Spring into fitness!

Warmer weather and lighter evenings will soon be on the way. Make the most of spring and exercise outdoors with our top fitness tips and ideas...

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Warm up
Whatever the weather, you always need to make sure you have warmed up your muscles adequately before launching into any serious exertion. This might mean some stretching exercises or just taking it easy for the first five minutes of your run or cycle ride.

Build your exercise sessions and exertion levels up gradually, going harder and longer as you feel your fitness increase. Listen to your body and go easy if you feel you are overdoing it. It's best to speak to your GP before commencing any kind of fitness programme if you haven't exercised for a long time or suffer from a medical condition.

If you're new to working out, a 30-minutes walk each day is a great place to start. After three days, try upping the pace for five minutes at a time, until you get out of breath, then go back to walking at a normal pace. Over the course of a week or so, increase the amount of time you spend walking briskly and reduce the recovery intervals.

Stay motivated
To keep your motivation high, trying setting a fitness goal. A pedometer can be a great way to keep track of how many steps you have taken in a day. The recommended number is 10,000 - which gives you something to aim for!

See if a friend will join you or try listening to an audio book. Once you're feeling fitter it's important to keep up with your new routine. Consider joining a rambling group, jogging club or sign up to a race. Meeting up with others or paying for a few sessions with a personal trainer could be the extra incentive you need to keep at it.

Get on your bike
Cycling gets the heart working and offers a great cardio workout, while helping to keep your leg muscles nice and toned. Cycling burns about 300 calories per hour and can be a great way to enjoy the great outdoors – while saving on petrol costs at that same time! If you're new to cycling, remember to wear the right kit and get a properly fitting helmet.

Make a splash
If walking or cycling isn't for you, what about going for a dip in the local pool or even an outdoor lido once it's warm enough. Swimming can burn as many as 500 calories per hour and is a good choice if you're prone to knee injuries.

Those feeling adventurous could try kayaking. It's harder than it looks and will tone your upper body, as well as giving you a cardio workout. Of course, you can make it as hard or easy as you like. Even going at a moderate pace will burn over 350 calories an hour.

Horse riding
Riding is great exercise and will help to tone your thigh muscles as well as strengthening your core and stomach. Look for lessons in your local area or check out horse riding schools that do day-long excursions on your next holiday.

More ways to get fit
Zumba lessons, tango classes, circuit training, tennis, badminton – there are plenty of things going on in spring. Check your leisure centre and what's on listings for ideas.