3 ways to up your health and fitness game in 2021

Kristine Tarbert
·Features and Health Editor
·8-min read

Rebel Wilson may have made headlines for getting her health on track during 2020, but it turns out she’s not the only one who was able to use the time at home as a way to make some lasting adjustments.

Despite the fact that two in five people said they had gained weight during coronavirus lockdowns, I was also able to find some sort of routine in 2020 and wanted to share three things that helped me the most.

Woman feet running on road closeup on shoe. Young fitness women runner legs ready for run on the road. Sports healthy lifestyle concept.
Rebel Wilson isn't the only one who got her health on track during 2020. Photo: Getty

With the help of some advice and recommendations from experts, here are three tips to help you up your health and fitness game in 2021.

Wear a smart watch

Investing in a smart watch has been one of the best things I did this year. Not only does it hold me accountable for literally not leaving my desk all day, but having a goal - any kind of goal, whether it be steps, sleep - gives you something concrete to focus on.

Psychologist and Therapist Leanne Hall says it helps a person develop better self-awareness.

“It allows you to see patterns and triggers,” Leanne tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “This is empowering as it gives you information to enable you to then make healthy choices.”

Recent research from Fit Bit showed I was not alone in using a smart watch to improve my overall knowledge around my health.

When comparing data from March-May to June-August 2020, Australians were taking approximately 300 more steps per day, getting an additional four minutes of sleep per night, and Active Minutes increase by 9 minutes a day, meaning we are making a greater effort to exercise.

Woman setting up the fitness smart watch for running. Sportswoman checking watch device.
Wearing a smart watch makes you accountable. Photo: Getty

Tracking things like my heart rate and calories during a workout really helped to make sure I was giving maximum effort, but it also helped keep me motivated as I was clearly seeing improvement over time when it comes to how many calories I was burning.

And like I said above, counting my steps also made a huge difference. I only have a small goal of 8K a day, but pre-covid I would have probably been lucky to get to 3K - without a decent cardio workout at the gym.

Even Rebel Wilson revealed that in terms of exercise, her biggest tip was to “get out and walk”.

While she had access to “amazing personal trainers”, she said the “majority of exercise” she has done in 2020 was just going out for a walk.

“That is free, you can do it, it’s safe and walking is the best way for me to metabolise fat,” she said.

Focus on recovery

As someone who works out regularly (5-6 times most weeks) I’ve had my fair share of niggling injuries in my time, and one thing that I take very seriously now is my recovery.

“Recovery allows the body to rebuild and repair to adapt and condition itself in response to the stress placed on it from exercise,” Chris Apps, Master Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“If we deny the body adequate rest and recovery, it can cause chronic stress and inflammation, potentially leading to injury and disease.”

So when I had the opportunity to try a percussion massage gun - specifically the Rexogun - I thought adding another element to my recovery on top of stretching surely wouldn’t hurt.

Turns out it did hurt - but in a good way.

Rexagun
The Rexagun is one of many on the market. Photo: Rexagun

And while there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence for the benefits of these types of massage guns, many people like me are raving about them.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest positive results and a reduction in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS),” Chris agrees.

“A lot of Health Professionals believe the positive results experienced from percussion massages are due to the effect on the nervous system in the targeted area, and overall around the body. What this means is that the nervous system is calming and allowing the body and connective tissue to relax, rather than directly affecting the tissue itself.?

Chris does recommend if you are using a percussion massage device on yourself, to stick to the main muscle bulk and avoid sensitive areas like your neck, groin, inside elbows, behind knees, bony areas and around the kidneys.

He also says just 1-2 mins an area should do the trick and combine it with stretching. Oh, and you don’t have to fork out the big bucks either.

“A lot of percussive devices do the same thing, so avoid the hefty price tags and try a cheaper model first,” he says.

Whether you use a massage gun or simply stretch post-workout, fitness trainer Michael Woellner, from F45 Glenmore Park, stresses that consistency is the key.

