Do you struggle to find the motivation to do exercise at home, or from home? Do you find it difficult to know where to start? This guide will help you get into a fitness routine that is safe, effective and enjoyable
HOW DO I KNOW IT IS SAFE FOR ME TO EXERCISE?
Before beginning any exercise routine, you should answer the following questions. If you answer yes to any of these, please seek advice from a doctor or suitably qualified exercise professional before proceeding:
- Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
- Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
- In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
- Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consiousness?
- Do you have a bone or joint problem (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
- Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
- Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?
A full version of the questionnaire is available here
WHAT IS AN IDEAL WEEKLY EXERCISE PROGRAMME?
In a perfect world, an ideal weekly exercise programme would consist of the following elements:
- 2 – 3 high intensity cardiovascular training sessions (75 minutes in total). 1-2 of these could be high impact (running, HIIT or online aerobic/dance classes). High intensity means you are breathing much harder than usual, unable to talk in sentences, possibly sweating. All high intensity sessions should include a warm-up, cool-down and stretching section.
- 3 – 5 moderate intensity cardiovascular training sessions (150 minutes in total). This includes recreational cycling, brisk walking and easier online workouts. Moderate intensity means you are breathing more heavily and are warmer than usual, but still able to speak in sentences.
- 2 –3 strength training sessions, using body weight exercises or weight-training equipment. Ideally these sessions should be split up as much as possible (e.g. Monday and Thursday) and incorporate 8-10 exercises that use all the major muscle groups in functional movements. Strength training is important for building muscle mass, boosting metabolism and improving the strength of bones, joints and muscles. However, is very important you have the correct posture and technique when performing exercises, and this type of training should initially be done under the instruction of a fitness instructor.
- 2 core strength, balance and flexibility sessions such as pilates, yoga or tai chi. This type of training helps you relax, recover and prepare for other forms of exercise.
This is an ideal weekly exercise programme. HOWEVER, we need to be realistic!!!! We all have other commitments and pressure of our time. My recommendation would be to choose a selection of these types of exercises and include as much variety as possible. This will help you develop ALL-ROUND health and fitness levels, while decreasing the risk of injury. Varying your type of workout also helps increase your motivation levels.
PREPARING TO EXERCISE AT HOME
If you are planning to do a workout in your house/garden; consider the following:
- Space – make sure the space you are exercising in is clear, and you have space to more around. Consider the flooring. Is it slippy? If you are barefoot for yoga or pilates classes, you might need to invest in a non-slip mat
- Temperature – the ideal temperature for exercise indoors is 16-18 degrees.
- Water – have you filled a water bottle?
- Clothing should be light, breathable and comfortable.
- Distractions – have you turned your phone on silent? Are all pets out of the room?
SUGGESTIONS FOR BEGINNERS
If you haven’t exercised for some time, are overweight, or have been told by your doctor not to do intense exercise, there are still plenty of options for you to improve your health and fitness levels!
One of the best exercises you can do is walk! Walking is a great calorie burner as you can do it for long periods of time. It is fairly low impact, so suitable for most people. Walking requires no specialist equipment, apart from a pair of comfy shoes! When you are ready to increase the intensity and improve your health and fitness levels even further:
- Try using your arms, while gently pulling your belly in, to quicken the pace.
- Find some hills, even small ones around the cities or towns will help.
- On rainy days, you could even practice walking up and down your stairs, if you have any in your house.
- Add in small sections of jogging. The app Couch to 5K is a brilliant way to start jogging, and is very suitable for beginners.
Handy Hint: Use the pedometer function on your phone (e.g. Apple Health or Google Fit) to keep track of how many steps you are doing on a daily basis.
On a real bike, or an exercise bike, cycling is a low impact exercise that is great for beginners. Try to keep track of your distances, times, resistance levels or calories burned, so you can monitor your improvement. Strava is a great app for outdoor cycles, as it plots your route on a map, and calculates your speed and distance.
Many of us have trampolines in our gardens for our children to use. You can get a great low-impact workout using a trampoline! Make sure you check the weight limits first as not all will be suitable for adults. Try alternating between jumps, star jumps and knee tucks using a timer (such as this one) for 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.
