Getting more exercise is something most of us could do with, whether it’s to lose weight, improve heart and lung health, increase strength or simply for stress relief. But in reality getting to the gym or classes isn’t always convenient whether it’s busy work schedules, childcare, or the cost that’s standing in our way.
But with a few key exercises, you can get a great workout at home, and in warm weather you can take your workout mat outside and top up your vitamin D at the same time!
Humans weren’t meant to be locked up in dark, artificially lit and heated (or cooled) buildings from morning until night. If you’re feeling a little sluggish or finding your energy lags during the day, try an outdoor workout and you’ll very likely see huge improvements in your overall health and vitality.
Why exercise outdoor?
You burn more calories when exercising outside
Unless you live in a very hot area, lower temperatures outdoors will mean your body burns more calories to keep you warm, plus wind resistance and uneven grounds add extra challenges for your body to work against.
Plus there are so many opportunities and resources (all free!) outside you might not have considered using in a workout. For example park benches, monkey bars or steps and slopes. Some parks even have dedicated trim trails that are a fun but challenging obstacle course.
Exercising outdoors improves your mood
A 2011 study found that outdoor exercise was associated with greater decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression when compared to indoor activity. A 2010 study showed improvements in mood and self-esteem after just five minutes of exercise outdoors. Plus, fresh air and increased oxygen releases serotonin, the feel good hormone.
Exercising outdoors gives you better focus and concentration
Kids with ADHD had better concentration after a walk in a park than the same amount of time walking in a city. It’s likely to be exactly the same for adults, especially for people who have desk bound jobs where they are stuck indoors sitting for most of the day.
Exercising outdoors keeps your Vitamin D topped up
The majority of our vitamin D comes from sun exposure rather than through food. Vitamin D is important for skin and bone health as well as mood and metabolism, so being deficient is not going to make you feel your best. Getting some sunshine, even if the sky is overcast, is better than staying indoors all day.
Exercising outdoors gives you more energy
A 2009 study from the University of Rochester found that 20 minutes outside can increase energy as much as a cup of coffee!
Exercising outdoors makes it more likely you’ll continue exercising
Exercisers who worked out outdoors declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date than gym goers, as reported by a 2011 survey. Plus, the eve changing environment, either by location or simply the weather and who else is in the area around you, provides new stimulation and interesting surroundings, so you’re less likely to get bored.
How to exercise at home with no special equipment
The following exercises need no equipment and can be done anywhere. Just clear a space at home or on the garden so there’s nothing to trip over and do as many of these as you can. Just 10 minutes a day will yield improvements in strength and fitness, and you can extend this time as you progress.
Begin with a warm up by jogging on the spot and doing jumping jacks for 2-3 minutes to warm your body and get your heart rate up, then doing some dynamic (keeping moving) stretches, twists and bending at the joints to lubricate joints and individual muscles. A quick search on YouTube will bring up numerous videos if you need a visual demonstration. You’ll find my exercise demo videos on YouTube here.
5 ‘No equipment’ exercises to do in your garden:
These target the leg muscles while requiring you to engage your core (tummy and back) muscles for stability. Get as low as you can without lifting your heels, and squeeze your bottom on the way up.
Stand with your head facing forward and place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Sit back and down like you’re sitting into a chair, lowering your thighs to as parallel to the floor as possible, with your knees over your ankles.
Return to standing.
2. Reverse crunches
Toned abs aren’t all about hundreds of sit ups, in fact doing this is imbalanced and may cause back problems. A variety of exercises that engage your core muscles in different ways is both safer and more effective.
Lie on your back with the flats of your feet pointing to the ceiling and knees slightly bent.
Use your core muscles to lift the lower half of your torso off the ground, raising your legs higher in the process.
Lower your legs in a controlled manner to their starting position, and repeat for as many as you can.
3. Press Ups
The equipment-free version of gym favourite the barbell bench press, press-ups can be very effective too. For an easier version begin with your knees touching the ground, or to make it harder raise your feet behind you on a low bench, step or chair.
Lie on the floor facing down and lift your body up so it is supported by your hands and feet, shoulder width apart.
Lower your body until your chest nears the floor but doesn’t touch it.
Return up to the starting position by pushing your hands into the floor to raise your body.
4. Mountain Climbers
A great way of getting your heart rate up when you can’t get out of the house, these can be done anywhere. Make sure you’re wearing suitable shoes so you don’t slip, and keep your back as straight as possible.
Face the floor, your body being supported face down by your hands and feet.
‘Run’ by lifting your knees forward one at a time as fast as you can.
Keep going for a minute or as long as you can, rest for 30 seconds then repeat.
This is an ‘isometric’ exercise in that you’re contacting muscles to stay still rather than move. It uses your whole body, and is a great one to do in front of the telly if you don’t mind listening rather than watching – you need to keep your neck in line with your spine (so facing the floor) to avoid neck strain.
Lie on your front in a straight line then lift your body so that you are being supported by your toes and your forearms touching the floor, your body parallel to the ground. Stay there for as long as possible without allowing your middle to dip.
End your workout by stretching out each muscle, holding for 30 seconds. If you can go for a walk straight after your workout it will help clear lactic acid and you won’t ache as much the next day.