“Stretch your entire body for an appropriate amount of time,” he tells us, adding that protein supplements are also a great way to assist recovery.

“It is highly recommended that post-workout protein supplements are used for greater recovery, including days off the gym for additional protein to repair muscle tissue that is broken down.”

workout recovery
Recovery and stretching is so important. Photo: Getty

Take the right supplements

Speaking of supplements, to say there are a few different kinds you can take to add to your routine would be an understatement. What I have found this year is LESS is MORE.

Out of everything that I have tried, or someone has tried to push me to use there are two supplements - and only two - that I personally gained anything from.

That’s taking pre-workout (a more natural variety from Naked Harvest after trying plenty of horrible alternatives), and taking magnesium every day.

Pre-workout

Pre-workout is a dietary supplement designed to improve performance, endurance, focus and energy levels during a workout. But it comes with its fair share of warnings.

Co-Founder of Naked Harvest Georgie Stevenson, tells Yahoo Lifestyle their product has “the perfect amount of all-natural ingredients that will give you the energy” without the crash.

“It was created to give you a natural energy boost without the crash and nasties,” she explains. “Most other pre-workouts are filled with an unnecessary amount of caffeine and synthetic stimulants that make you feel shaky and leave you with a crash post-workout.

“We have also included other natural ingredients that will enhance your mood and improve your stamina.”

naked harvest
Naked harvest is the pre-workout I have found works best for me. Photo: Instagram/naked harvest

For some more detail Lacey Blackman, a coach from the Australian Institute of Fitness, explains many pre-workout supplements contain ingredients such as ​caffeine​, creatine monohydrate​ and ​beta​-​alanine​ that may offer positive exercise-related benefits.

However, the supplement industry is poorly regulated.

“And unfortunately it can be difficult to ascertain exactly what ingredients are in pre-workout products,” Lacey tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Although most pre-workouts contain natural ingredients such as the above-mentioned, it is not uncommon for prohibited substances to be deliberately added during the manufacturing process or accidentally through contamination.

“Artificial ingredients and high doses of caffeine and beta-alanine may also be present, which may cause some unfavourable side effects such as digestion issues, overstimulation, skin irritation or ‘tingling’.

When it comes to using pre-workout, Lacey has a few tips:

  • Pay attention to the caffeine dosage per serve, as the daily recommended intake is 400mg for most healthy adults

  • Pre-workout is best consumed between 30-60 minutes before exercise

  • When consuming a new pre-workout for the first time, the dosage amount should be quartered or halved to assess your tolerance and reaction to the product

  • Purchasing pre-workouts can be an expensive exercise – my favourite and affordable product is good ol’ fashioned black coffee.

  • Always consult an Accredited Dietitian before taking pre-workout supplements

Athletic healthy blond haired woman squatting with rubber resistance band, copy space. Attractive strong sportswoman doing squats at the gym. Body care, healthy lifestyle concept
Pre workout is designed to help exercise performance. Photo: Getty

The benefits of taking Magnesium are also widely known. For active individuals, magnesium is of particular importance, thanks to its role in muscle contraction and recovery.

It is estimated that active people require 10-20% more magnesium than less active people.

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle previously, pharmacist Michelle Gerrie (BPharm, RPh) says a lack of magnesium can be detrimental to overall health.

“A low level of magnesium is associated with an increased level of C-reactive protein (CRP) – a really bad actor in the body, because CRP is a marker for type of inflammation that isn’t readily obvious from the outside,” Michelle tells us.

Anxiety, fatigue, agitation, depression, headaches, irritability, sleep disorders, constipation or cramps - all signs that your body is lacking in magnesium.

So it pays to include it in your daily routine, and if you’ve never had a magnesium salt bath - do it now!

health
Here's to a successful 2021. Photo: Getty

Never miss a thing. Sign up to Yahoo Lifestyle’s daily newsletter.

Or if you have a story idea, email us at lifestyle.tips@verizonmedia.com.