Not everyone is an athlete or even a serious exerciser, but want to work out in order to improve fitness or health. Gyms can be overwhelming and off-putting.
You might be surprised to know that some of the best exercises we can do don't require a gym at all! Our list shows just what you can do without a gym, they will help you get fitter, improve your balance and movement range, along with many more health benefits.
It doesn't matter how old you are or what level your fitness is at, these exercises are aimed at everyone.
1) Yoga - yoga is brilliant to help reduce stress and improve flexibility. It is made up of movements that flow into each other and classes come in all levels of ability, from beginner to advanced. There are lots of classes commonly available, or some great videos online, if classes aren't your thing.
2) Swimming - Has been called the “perfect” workout. The water helps support your body and takes a lot of strain off of your joints. Swimming is brilliant for improving your mood, as well as burning calories. Either go for a few lengths at your own pace or go all out in a water aerobics class.
3) Walking - As we have written about before, the benefits of walking are massive. It is free for a start, but improves cholesterol levels, makes bones stronger and lifts your mood. Good shoes and a pace you can have a conversation at, are all you need.
4) Strength training - Basically, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Strength training can be done without bulking up, it is just about improving the muscle you already have and keeping them strong. Be sure to lift properly and start light. You should be able to do around 10 reps easily, so if you feel you are straining, go for lighter weights. After a week or two lift something a little heavier.
5) Kegel exercises - Ok, so these won’t help you look better, but they will strengthen your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder. Many women become aware of these during pregnancy and make the habit of exercising them. Men, not so much, but the benefits are equal. Simply squeeze the muscles you squeeze when you are needing the toilet, hold for 10 seconds and then release. Work up to 3 sets of 10 a day.
If you do any of these activities and have an aerobic workout for at least 30 minutes a day, you can call yourself an active person. It doesn't have to involve a gym, it just has to involve you.
We often go for the traditional approach to exercise and stick to the tried and tested methods. We jog, run, cycle, weight train and so on, but have you ever thought of trying something new?
Fitness crazes are something we are used to seeing come and go because people can’t help but invent new ways to do things. A lot of sports just modify themselves slightly and create a craze that sticks. Spinning, for example, has become a massive hit and a great way to keep fit.
So what else is there as an alternative for those who want to shape it up?
Hula hooping is a great way to get fit as it raises your heart rate, improves your cardiovascular performance, and will strengthen and tone your core, arms, legs, and back. If you'd like to know more about hula hooping, check out our ambassador Emma Barrett who does hula hooping full-time!
Pole fitness classes have gained a lot of popularity recently as a new way to get in shape. They are a fun and social way of getting fit as well as strong as it is very hard work! Pole fitness will improve your balance and coordination as well as your cardiovascular fitness and it's a great way to spend the evening with your friends. Pole fitness is suitable for both men and women.
If normal yoga isn't enough for you, then you may want to try aerial yoga. By supporting your body weight on an aerial sling, you will be able to achieve yoga poses and deep stretches in a more relaxed way. One of the primary features of using a yoga hammock is its ability to take pressure off the spine and joints as you practice stretches and positions with the support of the sling.
Ballet dancing is classically a great way to keep in shape but it takes a lot of discipline and a lifetime of practice. A ballet barre is a straight bar attached to the wall which ballerinas use to support them while they practice and hold demanding isometric movements. Isometric holds are exercises that you do while not moving (think of the plank.) A modern barre workout is one that has been adapted to suit modern gyms and uses weights and yoga poses to help you achieve a better posture and more toned physique.
Trampolining is another gym-based workout that is gaining a lot of popularity. Using mini-trampettes, these classes are high intensity and fast-paced meaning you are bound to work up a sweat! This is a fairly specialised workout so your local commercial gym may not offer it, but if you go on the look out you will be able to find a gym nearby that offers this type of class. Check out this video of a trampolining class in action!
Exercise is supposed to be enjoyable and it is worth exploring some alternatives whenever you can. The body gets used to the same type of training very quickly, so if you do the same thing at the gym every day you will stop noticing any changes in your fitness and physique.
Leiana grew up on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean and has been practising yoga since her teens. She tells Sundried how important yoga is in her life and how she uses it to ease her anxiety.
How did you first discover your love for yoga?
When I was 17 years old my dad suggested that I start meditation and yoga so I started private sessions with my first teacher Karen Stollmeyer.
What sets yoga apart from other fitness disciplines?
