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Don't fancy the gym? How to exercise at home and outside

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Updated 19th July 2021 - We recommend the coronavirus page on the Government website for more up to date information.

We all know how good exercise can be for us. Getting active helps to boost our mood and energy levels, helping us to feel and sleep better. With restrictions easing across the country, it’s important that we look after our physical and mental health. That’s where exercise steps in, but how can we get moving when you're not keen on going to a gym?

Read on for our top exercise tips you can do from home.

What exercise can I do now?

Before you begin an outdoor activity make sure to check guidelines for your local area. In England you can do unlimited exercise outdoors and indoor leisure facilities are open. So, grab your exercise buddy and get running, cycling or walking.

Walk that walk

Walking is also a great time to schedule in a phone call with friends or family, or you might prefer to go it alone with a podcast. Just make sure you're wearing shoes that are comfortable, providing adequate support and don’t cause blisters.

Walking is a great way to get outside for an hour and brisk walking can have many benefits, including helping you build stamina and keeping your heart healthy. According to the NHS a brisk walk is about 3 miles an hour, which is faster than a stroll. You should be able to talk, but not sing.

If you’re working from home, you may be able to change your working hours. You could add a walk to your working day by starting later or having a longer lunch break. Talk to your employer and see what flexibility they can offer. 

Get on your bike

Regular cycling can help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stoke. Make sure to wear a helmet, check your bike is safe, stay alert and always follow the highway code.

If you haven’t cycled in awhile, you might find it best to practice away from cars such as a park.

Running up that hill

Like cycling, running can help to reduce your risk of long-term illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stoke and all you need is a pair of trainers suitable for running. If you haven’t been active in awhile it’s best to ease yourself into it. You could try couch to 5k which is a running plan for beginners designed to help you run 5k within 9 weeks.

Step outside

If you have access to outdoor space, then there are plenty of ways you can exercise. Focus on how you feel when doing these exercises rather than counting calories burnt. You could try hill sprints or simply taking your usual gym routine outside. The NHS have some great 10 minute cardio work outs that you can do outside or in your home. Just make sure you warm-up with cardio and stretching before you start to prevent any injuries. 

Even gardening is a great way to stay active and get some fresh air. Read our exercise guide for more inspiration. 

No garden? No problem

With many of us not having access to a garden, exercising can seem impossible. But you don’t need to be outside to get moving, in fact the NHS have some great exercises you can do from a chair. Proving that most of the time you don’t need fancy gym equipment to break a sweat.

Activities you could do indoors include:

  • Yoga and/or stretching
  • Dancing round your kitchen, bedroom or lounge
  • Virtual reality gaming session or exercise games on your console
  • Cleaning including hoovering
  • Use household items as gym equipment – think bicep curls with tins of beans
  • Running upstairs (if it’s safe to do so)
  • Resistant band training
  • Cardio exercises, read our guide for an indoor ab workout
  • Follow along with an exercise video or online class

Just be mindful of noise if you live in a flat! Low impact exercise (i.e. no jumping or running), is a great way to stay active without upsetting the neighbours downstairs.

Need some motivation?

There’s so much going on right now and you may be feeling a bit out of sorts. When we feel down it can be hard to find the motivation to stay active. But moving your body in fun and new ways can help you to feel a little better. For many of us having an instructor or personal trainer at the gym pushes us on. But if you can't get to the gym or don't feel like going doesn’t mean you can’t tap into that well of motivation.

Many PTs are offering online training and releasing work out videos that you can follow at home, including Carly Rowena. As part of our wellness series, Carly is doing 10-minute workout videos to help you get moving at home.

Also make sure to check out our wellness video series with Cat Meffan for some fun yoga work outs and guided meditation.

Ready, steady, track

You can also get a gym buddy in your or on your wrist with a fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit. Help set goals and track your progress with on-wrist alerts to keep you motivated and celebrate your wins. Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes monitors your heart rate to determine the time you spend doing heart-pumping activity. Your heart rate zones are personalised to you, according to your age and fitness level to help keep you motivated.

Why not try beating a World Record at home, or the NHS Couch to 5K challenge is designed to get everyone moving.

Gamify your exercise

We all know that you can turn anything into a game, and it’ll make it 10 times more fun. So why would exercising be any different?

Forget quiz night, challenge your friends to some exercise games. It’s all about primary school sports day, get ready to dust off your hula hoop and boil an egg. If your WIFI allows, you can do live challenges and instantly share games with friends. If not film your efforts and share them afterwards. Just don’t forget a timer and a (virtual) prize or two.

Get rid of the guilt

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not feeling energetic right now. It’s ok if you’re resting more or not being as productive as you’d like. Rest and sleep have lots of health benefits, including helping strengthen immune system and increasing concentration levels. Your body knows what’s best for you so listen to what your body needs and adjust.

Remember, if you are experiencing low mood, it’s important that you talk to those around you and your GP.

If you're displaying symptoms, you can get a free NHS test or you can request a Coronavirus (COVID-19) swab test kit from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor.

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