There are some days when finding the time — and the motivation — to exercise is more difficult than others. You might be travelling overseas, have children to care for, or maybe the weather’s just taken a turn for the worse. But there are lots of ways you can fit in a good workout indoors when you’re short on time. Here I’ll share four different types of exercise that you can do from the comfort of your own home. There’s a HIIT, bodyweight, dumbbell and yoga workout for you to choose from.
1. HIIT workout
High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a short workout that involves doing quick bursts of exercise at a high intensity, followed by a period of light exercise or rest, and alternating between the two. It’s a great option if you’re short on time. It can also help you to look after your heart and lungs, maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall fitness.
You can turn most exercises into a HIIT session, for example running, swimming, cycling or using the equipment in a gym. But you can also practise HIIT on your own at home using just a small space, with no equipment needed.
If you’re a beginner, choose four or five exercises and, starting with the first one, complete as many as you can in 30 seconds. Then rest for 30-60 seconds before moving onto the next exercise. Once you’ve completed all five exercises, rest for 60 seconds, and repeat the entire circuit 2-3 times. Remember to listen to your body and rest for longer if you need to. These exercises are designed to challenge you, but you shouldn’t feel pain when doing them.
If you’re a more experienced exerciser, complete as many of each exercise as you can for 30 seconds, with just a 15 second rest in between before moving onto the next one and complete 3-4 rounds of each.
Here are some exercises you could try as part of your HIIT workout.
High knees: Put your hands out in front of you at hip height. Raise each knee to each hand one by one.
Heel flicks: Place your hands on your backside, palms facing away. Kick back your heels one by one, making sure your heel reaches your hand on each repetition.
Mountain climbers: Start in a press-up position with your legs straight and arms outstretched. Bring each knee in towards your midriff and then out one by one. To make it harder, jump both knees in towards your midriff at the same time.
Jumping jacks: Start in a standing position and jump your feet out and lift your arms up wide above your head at the same time. Then jump your feet back together and lower your arms back down to your sides.
2. Dumbbell workout
Strength training, also known as resistance training, involves moving your muscles against a weight or force. It’s recommended that you do at least two strength training sessions a week to help keep your muscles and bones strong.But you don’t need to head into the weights area of a gym to do these. At home, you can use resistance bands, dumbbells, your own bodyweight or even tins of beans or bottles of water as a substitute. You can buy a small set of dumbbells or resistance bands fairly cheap to keep at home too. Try 8-10 reps of each of the exercises below, and repeat these 3 times. Remember to engage your core and breathe normally when doing these exercises.
Shoulder presses: Start with your hands at shoulder height, palms facing forward and your elbows by your sides. Raise your arms above your head until they’re fully extended. Gently lower back down to shoulder height.
Squat presses: Start with your feet hip-width apart and your hands in front of your chest. Lower down into a squat position – aim to get your bottom parallel to the floor, but make sure your knees stay in line with your toes, your chest stays lifted and your gaze forward. As you come back up, push both arms up above your head, then gently return to your start position.
Tricep extensions: Hold one dumbbell in both hands above your head and gently lower your hands towards the back of your neck. Keep your elbows in tight beside your head and your back straight. Then raise your hands back up above your head.
Bicep curls: Stand up straight with your arms by your sides and palms facing forward. Bring both hands up and in towards your biceps, while keeping your elbows tucked in by your sides. Try not to swing your body back and forth. Gently lower your hands back down to your sides.
Bent-over dumbbell row: Start with your knees slightly bent, and hinge forward from your waist. Keep your head up, your back straight and allow your arms to hang in front of you, palms facing forward. Lift your arms up to your sides, elbows tucked in tight, and squeeze your back muscles. Gently lower your arms back down.
3. Bodyweight workout
Bodyweight exercises also count as resistance exercise, helping to strengthen your muscles and bones, but you don’t need any equipment to do them. Find a couple of metres in your living room, and try our bodyweight workout below. This includes lunges, push-ups, burpees, core plank and squats. Two or three sets of 40 seconds each and 20 seconds rest after each exercise would be ideal.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and combines physical poses, with deep breathing and meditation.There are lots of different types of yoga to choose from, depending on how challenging or relaxing you’d like your practise to be. Yoga can help to improve your strength, balance, posture and flexibility and leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed. There are lots of free yoga videos online you can follow along with at home, or try our 15-minute routine below to get started.
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Physical activity guidelines for adults. Department of Health. www.gov.uk, published July 2011. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-physical-activity-guidelines
High-intensity interval training. American College of Sports Medicine. www.acsm.org.uk, published 2014. https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf?sfvrsn=b0f72be6_2
Yoga: what you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. www.nccih.nih.gov, last updated May 2019. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm
Physical activity: brief advice for adults in primary care. NICE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. www.nice.org.uk, published May 2013. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph44/resources/physical-activity-brief-advice-for-adults-in-primary-care-pdf-1996357939909
Personal communication, Richard McVey, Lifestyle Coach & Health Adviser at Bupa UK, July 2019.
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