily built a loyal customer base and was even awarded Favourite Health & Beauty Salon by the Argus in summer 2023 – an award that’s voted on by the local community. Harminder has brought on more staff to support the business, and he’s even in the process of expanding the business across Sussex, with new locations planned in Hove and Eastbourne.

When reflecting on his time studying with YMCAfit, Harminder says, “I’m really happy I chose to do my qualification with the YMCA. They were fantastic from start to finish, helping source a 25-plus student loan to fund the course and creating a fun and engaging environment! I highly recommend them.” He loves that he gets to engage with all different types of people on a daily basis while offering a service that positively impacts their lives. 

We’re so happy to see Harminder succeeding in a field he’s passionate about, and we can’t wait to see all the amazing things he’ll accomplish in the years ahead of him! 

Are you interested in learning more about our Sports Massage courses? Click the button below to read all about the programme and book in a call with one of our course advisors.