Yoga asks us to dive into the depths of ourselves by focussing on the breath consistently throughout the practice. With different pranayama (breathing techniques) we are able to clear our mind and become calm, realise our centre and use that as a firm foundation to deal with stressors that we encounter in our daily lives. Bringing the breath and the body together, we experience a union.
How has yoga improved your life?
I used to have a lot of anxiety; yoga has really helped me to realise certain thoughts within myself that are unnecessary and that I create my own suffering. Once you are able to see the patterns of your mind, you are able to make positive changes in order to experience a more happy and peaceful life.
How often do you practice yoga?
I practice every day!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of trying yoga for the first time?
Be patient with yourself and the practice. It's not always easy, or sometimes it can seem too easy! Choose a class that's tailored for your needs. If you need to be challenged, choose a class that will do that for you. If you need to rest, choose a more meditative class. Allow the practice to be healing, and a moment of compassion for yourself. It is always good to be challenged, you will find inner growth along the way.
Tell us something unusual we may not know about you:
I grew up in a little fisherman's village on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. My school was on the beach! We used to go at break time and help the fishermen, it was so much fun!
Do you follow a specific diet plan?
I am a vegetarian.
How do you keep your knowledge up to date?
I try to learn something every day, either through reading or looking things up. Learning from others is very important in order to stay humble and be a good teacher as well.
Why work with Sundried?
I love that the clothing is ethical and sustainable; it is in line with my lifestyle and what I want to share with the world!
Favourite fitness quote
"Shaking is weakness leaving the body"
Rosie Underwood’s job is busier than most, as the fashion and beauty director for OK! Magazine she runs a pretty busy schedule and yet amongst the chaotic world of print deadlines, Rosie finds her solace in sport.
Rosie, what sort of things does your role as fashion and beauty director entail?
I produce and style a six-page main fashion shoot every week, I try and test all the new beauty innovations and write three features on Fashion, beauty and wellness. I get all the information I need from launches that take place throughout the week. There’s always something new to learn about and with OK! being a weekly magazine I try and absorb it all like a sponge!
What’s your favourite part of working for Ok!?
I love shooting on location, it means every week is a new adventure and the opportunities to travel make the long hours more than worth it.
When work is busy, how do you use sport to relax?
Yoga has saved me there. Ignoring your body at stressful times is so counter productive. Practicing Yoga means that you can easily rationalise intense work situations as the practice does as much for your mind as it does your body. I’m also a lover of water sports whether that’s surfing, SUPing or sailing. It’s not just the hobbies themselves that relax me, it’s the lifestyle that comes as part of a package deal with them. There’s nothing that makes me happier than driving down to the sea after a busy week and chucking on a wetsuit!
How did you discover yoga and fitness?
I was always athletic and outdoorsy growing up, I even trained to be in the RAF as a teenager! I took a major career turn and when I started out as a celebrity stylist in London, I was only 22 and I became extremely burnt out quite quickly. I wanted to get ahead so I was at every event and up at 5am to either prep or style my next shoot. I didn’t say no to any work. I was eating on the go, running for cardio on concrete as my only form of exercise and getting a maximum of five hours sleep a night. One morning I was on a shoot in The Ritz with Lorraine Kelly and I blacked out! My body had literally had enough of the busy life I was leading and that was my wake up call. I started to really focus on nutrition, I made sure the exercise I did tied into what I love and that it was kind to my body. Yoga was something that kind of manifested out of wanting to give something back to my body. After each class I went too I just felt stronger and happier.
We’ve read your big on ethical brands, why is it so important to be ethical?
You don’t have to be a head in the clouds, tree-hugging hippy to make small changes to your daily choices. Fashion, beauty and sustainability can co-exist and with OK! Magazine selling over 300,000 copies every week, I’ll always do my best to push my readers in the right direction when it comes to making ethical choices. It’s important to me because our own existence relies entirely on our planet being healthy. As a species we’re very smart but very stupid at the same time, we can make everything we need, but how are we going to make our own air once we’ve chopped down every rainforest? I’d love us to be the generation to turn this mess around.
What are your top tips for picking fashionable activewear?
Keep it ethical. Never go for something cheap because it looks good, you have to rely on active wear being way more durable than you would a blouse you throw on for work each day. If a palette works for you in your day wear, the chances are it won’t translate the same way onto skin-tight active wear so always try things on and experiment. Longer leggings always work to elongate a figure and make sure it fits comfortably. That age-old saying is so true, the best thing a girl can wear is confidence, so make sure you feel good in what you’re wearing.
