Throughout lockdown, I’ve found myself stuck in conversations with friends where we all lament the loss of gyms. But, in reality, I don’t lament the loss of gyms because I don’t like gyms at all. In fact, I loathe all forms of exercise: spin class. Pilates. Hot yoga. Cold yoga. Yoga at any temperature. HIIT. Whether it’s because I’m lazy, or I get bored easily, or I’m allergic to working out in front of other people — there’s something about an organised gym class or a big, high-pressure fitness institution that just doesn’t agree with me. And I’m not alone.
“The main reason people fail when they start exercise is that they do something that they are told is good for them, rather than something they can sustain and build upon,” says personal trainer Michael Bennett.
Thankfully, however, there are alternative ways of getting fit that don’t involve breaking a sweat in public or having someone shout at you over a megaphone. In fact, according to Bennett, there are health benefits to almost all physical activities. The key to any activity, though, is volume (how long you practice) and consistency (how regularly you do it). “It might not be fashionable, but consistency is the dreaded word no one wants to hear when it comes to training. Hence why it’s important to do an activity that you enjoy.”
So, what are those enjoyable, COVID-safe activities you can do from the comfort of your own home? From trampolining and pole dancing to breathing (yes!), here are seven expert-approved ways to get fit for those of us who don’t like exercise.
1. Pole dancing
Make like Lil Nas X and dance for the devil because pole dancing is huge right now. Not only is it incredibly empowering for both men and women, but it’s also a great way of building up core and upper-body strength. FKA twigs and Jennifer Lawrence are also fans. So, order yourself an at-home pole dancing kit now (it’s not as expensive as you might think) and sign up for some free classes. High heels optional. For maximum effect, Bennett recommends a 30-minute session, twice a week.
If you loved trampolining as a kid, you’re in luck. Not only is it obviously a fun way of killing time, but it’s also a great way of getting your body in shape. As a low-impact exercise, it can help build up strength, reduce stress and lower blood pressure without the risk of injuries associated with high-impact exercise. This is something you can practice in your garden if you have one or even inside thanks to a wide variety of affordable at-home options. For maximum effect, Bennett recommends a 30-minute session, three times a week.
Have you ever seen a ballet dancer’s body? Precisely. Great for toning and posture, ballet is hugely underrated. “It does wonders for firming up the whole body by focusing on body position alignment,” says Bennett. “I suggest 30 to 60-minute practices, three times a week.” It’s like finishing school but with better shoes. It’s worked wonders for the likes of Alexa Chung, Natalie Portman and Zoe Saldana, and it can definitely work for you. With plenty of online classes available, you don’t even need to have prior experience. Need some inspiration? Follow The Royal Ballet’s Francesca Hayward now.
“If classic dance is not your jam, then you can always go to the other end of the dance spectrum,” says Bennett. Hip-hop, Zumba, freestyling in your pyjamas or whatever it is you move to on TikTok (WAP dance challenge?) — just put on some music and start dancing. Bennett recommends an hour at a time, two or three times a week. It’s fun, it’s liberating and it’s a great way to relieve stress and get those endorphins going.
Yes, breathing really does count as part of your fitness regime, but you have to do it the right way. “Try breathing in for five seconds, hold for two and then exhale for five,” says Bennett. “It’ll be harder than you think to inhale and exhale for the whole five seconds. Repeat the exercise five times and see how you feel before and after.” It’s a great way to regulate yourself, gain clarity, alleviate stress and anxiety, and allow the body to reset. “Just one minute of this a day can have more health benefits than a 60-minute run and is less painful.”
From the playground to your living room, at-home skipping can be a great form of exercise. “You can get a great cardio workout jumping on the spot while improving your coordination,” says Bennett. “It’s a low impact form of cardio since you’re not jumping that high so it’s easier on your knees and hips.” To feel the full effect, Bennett recommends skipping between 45 to 75 minutes at a time, four times a week.
Great for coordination, core and upper-body strength, bad for the neighbours: yes, drumming really can be a great way to work out. “It’s the full-body workout you never expected,” says Bennett. “Sixty minutes of drumming will burn as much as a 60-minute boxing class, but you won’t have to worry about someone hitting you back or spraining your wrist.”