As we pass the seventh week of lockdown, staying active remains essential for our physical and mental wellbeing, and outdoor exercise may not be right – or enough – for everyone.
Fortunately, with thousands of free online classes and reasonably priced exercise equipment available, working out from the comfort of your home has never been easier.
So, if you want to keep moving and want an alternative to outdoor walking, running or cycling, here are our top tips for staying fit at home.
Our exercise equipment buying guides explain everything you need to know about setting up a workout space in your home
1. Set fitness goals
Whether it’s increasing the number of push-ups you can do, being able to run a little bit further or just losing a few pounds, giving yourself goals to work towards will not only help you stay motivated, but will also allow you to put a clear plan in place to reach them.
Strength activities build muscle power, while cardio workouts burn fat, and improve heart and lung health.
Once you know what you want to achieve you can then decide on equipment.
If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey and you’re not totally sure what you want to try first, read our guide on how to set up a home gym.
2. Don’t overspend on exercise equipment
While you may be tempted to splash out on high-tech equipment and accessories, it could be better to start simple and build up your kit as your fitness objectives develop.
A few basic items, such as dumbbells, resistance bands or a skipping rope, might be all you need.
Even larger pieces of equipment, such as exercise bikes and rowing machines, don’t have to cost a fortune. If you’re on a budget, you can get hold of a decent exercise bike or treadmill for around £100.
Try making the most of your surroundings, too. Use the stairs to build up your legs, lean on the sofa for tricep dips and grab a can of beans for your weights.
Treadmill buying guide – we run through the different types of treadmill and highlight some popular models.
3. Always warm up
Always spend around five to 10 minutes warming up before a workout.
Gently upping your heart rate and circulation will increase blood flow to your muscles and loosen your joints. This will reduce the risk of injury and mean less stress on your body.
How you warm up will depend on what exercise you’ll be doing. For example, before running on a treadmill you should prepare by doing a brisk walk, whereas shoulder rolls and knee lifts will get you ready for weight lifting.
You could also try stretching before and after working out. Stretching can increase the range of muscle movement and help to avoid injuries.
Weight and weight bench buying guide – we explain the benefits of weight training and reveal popular weight sets and benches.
4. Get the form right
It’s important to learn how to do each exercise properly before starting.
Good form (maintaining the right posture, for example) gets better results, while poor form can lead to injury.
If you can’t do an exercise properly, take a metaphorical step back. Consider slowing down or reducing the resistance on a cross trainer, running machine or rowing machine. If you’re struggling to lift weights properly, reduce the weight size or do fewer reps.
If you don’t know the correct form, check expert guidance online or ask a fitness specialist.
Yoga can improve your posture and provide better all-round fitness – here’s our guide on how to set up a home yoga studio.
5. Mix up your exercise regime
Whether you just want to keep things interesting, gain more muscle or build up your endurance, varying your workouts and the intensity of them is really beneficial.
If you repeat exactly the same routines with no variation, your body will eventually get used to them and you may not see sustained improvement. Try to incorporate a mix of cardio, muscle strengthening and stretching exercises into your schedule.
You could also give interval training a go. This is when you mix bouts of high-intensity exercise with short periods of low-intensity exercise or rest, otherwise known as recovery. This can help you get fitter much faster than only doing long bouts of continuous, but lower-intensity, cardio.
Our exercise equipment buying guide explains the benefits of using different types of equipment, including:
- Exercise bikes
- Cross trainers
- Rowing machines
- Weights and weight benches
- Yoga mats and accessories
Whatever type of exercise you’re doing, a fitness tracker can help you monitor how close you are to hitting your goals. Take a look at the best fitness trackers, as recommended by our experts.
6. Keep up momentum
Don’t let your new home exercise equipment become nothing more than a guilt-inducing hazard to trip over. We all have days when we just don’t feel up to exercise, but try not to let an off day turn into an off week.
Leaving more than a few days between workouts can lead to a lack of motivation and endurance, and risk you giving up entirely.
The NHS recommends ‘at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity’ (brisk walking or an easy bike ride, say) or ’75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity’ (such as running or skipping) per week.
To help you along, organise an achievable schedule that works around your other commitments and leisure activities, and won’t risk you burning out from doing too much too soon.
If you’re looking for a form of exercise that works out your whole body, consider rowing. It uses around 85% of your muscles and will increase your stamina. Find out more in our rowing machine buying guide.
7. Try online classes
Online classes can really help your motivation and make you feel part of a community.
If you want to learn new exercises there are plenty of free online resources that you can search for on YouTube. Joe Wicks has become the fitness face of lockdown with his daily PE sessions, but there are plenty of alternatives, including:
- Yoga with Adriene
- Studio Sweat
- The Gym Box
- British Rowing
For Instagram users there are numerous live streams from a variety of fitness experts. If you want more guidance, you can also pay to subscribe to online workouts, with classes led by a trainer via a video service.
Want to try an online spin class? You’ll need an exercise bike. Choose the best exercise bike using our expert buying guide.
One of the benefits of exercising at home means you can save time. Not only will you shave off the minutes by not travelling back and forth to the gym, but you can also watch your favourite TV programme or read a book while getting your heart pumping.
Obviously only do this if it’s safe to do so and won’t risk you flying off your equipment if you’re distracted by a dramatic moment while working out at full tilt.
Just in case you need an upgrade to make the most of your extra time in front of the screen, here are our top five TVs for 2020.
9. Eat properly
Eating properly after working out is vital. Not only will it help your body recover, but it will prepare you for the next workout and give you energy to do your other jobs throughout the day.
Best food and drink – find out which foods have gone through our taste tests and were crowned the best of the best.
10. Rest between workouts
Working your body into the ground will not help you reach your fitness goals any faster. In fact, while it may seem counter-intuitive, it will probably slow you down.
Resting your muscles between workouts is essential to let them recover and repair.
This doesn’t mean you can’t train up to six days a week (should you want to), it just means you have to be smart about how you do so. Train different muscle groups each session or at least every other session.
Cross trainers offer low impact training, which could be ideal if you have existing joint problems. Discover what you need to know in our cross trainer buying guide.
Read the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?.