Online Cardio Classes:
Many of the exercise classes available online are not suitable for beginners. The intensity levels are often aimed at regular exercisers, and there can be too many high-impact jumping exercises. People who start doing HIIT classes (high intensity interval training), often find they are so sore afterwards that they lose all motivation to do them again!
Here are some of my recommendations for online classes, more suitable for beginners:
Jane Fonda walking cardio workout – this is a fabulous video for those starting out with fitness, or looking for a lighter low-impact exercise class.
10 minute Disco funk workouts – so much fun, and what a soundtrack! This is a great video to get moving, without too much stress.
Zumba – 30 minute dance workout. If you love dancing, Zumba is a great way to keep fit. This 30-minute video introduces quite a few of the Zumba workouts, like latin, Bollywood and Hip Hop. The music is fun, and I like the way there are different instructors in different locations.
Jessica Smith workouts: I really like these online classes. Jessica has a motivating, friendly style without being overly
enthusiastic! I did quite a few of the low-impact workouts when I was pregnant. She does quite a few walking aerobic videos, and some short cardio videos aimed at beginners. My favourites:
Team Body Project specialise in low-impact workouts for beginners. There are lots of options available on their channel. This workout, is popular with beginners for good reason. Taught by a male instructor, it has over 8 million views
Yoga and Pilates:
The website DailyOM has a number of courses, taught by qualified and experienced instructors. There is usually a small charge for these courses, but it is worth it – they are a cut above many of the videos found on YouTube. My personal favourite for beginners is 14–day Spinal Reset by Tristan Gatto. This is a brilliant, gentle introduction to pilates and yoga, in a very accessible way. I dip in and out of this course regularly.
Yoga with Adriene is a very popular YouTube channel. While many of her workouts are aimed at those who practice yoga regularly, she has a few for complete beginners including this one: Beginner’s Pilates is a really nice pilates workout, suitable for beginners.
SUGGESTIONS FOR REGULAR EXERCISERS
If you have been exercising regularly for at least 3 months, there are lots of different options for you:
This is a great opportunity to start working towards a running goal – such as a 5K or 10K. You can connect, or compete, with friends using apps such as Strava. Don’t forget to include a warm-up and cool-down when running outside. The warm up should include joint mobility exercises like this: Warm-Up Exercises. Ladies – you will need a good sports bra, and everyone needs decent running shoes with support and cushioning. I’d recommend running no more than 3 times a week, to prevent injury to muscles and joints. Try to mix running up with lower impact workouts, and plenty stretching and core strength activities.
Online Cardio Classes:
Zumba Strong – this is a great workout that incorporates interval training, in a slightly choreographed way. There are some high-impact jumping exercises, but a good amount of rest periods too.
CBC Life Dance Workout – I LOVE this exercise video! It has a great soundtrack and fun dance moves. I use this as lowimpact recovery exercise between running or higher impact workouts.
Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) – At the time of writing, Joe Wicks is doing daily workouts, live at 9 a.m. GMT on weekdays, aimed at school-children and their parents. These interval-training workouts consist of a variety of body weight exercises, some harder than others. If you are not used to this type of exercise, you might be sore after the first few times. It will get better – I promise! I’d recommend doing this type of workout NO MORE than twice a week, and due to the coordination skills required to perform some of the exercises, ideally just for children older than around 8 years old.
Fitness Blender – I’m not actually a fan of Fitness Blender videos, but some people love them, so it is worth including them here. These are very straightforward interval training workouts, with a countdown timer. No music and no choreography, so popular with people who don’t like dance/aerobic style workouts. There are a few moderate intensity workouts such as Beginner’s No Jumping Cardio Workout and Cardio Fat–Burning Workout
PopSugar – there are loads and loads of workouts available here, all taught by enthusiastic teachers. Many are dance/aerobic type workouts, which are quite good fun (if you know your left foot from your right foot)! Some of my favourites include this hip-hop dance workout taught by a male instructor:
and this 1-hour total body workout:
Les Mills Body Combat – this boxing type exercise class is exceptionally popular in gyms and health clubs. Les Mills the brand, is discussed in more detail below. Their body combat workouts tend to be lower impact and slightly less cardio intensive, compared to some of their other workouts. The difficulty with these workouts is the technique and the pace (it is fast!). This online link currently provides 14 short instructional videos on the technique, so you can build up to doing a whole class. Les Mills workouts usually require a monthly subscription, but some of these are freely available at the time of writing.
