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MATT ROBERTS: I want to get fit but gyms stress me out

Q. I want to exercise, but suffer from anxiety and find crowded places overwhelming. The thought of going to the gym fills me with dread. Even walking with the dogs can feel like a challenge. Where should I start?

A. For everyone, at least at first, going to a gym is daunting. The more you go, the less unfamiliar it seems and for many people who go regularly, of all ages and sizes, it can become a normal part of the week.

But for those who feel shy, or have problems with anxiety, agoraphobia or post-traumatic stress disorder, trying to force yourself to visit a gym or exercise in the park can be a problem.

That’s not to say we should allow these things to stop us participating in something that will ultimately be beneficial to both physical and mental health, as exercise has been shown time and again to help reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Obviously there are a great number of online workout programmes that can be performed at home. But my advice is, whether or not you leave home, try to find someone you trust to exercise with. It should be someone with whom you can share your fears and concerns.

The more you go to the gym, the less unfamiliar it seems and for many people who go regularly, of all ages and sizes, it can become a normal part of the week

The more you go to the gym, the less unfamiliar it seems and for many people who go regularly, of all ages and sizes, it can become a normal part of the week

Together, come up with a strategy, even if that means just walking the dogs together.

It’s been proven in studies that people who exercise with a ‘buddy’, whether that’s a trainer or a friend, achieve much more and maintain positive changes for longer than those who do not. A feeling of safety in numbers may also provide the added confidence to help you do something like go out jogging.

The longer you wait to confront the issue, the bigger it becomes. With concerted effort, it is possible to conquer the fears holding you back.

Q. I love running and on a good day can manage more than seven miles. Other days, when I’m feeling drained, I struggle to make three. Why do my energy levels vary so much? I’m a 47-year-old woman, I’m not overweight and, annoyingly, my body shows no obvious signs of being fit or the fact that I run about 30 miles a week.

A. Our energy levels can vary from day to day for a number of reasons. These include sleep, whether we’ve consumed alcohol or sugar, the amount of protein and water in our diet, the weather, hormonal fluctuations and stress.

Some of these factors, such as diet, we can address easily, others less so.

Protein is a key factor to consider. When we exercise, we break down muscle cells, causing a tiny degree of trauma to them.

This is a positive thing as the repair process is what makes your muscles stronger in the long term.

However, in order to repair, the muscles need amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and essential fatty acids, or EFAs for short. These also help with fat burning.

Foods such as oily fish and avocado give you great intakes of the right types of energy before exercising

Foods such as oily fish and avocado give you great intakes of the right types of energy before exercising

Foods such as oily fish and avocado give you great intakes of the right types of energy.

Make sure you consume these foods in the first 30 minutes after you finish a

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