The gym can be a daunting place, not just in terms of the financial commitment but also the sight of other, often-much-younger and fitter people who look completely at ease with the equipment. But don’t worry, it’s perfectly possible to improve your fitness and health with these home workouts.
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They are all bodyweight exercises, i.e. they use only your own bodyweight to burn calories, build strength and fitness, but feel free to add weights if the exercises are too easy. You can buy free weights (strap-on weights or light dumbbells) or simply use what’s in your kitchen - a couple of tin of baked beans or two small bottles of water will do perfectly.
These are all quick home workouts, so to maximise the effects the exercise moves are intended to be taxing – you may find that you can’t complete the full number of repetitions or sets at first. But don’t worry, just build up your fitness slowly and stop to rest whenever you feel like it’s getting too much.
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The wall is your friend when it comes to building lower body strength.
Lean against it with your back with bent knees, and lower your legs until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Hold that position for a count of 30 or as long as you can manage before it begins to feel as though you might lose control. This works your thigh muscles, quadriceps, calf muscles as well as your abdominal muscles. Do 10-12 repetitions, taking 30 seconds or so between each one.
Now do some lunges, which will work the same set of muscles in a more dynamic way as you are moving rather than simply holding the position. With your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips, take a big step forward with your right leg then lower your back knee so it is nearly touching the floor. Rise up again, then do the same with the left leg.
It’s very important to make sure the foot of whichever leg you lead with is in front or directly below your knee (of the same leg), otherwise you risk injuring your knee. Do 10-12 repetitions (one set), swapping sides, and do three sets.
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You can’t beat a press-up (or push-up) for firming up your arm muscles, as well as strengthening your chest muscles. It’ll also target your abdominal muscles too.
Lie face-down and place your hands at chest-height, keeping your elbows to your sides. Now raise your entire body so that only your hands and toes are touching the floor, aiming to keep your body as straight as possible.
If you can’t raise your entire body off the floor, simply raise your upper body until you’ve gained enough muscle to do a full press-up. And if that isn’t doable you can do a press-up against the wall instead, which taxes your muscles less.
The bench dip is excellent for working your triceps (the muscles that help you look good in a sleeveless top) and will also strengthen your abdominals.
Sit on a chair (or bench if you have one in the garden) and rest your hands next to your thighs holding onto the seat. Now slowly move your bottom off the bench and lower your hips. You should feel your arm muscles working hard to hold you there. Be careful not to lower your body too much – you want to feel your muscles working but there shouldn’t be any pain.
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One of the advantages of a gym workout is that you’re often motivated to push yourself harder - the music, the sight of others working out as well as the machines themselves telling you how many calories you’re burning and so on, really help to get you working up a sweat.
At home, you can try channelling any anger you may have into punching. Punching is incredibly effective at toning flabby upper arms and it’s also a great way to release stress.
Simply focus your irritation or frustrations at an imaginary punchbag about a foot or 30cm in front of your face and punch at it. Keeping your left arm bent and with your fist held to your chest, start with your right fist at your shoulder and move that fist forward in a straight line to punch, then bring it back again. Punch repeatedly at high-speed aiming for 30 punches, now switch to the other arm.
Now get those legs moving. With your legs wide apart (while still feeling comfortable), lightly jump from one foot to the other, keeping a regular rhythm. Count to 30, then switch to jumping on the spot for a count of 10. Now simply jog on the spot for a count of 30, then repeat the entire exercise. Do the entire exercise five times. Varying the leg movements in this way helps you keep going as you don’t get as fatigued as you would if you simply did five minutes of the same move.
To really give it your all, combine the punching exercise, above, with the jogging exercise. Punch with the right hand each time you land on the right foot during the jumping side-to-side part (same with the left), then during the jogging part you can punch left-right left-right at speed, rest your arms during the jog, then repeat.
Finish off with some jumping jacks. Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides, then jump by moving your legs out to the sides at the same time as raising your arms above your head. Repeat 10-12 times.
After your home workout, it’s now time for a rest and a cup of tea!
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