Les Mill Sch’Bam – a dance workout, incorporating many styles such as latin, hip-hop and jazz
Jazzercise on Demand – Jazzercise is a very popular exercise class, full of high-energy aerobic style workouts, set to uplifting music. They have an on-demand subscription option via their website.
Facebook and Instagram: Lots of local/national instructors do live feeds on social media sites, or arrange classes via Zoom or other video conferencing apps.
Yoga and Pilates for regular exercisers:
Yoga with Adriene is an exceptionally popular YouTube channel for those who have some experience of yoga. She has tons of different yoga workouts here.
12–minute pilates workout this is a nice short pilates class, suitable for those with some previous experience.
SUGGESTIONS FOR ADVANCED EXERCISERS
If you regularly run distances of 5K – 10K or more, why not try to increase your fitness and speed with interval training? Interval training involves short periods of very fast running, with easier jogging. If you normally run at an intensity level that feels like a 7 out of 10, try some of these options:
- 30 seconds fast running at a 9 out of 10, followed by 30 seconds slow jog at 5 out of 10
- 20 seconds sprint at 10 out of 10, followed by 40 seconds slow jog/fast walk at 4 out of 10
There are lots of ways you can do interval training. I use an app called Seconds which you can use to set up different intervals.
Also, if you aren’t already doing so, now is a good time to start including a dynamic warm-up, cool down and stretches into your running workouts. This is an example of a good running warm-up: Warm Up Exercises . To cool down, simply decrease your pace over a few minutes and then immediately do some static stretching. This video has some great advice:
Cycling for advanced exercisers
Regular cyclists might want to up the ante by heading to bigger hills and trying out more challenging routes.
If training at home, you might consider investing in a turbo trainer, a Watt Bike, or a spin bike. There are lots of indoor cycling videos available online that you can follow at home.
Online Cardio Classes for advanced exercisers
Les Mills – Considered the crème de la crème of workouts, Les Mills take exercise instruction to a whole different level. Varied workouts, good soundtracks, stunning scenery and engaging instructors who really know their stuff. You need to pay a monthly subscription to access their workouts, but at the time of writing they are offering a number free of charge using this link: https://watch.lesmillsondemand.com/at–home–workouts. Some of their most popular cardio exercise classes include BodyAttack – long energetic aerobics workouts with some high impact sections and GRIT – HIIT training, a bit like Metafit or Insanity
Peloton are currently offering a 90-day free trial of their app/website, which includes access to workouts such as indoor cycling, yoga, and strength training classes.
Facebook and Instagram – it is worth checking social media sites to see if any local/national instructors are doing live classes of Metafit, Insanity, P90x or other HIIT type classes
FitnessBlender – Personally, I don’t find these workouts particularly engaging or enjoyable, but they say what they do on the tin! Some people love the straightforward, no-nonsense approach. These are tough interval whole-body workouts: 44–minute Cardio HIIT workout and Insane Cardio Workout
Yoga and Pilates – advanced
BodyBalance – yoga, pilates and Tai Chi. Great workout if you already have some yoga experience.
GMB Fitness focuses on relearning the athletic skills we had as children – climbing, crawling, pulling, self-supporting. This is a different and challenging kind of strength, core and flexibility workout that is getting increasing attention in the health and fitness world.
Advanced 10 minute pilates – a short but ‘sweet’ class that really focuses on core and abdominal strength.
Advanced Power Vinyasa Yoga class – only suitable for those very experienced in yoga!
Disclaimer April 2020: This guide was written in April 2020 by Sheona King from Wellness Management Scotland. Sheona is a fully qualified and experienced exercise instructor. There are no affiliations or links to any of the instructors, programmes or brands provided in this guide. The recommendations are based on personal opinion only. For any further information, contact