Getting regular exercise is one of the most important things we can do to improve our mental and physical health – and during these unpredictable times, most of us need an extra boost now and then. But not all of us are members of a gym – and even if we are, the current climate is putting many of us off going.
With the days now colder and darker, finding the motivation to actually leave our homes to get some exercise can prove increasingly hard! But luckily, you don’t need to step outside your front door to keep fit.
From the best workouts you can do in your living room to tips on motivating yourself and holding yourself accountable, here’s five steps to help you stay fit at home all year round.
1. Create a routine
Before you get started, it’s helpful to consider how you want to approach exercising at home. One of the most important things to do if you want to make this healthy habit stick, is to create a routine. One of the bonuses of working out in a different location to your home is that it naturally creates a structured routine around exercising. You might go to the gym after work, for example, or play badminton on Saturday mornings. But when you’re exercising from home, it’s easy to become distracted or to put it off, so creating a routine around your workout can help you to stay motivated.
Your routine can look however you want it to. You might want to schedule blocks of time for working out – e.g. from 6:00pm to 6:30pm – or you might want to be more flexible, and try to slot exercise more naturally into your routine. If that’s the case, you could plan to exercise during certain points in the day – before breakfast or before lunch, or mid-afternoon, at the time you feel most energetic. If you’re able to, it’s helpful to dedicate a space in your home to do your exercise in. Creating this sort of structure, even if it’s flexible, can help keep you focused and disciplined.
If you’re not used to doing regular exercise, it’s best to start off slowly. When people feel enthusiastic about getting fit, it’s normal to want to dive straight in at the deep end, but the risk with this is that after a couple of weeks – or perhaps even days – you can lose motivation, or become too tired or achey. Getting fit takes time, and staying fit can be a lifelong commitment.
The NHS advises that we should all aim to be physically active every day – but this can be as gentle or vigorous as it needs to be, and if you can do short 10 minute sessions to start with, that’s fine. Further advice from the NHS is that if we’re able to, we should do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hrs) of moderate intensity activity each week, and do strengthening activities that work the major muscles at least twice a week. To find out more about the importance of building strength and balance in your 50s, 60s and beyond, you can have a read of our article here.
2. Hold yourself accountable
When you’re exercising at home, it can be harder to find the same sense of accountability we’d have at the gym or exercises classes, where we’re aware of other people’s eyes on us, or feel that we want to impress the instructor. To help keep yourself motivated and accountable, consider tracking your activity. You can do this in many ways, such as wearing a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or a Garmin, using mobile apps like Strava or Endomondo, or keeping things simple by writing down what you do in a diary or calendar to see how you progress each week.
If you need motivation, then why not listen to a fitness podcast? Have a look at some of the best fitness podcasts as recommended by Coach Mag and see which ones interest you. If you’re a visual person, something as simple as placing a sticker on your calendar on the days that you exercise, can act as a surprisingly powerful motivator when you’re not in the mood to workout – plus, it reminds you of how far you’ve come, too.
When you go to the gym or exercise classes, or workout with a friend, you also have a sense of community, which can further inspire us to keep going. But in our digital age it hopefully won’t be too hard to find a virtual exercise buddy. Reach out to friends or family members – particularly those who are passionate about keeping fit – and ask them to help keep you accountable for your home workouts. This could mean exercising together over video chat, texting workout plans to each other, or just having a call after you’ve exercised to chat about it.
Creating your own sense of community can be an effective way to get you looking forward to your home workouts, and can also help alleviate any feelings of loneliness you might have. Why not consider submitting a post on the Rest Less community forum, to see if anyone is interested in becoming virtual workout buddies?
3. Try an online exercise class
Virtual exercises have never been more popular than they are today – and for good reason. While lockdown might have been the initial reason many people got into exercise classes, they’ve remained popular because they’re a great way to exercise on your own terms and at your own pace. You can keep yourself motivated by following the routine, but you can also take as many breaks as you like. Plus, if you’re not confident enough to workout in front of other people, online videos give some welcome privacy, too. But with so many online exercise classes available, which should you choose?
One of the best free online resources is Fitness Blender, where you can browse a huge selection of videos that allow you to easily exercise at home, without any equipment. Whether you want to find fat-burning workouts, total body strength training, or stretching sequences, you will more than likely find it here – plus, because you can select the difficulty level and duration of each video, as well as what body part you’d like to focus on, the videos are suitable for all fitness levels. Turbulence Training on youtube also offer a great selection of no-equipment bodyweight workouts that are perfect to do from home – and because the videos are generally under 10 minutes, they’re ideal for beginners, and can give you the knowledge to create your own home workouts.
Another versatile fitness channel is Natalie Jill Fitness. Natalie Jill is a popular personal trainer who offers free workouts for weight loss, body weight exercises, exercise ball routines, and plenty of useful health and nutrition tips too. Another inspiring channel is Sean Vigue Fitness, where you can do strength training, cardio, and core training – as well as see how you fare doing Sean’s “fun” one minute burpee challenge!
If you are considering getting into yoga, you might want to check out Yoga With Adriene. With over eight million subscribers and videos for all abilities, there’s something for everyone. If you’re new to yoga, check out Adriene’s Yoga For Beginners – and if you’re ready to work up a sweat, you might want to try her Yoga for Weight Loss or Total Body Yoga playlists. Alternatively, check out Do Yoga With Me, which offers a great range of yoga at home videos – and seeing the beautiful Canadian British Columbia backdrop throughout the videos is just an added bonus! If you’re interested in finding out more about the benefits of yoga, you might want to read our article an introduction to yoga.
As far as online exercise videos go, this is just the very tip of the iceberg. For more inspiration, have a read of Make Your Body Work’s suggestions for the 50 best free online workout resources, check out the NHS approved exercise videos, or have a read of our own article, five free online exercise classes.
