One study reported that only 20% of January sign ups still attend after the first month!
Hardly anyone actually keeps going to the gym
Why the poor attendance rates? Most people start with lofty goals, with the best of intentions to go to classes 4 nights a week and again on weekend mornings. But very few people have the time to commit to this, and so believing they need to do huge amounts of exercise to get fitness results, view a more modest approach as pointless, so give up entirely.
But what if you could get more activity into your life without forking out for a gym membership in the first place? After all many people already put themselves in dept at the start of the year from overspending on Christmas presents and festivities, the booking Summer holidays, so adding to this with an expensive (and unused) gym membership seems like a poor manoeuvre to me.
Move more for free
Here’s 10 simple ways you can get more exercise into your life without spending a penny. Will they make you an Olympian? Probably not. But do them all as often as possible and they add up surprisingly fast. Every little really does help.
Notice I didn’t say ‘buy’ a standing desk. Because that costs money, takes time, and you might not have space for it at home or be allowed one at work. Simply place your computer or laptop on a raised surface such as a dressing table or sideboard, and work, shop online or reply to emails while standing up. You’ll burn more calories and your back will definitely thank you. Sitting all day means we’re not using our posterior chain muscles – the back, buttocks, and hamstrings, and they get weak and can lead to backache and hip problems. Standing engages these muscles with hardly any effort on your part.
We know this one and when the choice is between escalator, lift or stairs we know which we should be doing. But what about at home? In my house we have downstairs loo, but I never use it – going to the upstairs bathroom is one more flight of stairs to climb that I take advantage of! And if you’re faced with escalators only (such as on the London Underground), don’t stand on the right – walk quickly up the left hand side and give your legs a fantastic work out – that’s a lot of stairs!
Heavy handbags and rucksacks slung over shoulder are not good at all for postural muscles; they encourage a rounded back and shoulders and create an imbalance between the two sides of your body. In fact in people who always carry heavy bags on the same shoulder you can tell when you do a postural analysis – they’re lopsided!
On the other hand carrying in shopping bags in from the car uses all the muscles in your body to stabilise you. Hold the bags by the handles with your arms hanging down by your sides, with roughly equal weight in each hand, and carrying as many bags as possible. There’s actually an exercise called Farmers Walks that is exactly this, but usually using weights in a gym.
Ok I know I said ‘for free’ but you can get pedometers for under £5 including postage so I think that counts! We all know we should be walking more but do you really know how many steps you take each day? Fitness trackers and pedometers have this brilliant (psychological) way of making you more aware of trying to walk as much as possible. The numbers don’t lie and you’ll find yourself pacing the corridors while on the phone to make sure you hit that 10,000 steps daily target!
This job isn’t nearly so tedious if you know it’s saving you a gym membership and getting your body moving. Put some effort in and give it some welly; you’ll get the job done quicker and the physical benefits will be greater. Stretch up to clean the tops of indoor windows, squat and crouch to wipe the skirting boards or scrub the floor, tone up your shoulder muscles with a good resistance workout wiping and polishing, and hoover and mop at speed to get your heart rate up!
Set an alarm to go off every 15 minutes, and when it beeps get up and do something active. If you’re at work it could be as simple as delivering paperwork to someone’s desk or doing some photocopying, making tea for yourself and a colleague or taking a phone call while pacing outside. At home or in more private areas you can really go for it. I’ve been known to do 10 burpees every 15 minutes throughout the day when it had been raining all week and I had been doing the school run in the car. I was really feeling the exhilaration of exercise by the end of the day, and I definitely was more productive working at home from all the ‘mini breaks’.
We tend to use the phrase ‘Spring Cleaning’ but I prefer to have a good sort through all our ‘stuff’ right after Christmas, as old, broken, unwanted junk gets replaced with shiny new presents. This is especially good if you have kids who a) own a tonne of plastic rubbish they never play with and b) grow out of their clothes fast. You’ll be amazed how all that sorting, bagging, lifting, emptying and tidying involves almost every body movement – bending, stretching, lifting, dragging and carrying. It’s immensely satisfying to suddenly have space in your cupboards once more, and if you give unbroken things to charity you’ll be doing a good turn too.
Really?! What I mean is, do something while you’re watching TV. Alternate bodyweight squats with push ups with sit ups, lie in a plank position, or do some yoga or pilates movements and stretches. It’ll relax you at the same time as tiring your muscles, so you might find you sleep better too.
I would say ‘do some gardening’ but since I have trouble keeping a houseplant alive I’d be a bit if a hypocrite. But weeding, gathering up leaves, trimming hedges and all those ‘don’t need to know about plants’ jobs I can do, and so can you.
There’s a time and a place for a long hot bath, in fact I try to do this if I’ve done a tough workout that day, and I add Epsom salts or Magnesium flakes to the water to help relax my muscles. But the rest of the time stand up, do some body brushing, use a body scrub, and keep moving all the while. You save water too. A tip for a good night’s sleep is to finish with 30 seconds of cold water. It sounds horrendous but the trick is to have the water hot enough most of the time that the cold water is almost a relief. Trust me you’ll have the best sleep of your life.
So there you have it, no excuses needed about lack of time, money for the gym or not owning any equipment, it turns out all the things you need to get more active are already right in your own home!