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10 easy ways to stay healthy and exercise at home

Lots of us find it easy to build up our fitness over the summer months.

There is time in the evening to walk, jog or cycle, longer expeditions and more challenging activities all seem more inviting and there's the pleasure of swimming when you're all sweaty after exercising.

However, once the clocks go back, the temperature drops and the evenings are dark, the prospect of an after-work cycle, walk or run isn't quite as enticing. We tend to be more tired in the winter and some outdoor activities become dangerous in the dark. Many of us find that year after year, all the gains in fitness that we have made in the summer are lost in the winter, as we huddle in front of our fires watching TV box sets and giving in to the temptation of roast dinners, glasses of wine, sticky puddings and opening the emergency tin of chocolate (damn those Christmas offers).

Ladies stretching in the gym

So why not make this the year the one you break the cycle? A home workout can be quick and effective and can mean that you keep up a lot of the fitness you’ve gained during the better weather. Then, when spring comes and you feel more like exercising outside, you haven’t got to start all over again (which comes with its own inherent set of potential headaches).

What's more, you don't need to buy a whole load of fancy equipment. With Christmas coming up, very few people are inclined to go out in the autumn and spend lots of money on fitness gadgets. Luckily, it's possible to keep fit in your own home with very little expense. In fact, because exercise warms you up, and keeps you warm for some time after you finish, you may find you can economise by turning down your heating (a small benefit but admittedly not the key selling point).

Unlike the gym, with a home workout, you get to choose your own music without having to wear headphones. You can even build up a routine that you do whilst watching your favourite TV programme.

The key thing with exercises to do at home is to put together a routine that you enjoy. You don’t have to do the same one every day - why not develop two or three ten minute routines, with varied exercises? You’re much less likely to get bored, and you can make sure each routine has easy, average and challenging sections.

1. Walk those stairs

If you have a house, then you can start your routine by walking or running up and down the stairs a few times to get your heart going. This is a form of low-impact aerobics. If you live in a flat, there are no excuses. There will be stairs, even if it’s only a fire escape, so use it to kick-start your routine. If you really don’t want to go outside your door, make yourself a step using books or a stool, and step on and off it, building up repeats as you get more muscle.

If you live in a Bungalow or a flat then there are alternatives.

2. Jumping Jack Flash

Star jumps are great exercises to do at home. They work your shoulders and legs and also give you a good cardio workout, because you have to lift your own body weight. Start by standing with your arms at your sides, then jump up and at the same time stretch your legs wide apart to make a star shape. You can then either come back to the starting position, or if you are fitter, go right down to the ground and touch the ground on each side of you. It sounds more complicated than it is, so if you don't know this exercise, take a look at the pictures on the BBC website.

3. Skipping

A skipping rope is a cheap piece of equipment and many people find that they enjoy skipping, almost revisiting their carefree childhood. It's an excellent home workout for your heart and lungs - just be careful that there is nothing in range of a skipping rope that can be knocked over. The NHS recommends a 60 second burst as part of a ten minute routine.

4. Can lifting

There is no need to buy expensive weights. All the upper body exercises you see on the Internet can be carried out using cans, instead of fancy weights. It's amazing how quickly your arms will get stronger and how much difference this makes to tasks such as shopping, carrying your computer on the tube and so on.

Obviously you can substitute the weights in this video for cans or water bottles.

5. Dancing

The great thing about dancing as part of a home workout is that not only does it improve your physical health, it also lifts your mood. It is possible during our dark, damp and cold winters to get into a negative spiral where you feel depressed and out of condition. You comfort yourself with food and drink, then feel worse about yourself and so it goes on.

Dancing, as one of your exercises to do at home, will rapidly improve your fitness, giving you a great cardio benefit, and it will also improve your mood. Many people, when considering dancing for fitness, immediately think of the clubs of their youth and put on whatever they used to dance to in the days when they danced round their handbags (for men, that will be the days when you used to dance, full stop).

Why not try some different kinds of music, instead? You're in the comfort of your own home and nobody can see you. That's the beauty of a home workout. Maybe you've always had a yearning to be a ballet dancer? Put on Swan Lake and improvise - it may be incredibly relaxing. With exercises to do at home, you have nothing to lose but your spare tyre.

6. Not feeling energetic? Try squats!

Place your feet so that they are a shoulder-width apart. You can either have your hands at your sides or, if you need to balance yourself, you can stretch them out in front of you. Bend your knees to lower yourself and make sure your knees are almost at right angles, with your thighs in a line parallel with the floor. You need to ensure that your back is straight and that your knees don't cover your toes. The NHS has a great guide with pictures here.

Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach, loves his squats.

7. Bingo wings blaster

This is one for the ladies. The bingo wings blaster is a routine of exercises that are aimed at getting rid of flabby upper arms. You need to train your triceps muscle - that's the one just above the elbow.

Obviously, press ups are great, but how many of us are fit enough to do a sustained set of them in mid-winter?

Wall press ups have many of the same advantages in building your triceps muscle but are a bit less strenuous.

Type “wall press up” into google to see videos of how to do these.

8. Stay flexible with yoga poses

As well as strength, flexibility is incredibly important in maintaining condition, and during winter, we can be tensing our muscles constantly as we battle wind, rain and cold.

Both men and women can benefit from the gentle stretching that is part of yoga. People have been doing yoga for about 5,000 years, so it clearly has something going for it. Obviously some types of yoga are more intense than others, so when you're starting with exercises to do at home, choose with a gentle version and go on to more demanding variants if you want more challenge.

Use the web to research the type of yoga that will suit you best, from gentle Hatha to hot Vikram.

9. Foot exercises

Feet that have been in sandals all summer are suddenly hidden away in shoes, boots and trainers. Your feet need exercise too, and here’s the good news - you can lie on a recliner, sofa or chaise longue, or even the floor, to do these. With your legs out in front of you, and supported, point your feet and screw up your toes, then release and relax. Turn both feet outwards, then inwards, then relax.

Try the toe pick up - in fact have a toe pick up competition with a friend and partner, and try to stop yourselves laughing. It couldn’t be simpler - just get a pile of small objects and pick them up with your toes. This exercise is great for making your toes stronger and more flexible.

If your feet are hot and aching at the end of the day, try the iced water massage. Put a bottle of nearly-full water in the freezer, allowing room for expansion as the water turns to ice. When it’s frozen, roll your foot back and forth over the bottle. It’s very relaxing, and soothes tired feet.

10. Always warm up and cool down

Remember to warm up by stretching your large muscle groups before you rush into an exercise routine, especially if you have been out in the cold and your muscles are likely to be tense.

Cool down after exercising by doing the same stretches, or a lower-intensity version of the exercise you have been doing.