By now, a lot of you will be taking on some form of detox or healthy eating plan, cutting out the chocolate and cake and switching them for an apple and a banana. Now that might not be the most exciting change to have happened already this year but the benefits of being a little healthier and looking after your body go far beyond what you might think.
Eating the right foods, drinking plenty of water and reducing your intake of some of the sugary snacks we all know and love are just some of the steps we can take as we strive for a fitter and healthier lifestyle. That isn’t all we can do though, right? Exercise plays a massive part in our health as well. Raising the heart rate will contribute to losing a few inches around the tummy, keeping your heart in good condition helps improve blood flow and activity that gets you moving faster makes you feel better.
We spoke previously about detoxing during January and touched on gym memberships climbing at the start of a new year. Some of you may not like the thought of an overcrowded gym with the regulars looking at you wondering why all of a sudden you have decided to invade their space! If the gym isn’t for you, that’s fine. We have a few exercises you can do at home or outside that will help contribute towards you becoming fitter and healthier without splashing out on an overpriced gym subscription…
A very simple exercise that can be done in your home or outside. Stand up tall, then lower yourself slightly and jump in the air raising both of your arms up to shoulder height by your sides and split your legs open so they are shoulder width apart. You body should look like a star in the air! As you begin to descend, bring your arms back down to your sides and your legs closer together just before you land. Repeat this 20 times and then rest. You should feel your heart rate increase as a result performing 20 star jumps. As time goes on and you carry out this exercise 3-4 times a week, you will find that you’ll be able to perform more so keep adding 10 or so every time you decide to work out.
Skipping is another great exercise that is fairly cost effective. You can grab a skipping rope from most sporting goods stores for around £5 and this will be perfect to get your started. To begin, hold the end of the rope in one hand and the other end in the other hand and place the hanging rope in front of your behind your feet which should be roughly shoulder width apart. Begin to swing the rope over your head and as it gets closer to your feet in front of you, jump over it and try to repeat this as often as possible. After a while you will begin to develop a rhythm. If you struggle with jumping, you can always try placing one foot over the rope first and then the other as if you were running over it.
Sit ups are a great exercise that target your abdominal area and you can do them whilst in the lounge when your favourite soap is on! Place your feet under the sofa if possible and roll onto your back making sure your knees are pointing to the ceiling. Place your left hand on your right shoulder and your right hand on your left shoulder and begin to roll your body towards yours knees using your stomach muscles. Once you have come far enough, roll back to the starting position and that will be one sit up. Repeat this 20 times and then rest. As with star jumps and most exercises, the more you do them, the easier they become so simply add more repetitions and you’ll begin to see a difference in stamina.
Press ups are a little tricker as technique is vitally important. These target your chest, shoulders and arms. Start by lying face down on the floor and then place your hands up by your chest and push yourself up making sure your body remains straight from head to heel (you should be in this position with only your hands and toes in contact with the ground). Your hands should be roughly shoulder width apart by now and you then lower your body down to about 6 inches from the ground and push yourself back up. That’s one press up. If you struggle doing these types of press ups, place your knees on the floor with your hands in the same position and raise you feet off the ground, this will make this action a little easier and you will find you can perform more of them.
Squats with a rear leg raise
Squats are a great exercise for toning and firming your glutes and they can be done at anytime in the day, they can even be squeezed in while you are waiting for the kettle to boil or if you’re warming something in the microwave. Stand with your feet hip width apart and sit back as though you are about to sit on a chair until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press your weight back into your heels and then bring yourself back into the standing position.
To intensify the exercise raise one leg straight back behind, squeezing your bum as you lift. Lower the leg and repeat alternating legs. You can also do the same exercise lifting your leg to the side instead of behind as you rise back up to a standing position. Squeeze your bum as you lift. This will work the outer thigh as well as the glutes. Aim for three sets of 15 squats or 20-25 reps on each leg.
The bridge raise tones and defines your bum, engages your abs, strengthens your core and works muscles in your lower back, calves and hamstrings so it is a great all round exercise. Begin by lying on a yoga mat or a comfortable area on your floor. Place your arms by your side with your palms facing upwards. With your feet flat on the ground and shoulder width apart, bend your knees and arch your back lifting your hips off the ground until your thighs, hips and back form a straight line. Squeeze your bum as you lift up. Hold this position and then lower your hips back to the floor. Repeat this 20 times.
To strengthen the back of your thighs try the unilateral glute bridge. Perform the above movement and then hold the bridge formation while you extend one leg into the air pointing your toes to the ceiling. Lower your leg back down to the floor and then lower your hips before repeating the movement with the other leg. Do 12-15 reps on each leg.
The plank helps to tone abs, sculpt your waistline, strengthen your core, improve your posture and strengthen arms and it can be done just about anywhere. It is a great exercise to do in the advert break of your favourite tv programme. For the standard plank get into the push-up position on the floor and bend your elbows 90 degrees underneath your shoulder resting the weight on your forearms. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold this position for one minute and then aim to build up to two minutes.
For an extra challenge try the single-leg plank. Start in the plank position with your weight resting on your forearms and then lift one leg keeping your hips parallel to the floor. Gently lower the leg and repeat with the other leg. Aim for 10-15 reps on each leg.
To work your oblique muscles try the side plank. Lie on one side with your legs stacked on top of each other and with your elbow directly underneath your shoulder. Lift your hips off the ground with your body still in a straight line and resting your weight on your elbow. Raise the other arm into the air and look up to your fingertips. Hold this position for 30-40 seconds and then lower. Repeat two or three times on each side.
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