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23 May 2020

Five unusual ways to stay fit at home

From using bags of rice as weights, to slicing and dicing flying blocks in virtual reality, Which? staff reveal some of the more interesting ways they've been staying active at home during lockdown

With lockdown measures still in place, a trip to the gym for a workout isn't an option. But there are plenty of fun and engaging ways to burn calories, even if you don't have the 'proper' exercise equipment.

Exercise bikes, yoga mats and other home exercise equipment have had a huge popularity boost in the past few months as people have looked for ways to stay fit at home.

But if you're looking for more interesting or varied ways to get in shape, digging in the garden or having a dance in the living room with a virtual reality headset can also get your heart beating. If you're living in a shared household, there are even ways to get the whole gang up off the sofa.

Below, we've rounded up some of the weirder and more wonderful ways Which? staff have been staying fit during lockdown.

If you want to mix up our quirkier fitness suggestions with more traditional ways of staying fit, find out how to create a workout space at home in our exercise equipment buying guide.

1. Take a fitness class in your living room

With UK families spending more time inside, fitness professionals are running their own online shows that you can follow along with at home to burn calories.

Joe Wicks is one of the better-known personalities doing this. You might recognise the name from his appearances on various breakfast shows. Joe is a fitness expert who, during lockdown, is putting on free interactive fitness classes every morning (you can also watch them after the live show has aired).

You can tune in to 'PE with Joe' by visiting Joe's YouTube channel, The Body Coach TV, on your laptop, smartphone or smart TV. But don't feel you have to rely on Joe's classes - have a rummage around YouTube to find a class that's right for you. Yoga with Adriene, for example, offers a less high-octane alternative.

If you have a smart TV in your living room, you can get YouTube videos playing on a big screen so the whole family can get involved. Just make sure you have enough floor space to avoid bumping into each other.

One Which? member of staff had the following tip to replicate the fitness studio experience more closely: 'I like to watch exercise videos in different rooms so it feels more like different classes. Aerobics stuff in the dining room so I can see the garden, and yoga in the bedroom where it's quiet!'

Shopping for a big-screen TV? Our expert TV reviews can lend a helping hand.

2. Get creative with your weight exercises

Not owning a set of gym-quality weights shouldn't hold you back from building strength in your arms.

If you want to work your biceps and triceps during lockdown, have a search around the house for objects that you could use as a weight substitute. One member of the Which? team told us that she has been using full bags of rice to lift as part of her regular exercise regime.

Other picks for weight alternatives could include heavy books or wine bottles - try to resist the urge to drink the wine beforehand. And, of course, if you're planning on using something with a lid as a weight, make sure it's securely fastened before lifting it.

If you'd prefer to buy some dedicated weights for your workout, our pricing research proves you don't need to dig too deeply into your wallet. Shop around retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Fitness Superstore and Sports Direct. You should be able to find a weights set for less than £40.

Our weights buying guide offers some tips for beginners looking to work a range of muscle groups.

3. Use your smart speaker as a personal trainer

A smart speaker that supports Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice commands can help you stay motivated and manage your workouts. Simple suggestions include:

  • Use your smart speaker as a timer for reps.
  • Set voice reminders to tell you to roll your chair away from your desk and have a stretch or move around.
  • Use voice commands to control your music without having to pause your audio, thanks to smart speaker support for music streaming services.

Try smart speaker fitness apps

If you explore the world of third-party smart speaker apps, you'll really feel the benefit when exercising from home. For example, you can use Google Fit to check your daily step count, or the Quick Workout app to run you through a 7-minute routine.

In the morning, you might not fancy a burst of intense exercise. If so, try experimenting with the many yoga apps supported by Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa smart speakers. Headspace is one of the most popular options - with a single voice command, you can tell your speaker to start a guided meditation course.

For more ideas, see our story on how to make the most of Google Assistant during the lockdown. Alternatively, browse all of our wireless, smart and Bluetooth speaker reviews.

4. Declutter your house (while you have the time)

At a time where it feels like the world is on pause, you might want to take advantage and tidy your home. You probably won't burn as many calories as you would at the gym, but it all counts.

