How to work out without leaving the house

Health and Fitness
It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s rainy. The last thing you want to do when you get home from work is venture back out into the winter chill to hit the gym or the pavement.

For many people, the hardest part of exercising is building the motivation to actually start doing it. For others, the expense of a gym or buying special equipment or activewear just isn’t in the budget. With more than half of New Zealanders not getting enough physical activity, despite the well-documented benefits of exercise for decreasing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, the added challenges of bad weather and sky-high gym costs can toll the death knoll for the exercise bunny inside you.

But what if you could work out from the warmth of your loungeroom using items you may already have lying around the house?

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none – it burns extra energy, helps reduce stress, and can even help you sleep better and feel better. So here are some everyday items and how you can adapt them for your at-home exercises.

  • Books: Load up a reusable grocery bag or backpack with books to substitute as weights. Or stack a couple on top of each other to use as yoga blocks or as a platform for doing step-ups.
  • Cans or bottles: Cans of tinned food or frozen bottles of water could also substitute as weights. If they’re large enough, you could even use them in place of foam rollers to help with exercise recovery and improving your range of motion.
  • Belts: Try using one of your belts or any flexible cord you have lying around as an exercise strap or a skipping rope.
  • Couches and chairs: Depending on your height, a couch or sturdy chair could be at a good height for doing squats. You could also try using them to do dips, but make sure you first test that they will support you without tipping over or sliding out from under you.
  • Broomsticks: A broomstick, mop handle or something similar can help you with your form when doing bodyweight or strength-training exercises.


We hope these ideas will help you look at the items in your home with a new – and exercise-minded – eye. But if you need a little guidance in how to use these everyday items for exercise or how to put together an exercise routine, there is plenty of information available online apart from websites.

  • Apps: A huge variety of exercise apps can be downloaded for free. Start by searching for the type of exercise you want to do, such as aerobic exercise, resistance training or flexibility workouts. You can be even more specific in your search and look for apps for yoga, pilates or HIIT (high intensity interval training), just to name a few. With so many guides available, it can be difficult to narrow down the one which will be most helpful to you. Think about what you need most when exercising. Do you need instruction on how to do specific exercises? Or do you need the motivational boost of working against a clock or hearing shouts of encouragement?
  • Online videos: If you enjoy following along while watching someone else lead an exercise routine, then online fitness videos may be more your thing. Video sites such as YouTube are not limited to only DIY videos. Forget about building an outdoor deck in just one weekend. Build your heart health instead! There are also plenty of videos by people who have taken at-home exercising to heart and demonstrate using everyday items in their exercise routines.


Remember, if you’re starting a new exercise routine, it’s always best to run it past your doctor first, particularly if you haven’t exercised in a long time or have other health concerns.

Disclaimer: Reference to any product or service does not constitute or imply endorsement by the Heart Research Institute.

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