It doesn't take much

It doesn't take much

easy fitness

It doesn't take much

There’s a certain irony in making new year’s health and fitness resolutions: the time when we try to instigate changes is when many of us, after the ravages of Christmas overindulgence, are feeling at our most lethargic, melancholic and broke.

For some people, this is the motivation they need to adopt a stringent daily workout, but for others, it triggers a wave of despair, causing them to slump back on the sofa with a glass of wine and box of chocolates. If the latter sounds like you, consider these “lazy” ways to strengthen your heart, build your muscles and improve your wellbeing without significant changes to your routine.

Short, sharp workouts

Skipping is one of my favourite exercises. Three minutes of jumping up and down, followed by a minute’s rest, performed five times in a row is said to be as beneficial to your health as running five kilometres.

Nick Mitchell, a personal trainer, suggests a slightly tougher running regime. “Go to the park with a timer. Sprint for one minute, then walk for one minute and repeat. Do this for 20 minutes,” he says. If you don’t want to time yourself, you could also use a tree or a bench about a minute apart as markers.

Ditch the drive

Instead of driving or getting a bus, consider going by foot or bike. An hour’s walking burns 150 to 200 calories, depending on your weight and body composition; steady cycling burns 240 to 350 calories; and running at a pace of 10 minutes per mile burns 300 to 450 calories. You can even run-walk some of the distance and then hop on a bus: start with a 30-second jog, followed by a one-minute walk, and build up to a one-minute run and one-minute walk and so on. Investing in a pedometer or cyclometer can help with motivation.

Take the stairs

Taking the stairs rather than the lift or escalator every day will strengthen your heart, lungs and leg muscles. You burn about 1.5 calories per 10 steps going up and one calorie per 20 going down.

Get a dog

There’s nothing like an enthusiastic dog bounding up at you to encourage you to go out for a walk. Dog owners are a third more likely than non-owners to get the exercise they need, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. If you don’t have or want to own a dog, you could always borrow one.

Stuck at the desk

Build calf strength by placing a stack of printing paper on your knees and moving your heels up and down 30 times. For shoulder strength, extend your arms out with your fists clenched and make 100 small circles in each direction.

Your desk is also a great place for kegel muscle exercises, which are important for both genders as they support the bladder and intestines as well as the uterus in women. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, release them for three seconds, and repeat this 10 to 15 times, three times a day.

You could also invest in a desk with adjustable height so that you can sit for half an hour and stand for the other half. This will reduce any pressure on your neck and lower back caused by slumping at a computer.

Push it to the max

Before you panic at the sound of “pushing it to the max”, this mini training regime will only take you five minutes each morning at most. Exercises such as the plank (which focuses on core strength) or the paleo squat (squatting with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart, with your toes turned out and your back straight to improve your ankle, hip and spinal mobility) will build your strength. Do these exercises once a day and hold them for as long as you can.

Glued to the box

Adding small, manageable chunks of exercise into your day while you are watching television might not sound like a big deal, but over time it will make a difference. Press-ups will build strength in your upper body and core. Do one press-up every minute or, if you’ve done this before, 10 press-ups every five minutes, for 30 minutes in total. Nick suggests doing press-ups throughout each ad break.

Shop like you mean it

Walking around with heavy shopping bags is very similar to the strongman exercise, also known as farmer’s walk. It trains the heart, lungs and postural muscles as well as grip strength. Make sure the weight you are holding is equal in both hands, then pull your shoulders back and down as you walk and brace the lower abdominals.

Balance while you brush

Your balance worsens as you get older. Standing on one leg while you brush your hair or your teeth will improve your ability to sense movement within your joints and recognise your joint position. It should also strengthen the muscles in your foot. Once you can stand for 30 seconds on each leg with-out too much trouble, close one eye. If you are really confident, try closing both — but beware of messy hair and toothpaste on your face.