4. Incorporate exercise into your chores
For most of us, household chores are unavoidable – but the silver lining is that many of these can be adapted to become an effective form of exercise. While many of us feel like we don’t have enough time to exercise – let alone do the recommended 150 minutes (2.5hrs) of moderate cardio each week – research suggests that nearly half of all Brits spend more than five hours each week cleaning their homes. With a bit of planning, there’s no reason why every cleaning session you do can’t double-up as a workout – and because you’ll wind up with a cleaner house as well as improved fitness, it’s win-win!
One of the best chores for improving your flexibility, strength, stability and endurance is gardening, particularly things like landscaping, moving rocks or digging, which can burn around 300 calories an hour. Weeding and planting can burn around 200 calories an hour – and simply mowing the lawn can also burn several hundred calories an hour, depending on how much you exert yourself. You’ll know you’re getting a proper workout if you get out of breath or feel tired at the end of it. Mopping the floor and vacuuming can easily become effective forms of cardio too, and they’re also good ways to workout your arms and shoulders. So what are the best ways we can get the most out of our chores and turn them into exercise?
The trick is to plan your household jobs in a way that allows you to do them in sequence to increase heart rate and work your major muscle groups. Constant vigorous movement is the key to turning a chore into a real aerobic exercise, so when you start a job, set the timer for 30 minutes – then, try not to stop moving! Turning on the radio and playing it loudly can also help. Especially fast paced, upbeat music as studies suggest that music with at least 120 beats per minute (bpm) can help increase the speed at which you exercise. Plus, it makes the whole thing much more fun. If you want to check whether your favourite music is at least 120 bpm, head over to bpmdatabase.
There are plenty of ways you can make gentler chores feel more intense – for example, when you’re washing dishes, you could do calf raises; while you’re vacuuming, you could do lunges; when you’re folding laundry, you could do squats. If you have a fitbit or other fitness tracker, wear it while you’re doing chores to see how much of a workout you’re really getting – you may find it very surprising! For more information on how to turn household chores into effective workouts, check out this helpful infographic.
5. Get creative with how you exercise
Staying fit at home doesn’t mean you’re obliged to do squats and lunges in your living room. If this type of exercise really doesn’t appeal to you – or if it does but you’re looking for even more ways to keep fit – there are other ways you can get a workout in. The trick is to get creative with how you exercise; try new things, and adapt old things. Just as you can turn chores into effective exercise, there are lots of other ways you can ensure you’re getting some gentle exercise each day – often without actually doing anything new. Have a think about all the small things you do every day, and then consider how you can up the ante – even if it’s only by a bit. A little can go a long way, especially if you’re new to exercising regularly.
For example, whenever you’re on the phone, you could make it a rule to go for a walk around your home (or outside) instead of sitting on the sofa. Half an hour of fast walking can burn up to 600 calories an hour (depending on your weight), so this is something that can really make a difference – especially if you regularly have long phone catch-ups with friends or family. Alternatively, each time you go up and down the stairs, you could try and do it faster – or do it twice, or even three times! Climbing stairs is one of the best forms of exercise out there, so those regular trips up and down can be very effective.
Dance is also a great form of exercise that can be great fun. You could try dancing while you’re cooking – or perhaps consider scheduling a daily dance session into your day? Depending on your weight and the intensity of your movement, you’ll burn between 300–800 calories an hour dancing – so just a 15 minute dance session in your living room can make a big difference. Plus, dancing isn’t just good exercise, it’s also a great way to boost your mood and feel more positive. It doesn’t matter if you think you have rhythm or not; dancing is about having fun and letting go, and the beauty of dancing in the comfort of your own home is that you really can dance like no-one’s watching. If you want to dance along to something, or get some inspiration, have a watch of this dance party video by MadFit.
Another way to get creative with exercising at home is to tap into the inner child inside you. While many of us enjoyed activities like skipping and hula hooping when we were kids, for most of us, this fell by the wayside long ago. As adults, when we think about exercise, we often imagine things that don’t always seem very inspiring or fun, like running on a treadmill, or lifting weights repetitively.
But for children, exercise simply means playing and being active. Often it’s the attitude that we approach exercise with that makes the biggest difference to how much we enjoy it, or whether we stick with it – so see if you can rethink the way you view working out. So while you may not have done activities like skipping, hula hooping or hopskotch since you were a child, why not try them as an adult? You can do them in the garden, if you have one, or in any indoor space that’s big enough, whether that’s the living room, kitchen or hall. You might need to push some furniture aside to make room, but that counts as an additional exercise!
Skipping is one of the most effective forms of cardio around, with just 10 minutes of skipping a day comparable to half an hour of running. So even if you only do a minute a day, it can make a difference. Hopscotch can be beneficial too, as jumping in and out of boxes improves your foot-eye coordination, balance and lower-body reaction timing, allowing your movements to become faster and more accurate – and, when done quickly, can also speed up your heart rate and burn plenty of calories. Hula hooping works out your core while burning fat and improving your balance, and a 30-minute session burns around 165 calories for women, and 200 for men. So if you have grandkids, or other children in your life, try to take inspiration from them, and reframe exercise as a pleasure to be enjoyed rather than a chore.
Though many of us feel uncertain or unstable right now, one thing we can take control of is our physical health and fitness. You don’t have to have your own gym or a big garden to keep fit at home – and with the variety of free resources at our fingertips, you certainly don’t have to pay a penny.
If you’ve never tried online exercise classes or workout videos, it’s worth giving them a try – and if you’re already a fan, why not challenge yourself by varying your routine and trying a new form of exercise? However you try to stay fit at home, remember the importance of eating healthily, staying hydrated, and paying attention to your emotional health – because the healthier we feel in our minds, the easier it is to push our bodies.