Working through your house room by room, decluttering and redecorating can take a lot of physical effort. But on the plus side, you'll be burning calories as you spruce things up - expect to feel the burn in your arms.

Giving your house a makeover doesn't have to be just an indoor activity. One member of the Which? Product Testing team says: 'Find some reasons to dig around in the garden. Deal with the jobs that you would have put off for months otherwise'.

By investing in a Which? Best Buy vacuum cleaner, you can power through dirt and grime quickly and efficiently.

5. Break a sweat with a virtual reality headset

Virtual reality - or VR for short - is a technology that lets you explore jaw-dropping virtual worlds by wearing a headset. Once you've got the headset on, you can turn your head and move your arms to interact with the virtual world.

There are two ways to experience VR. The cheaper option is to buy a VR headset designed to pair with your smartphone. You simply load up a VR game on your smartphone, open up the headset, slide your mobile into the headset and then hold it up to your eyes like a pair of binoculars.

If you want a far more immersive experience, buying a VR headset for a PC or games console is the way to go. The PSVR headset is one of the most popular picks, on sale for around £250. You'll need a PlayStation 4 to use it - find out more about the PSVR on PlayStation's website.

A member of the Which? team told us: 'There are quite a few games out there that can get you to work up a sweat, but one of our favourites [on the PlayStation] is Beat Saber - a dance game where you slice blocks flying towards you in time with dance music.

'My other half, meanwhile, steps into a VR boxing ring complete with cheering crowds and spends an hour or so punching and ducking against virtual opponents. It's amazingly lifelike and certainly gives him a workout!

'The headsets themselves are a bit of an investment, but aside from the workouts, they've have been a fantastic way to “get out and about” during lockdown. We've been to the Galapagos with David Attenborough, walked with dinosaurs inside the Jurassic World movie and been to the virtual cinema through the Amazon Prime Video and Netflix VR apps.'

If you want to try VR on your smartphone, make sure you mobile has impressive battery life. Consult our expert mobile phone reviews for more details.

More fitness ideas from the Which? team

  • 'I've mainly been using the Nike training app on my smartphone for HIIT (high-intensity interval training).'
  • 'Try dancing around the kitchen to anything vaguely musical - or use a fold-up chair as a ballet barre to follow an online ballet class!'
  • 'We've been using a skipping rope and swingball in the garden.'
  • 'I bought an exercise bike just before lockdown. It has a metal flywheel and magnetic resistance control, which means the bike is pretty much silent in use. I've been pedalling my way through live-streaming DJ sets and Spotify playlists.'
  • 'I've been running next to my seven-year-old daughter on her bike - she's a great pacer.'
  • 'I'm doing 30 minutes a day on an old TacX turbo trainer [bicycle attachment] in my garage. I haven't missed a day and I'm absolutely flying when I head out on the road.'
  • 'I've been having fun with a Powerspin [upper body training device] and my parents are trying it too. It's fun to try to keep the ball spinning and my arms feel much more toned even without doing weights.'

There is, of course, one downside to exercise in the form of sweaty workout clothes. Find out the best ways to keep them looking and smelling fresh with our tips on how to wash your gym gear.

Building the perfect home gym

With gyms across the country currently out of use, you might be considering investing in some exercise equipment to put in the spare room.

Creating your own home gym will save you money on a gym membership (when they open back up), and has the added benefit of being easily accessible.

Popular types of home gym equipment that will give you a good cardiovascular workout include:

  • Exercise bike - use this to strengthen your thighs and hamstrings.
  • Treadmill - use this to work your legs and core.
  • Rowing machine - use this to work your arms, shoulders and legs.
  • Cross trainer - use this to work both your arms and your legs at the same time.

In terms of smaller fitness accessories, it's also worth considering foam rollers, resistance bands, punching bags and skipping ropes. These affordable products can complement your workout routine without requiring you to spend big.

For more details on exercising from the comfort of your own home, take a look at our guide on how to set up a home gym.