What is your best advice for finding time to stay fit and healthy with a busy job?
There’s a lot to be said for surrounding yourself with people with an equally healthy mentality. I have friends in the city with bags of energy, so we book classes together and enjoy healthy meals, they really spur me on. Getting up half an hour early, even to do 20 minutes of flow at home, getting a sweat on and get your heart rate going at least once a day is great. Even if ten minutes is all you have to spare, use that ten minutes wisely and you’ll notice the differences.
Rosie Underwood wears:
We all know how important it is to stay active in order to keep fit and healthy, but rest and recovery often go under the radar. Rest is a very important part of being healthy so make sure you know how much you should be resting and why.
Why are rest days important?
When we train, we are putting stress and strain on our body so that it has to adapt and change. When you lift weights you are tearing your muscles and it is not until you refuel and rest that your muscles repair and grow stronger. This is why overtraining is such a problem and why rest days are so important. Read our article on overtraining to find out more about what happens when you don't rest properly.
Signs your body is in need of recovery
You’re exhausted despite having had a good night's sleep
If you know you’ve had enough sleep but you still feel exhausted in the morning, it’s a good sign your body is in need of recovery and sleep just isn’t enough. Let your muscles repair by giving them complete rest until you feel more energetic. This could be anywhere from a few days off to a week without training.
Your resting heart rate is significantly elevated
An elevated resting heart rate is a sign of overtraining as your body’s metabolic rate is increased to meet the imposed demands of training. For those who train regularly with heart rate, this will be easy to monitor. For those whose resting heart rate is unknown, the best time to take a pulse for this reading is first thing in the morning, right as you wake up. Continue to monitor your resting heart rate as you awake for the days after training and if it is normal you know you’ve had adequate recovery.
You drink plenty of water but you’re still thirsty
Suffering from an unquenchable thirst is a sign your body is not experiencing adequate recovery. When your body is in a catabolic state (ie. breaking down muscle) it becomes dehydrated. Keep your water intake high to avoid dehydration and give your body time to recover.
You are always aching
Do you feel like your DOMS will never end? If you re-train muscles before they are fully repaired, they will never have the time to recover and grow stronger. It’s normal to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for some time after a good workout, but any more than 72 hours is a sign your body is struggling to recover and you probably need a rest. A deloading week is often added into training programmes to allow recovery and recuperation before returning to regular training frequency.
Consistent training places your body in a constant state of repair and your immune system can suffer the consequences. An increase in illness frequency suggests that your body is in need of recovery.
Tips for ensuring adequate recovery
- Plan rest days. Create a programme with rest and recovery sessions included. Most people plan a training regime but won’t make progressive changes to it or factor in rest. Add recovery days to ensure you get the most from your training.
- Nourish your body. Eat a nutrient-dense diet with adequate quality resources from carbs, proteins and fats. Nutrition helps the recovery process by replenishing the muscle and liver glycogen stores, helping to restore the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, and proteins will assist with muscle repair. This is particularly critical in your choice of post-workout meal.
- Ensure your recovery timing is relative to your sport or exercise. For example, a boxer or fighter will need a significant amount of recovery time in between fights. A light jog or yoga class will, in contrast, only take minimal recovery.
- Avoid self-medicating. Pain killers can mask the pain of an injury or ache and lead you to rush into your next session too quickly, without giving yourself adequate time to repair.
- Have weeks of complete rest. This will give your body time to recover and you will return with a new lease of enthusiasm for your training, with more energy and regained focus.
- Get a massage. Massage can help to relieve tired, achy muscles through potentially helping to break down built up fluid which will help to reduce inflammation and speed up the recovery process.
- Reduce stress. The stress hormone cortisol interferes with your recovery in a big way. Elevated cortisol levels will leave you stressed, moody and can cause a catabolic state where muscle is burned and fat is stored.
How many days a week should you rest?
We all have different bodies and therefore we all recover at different rates. The average person can perform 5-6 tough workouts per week with a day or two recovery. However, athletes can train multiple times per day without rest. The key to knowing when to recover and when to carry on is to listen to your body. Keep track of your progress by writing down your workouts and noticing when you feel run down, or if your progress is stalling.
Never feel guilty about letting your body recover, rest days are just as important as training days and taking a rest day will not halt your progress, instead it will do just the opposite.