Exercise as a way of life

January 8, 2014 - All News

Special to SAF
It’s the New Year — and many of us have resolved to get fit once again. But how does one get fit?
There are, of course, several ways — but there’s a common thread running through.
Just as it is the right diet that takes care of nourishing us, it is physical exercise that helps to tone, shape and build our muscles, which in turn boosts stamina levels. And just as we need to know what food is right for us, we also need to know what fitness program/s to follow.
You may run, cycle, swim, trek, practice judo, work out in a gym, try yoga — each person takes a path suited to them, but clearly their goal is to stay fit.
Once a decision is made to travel the fitness route, people may to try the various fitness programs on tap, including gyms, health clubs, biking, martial arts, etc. Or they may choose to go to a yoga studio of their choice.
SAF explored some of the options we have right here in Toronto.
Gyms/health clubs
Each health club/fitness centre has specific fitness programs designed to suit the requirements of their clientele. Some fitness enthusiasts may prefer a particular club purely for the great athletic program offered, while others might want to go to a club where personal trainers help them to reach their goals.
Most gyms have certified personal trainers to help individuals meet their goals, ranging from weight loss, building stamina or muscles, or simply getting an overall toned body.
According to Amy Henderson, Public Relations Coordinator at Life Time Family Fitness located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, their fitness and athletic locations are made up of several boutique-style, interest-driven areas, including cycle, swim, run, yoga, Pilates, personal training, nutrition, group fitness, tennis, basketball, racquetball, squash and mixed combat arts, that are designed to meet everyone’s needs.
“At Life Time Fitness, we hire personal trainers and certify them through Life Time University to make sure they have all the tools they need to help clients succeed,” says Henderson.
The company has Jonny Kest onboard for their yoga program.
Gyms like Life Time Fitness also offer kids programs and two hours of safe play each day for parents on the go.
GoodLife Fitness too has its list of fitness inspiring programs like zumba, body jam, combat classes, athletic and cycling classes, yoga, Pilates, strength and toning classes.
LA Fitness offers belly dancing, aerobic basics, calorie crusher, boot camping, sunrise yoga, senior fit, etc.
Adds Life Time’s Henderson: “Based on our members’ feedback and that of our leaders at the corporate office, we frequently change our programming to make it better and introduce new programs and classes.”
Yoga, along with…
The ancient practice of yoga actually offers several exercise options. Apart from the more traditional Hatha and Raja yogic forms, today several others such as Bikram or Hot yoga have also caught the public imagination.
According to Lisa MacInnis, studio owner and Bikram Yoga teacher based out of Mississauga, Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. During a traditional 90-minute Bikram Yoga class, one will typically move through a sequence of postures designed to stretch, strengthen and prepare the body to work every muscle, organ, gland and cell, in perfect order. The series is scientifically designed to bring the body back to a healthy working order, to promote weight loss, prevent illness, and limit the effects of aging.
Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 40.6°C with a humidity of 40 per cent.
“The series of postures combines skills of concentration, determination, self-control and patience, which lead to increased mental clarity and reduced stress. The added benefit of the heat helps to warm muscles, prevent injury, and cleanse the body by flushing out all toxins,” explains MacInnis.
“In yoga, it is important to find a balance in one’s practice of both effort and ease,” MacInnis notes. “Working hard while maintaining a calm, slow flow of breath is top priority as one moves through their yoga practice. There is much more awareness about breath, form and alignment in yoga versus other fitness activities.”
To each, their own
Actor Supinder Wraich likes to mix a bit of everything into her fitness routine. Her main activity is Bikram Yoga, but Wraich also likes to run, go biking and indulge in a bit of martial arts.
“I started doing Krav Maga after moving Downtown as a tool for self-defence,” she adds.
But to each, their own. It depends on what activity each individual genuinely likes to do.
It could even be a lot simpler than all of the above.
Karen Marshall, Product Manager from Toronto, says she loves walking and prefers it over other forms of activity. Some people need a push, a little motivation to get on the road — and they get it by walking their dogs.
If Marshall finds walking relaxing, then Lorraine White from Mississauga, who has taught yoga at OneSpa Retreat and Your Affinity Place, says: “I chose yoga for the benefits of stretching, relaxation and for spiritual reasons. I have many certifications in the fitness industry and train hard all the time. I needed something relaxing to balance out my exercise regime. I’ve been practicing yoga for five years.”
Exercise is also a great motivator in and of itself. As Wraich observes, she hates it if she misses her exercise or yoga routine. “If I don’t feel good about my body, I start getting upset and angry. Staying fit for me is more of a mind and body connection.”
Being an actor, Wraich says it is also important for her to know how she is looking at the time of her audition. “I feel confident after exercise.”
Meanwhile, both White and MacInnis feel that motivation levels depend on the individual. Says MacInnis, “Simply having faith that the yoga will give you what you are looking to achieve is often the first step to increasing motivation levels.”
Adds White: “Most participants do it for inner peace — and that’s their motivation.”
As Wraich notes, weight loss is also one of the key motivators for people taking the fitness route.
But trying to lose weight doing hot yoga is a slow process, according to White.  “I don’t feel this is the reason most come to yoga, though.”
But perhaps the single biggest motivator is the endorphin rush.
Any form of physical activity — running, meditation, yoga, weights training — generally triggers the release of endorphins, thereby busting stress levels and helping to create a more balanced and a calm mind.
And that, over time, is the greatest motivator to keep exercising.
The right age?
Really speaking, there is no right age to start out on a formal fitness regimen — after all, it starts for kids right from when they start taking their first steps… or even earlier.
And there’s no upper limit either. It’s what your body tells you.
Says MacInnis, “In our studio, we have students as young as 11 years, and individuals who are in their 80s, practising yoga.”
MacInnis uses Bikram’s quote to emphasize her point: “Yoga is the only exercise in the world you can do at any age. There is always some posture that will improve your health, mind or soul.”
Wraich feels that it is better to start exercising and getting into some form of physical activity at a young age. She points out that youngsters themselves enjoy being active.
Quick tips
• A gym workout helps one to focus on strengthening muscles, improve cardiovascular health, lose weight
• Some people use yoga as cross training for other sports (marathon runners, triathletes, hockey players, ball players) as yoga helps to increase strength, balance and flexibility, which reduces the chances of injury
• Bikram yoga (or Hot yoga) heats the core temperature of the body so that the muscles become more pliable and easier to stretch; the detoxification here is also said to be more intense because of increased perspiration
• Mississauga residents can use Connect2Rec, an easy way to register for activities for individuals and families. Some of the activities include aqua fitness, strengthening and toning, badminton, etc; visit
• Brampton city has different camps to choose from including watersports, adventure, arts and special needs camp; visit