It's time to get fit

It is not the time spent in the gym that is important. A couple of minutes of gradual exercise may just be the first step to a successful fitness journey ahead.
It is not the time spent in the gym that is important. A couple of minutes of gradual exercise may just be the first step to a successful fitness journey ahead.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Making time for exercise can be difficult because of work, family commitments or cost. Here's how to squeeze it in, whatever your schedule.


"Some people think if they can't fit in a 60-minute gym routine, there's no point," says Steve Kamb, a fitness instructor and the founder of training website NerdFitness.

But, for many people, it takes a lot of courage just to get through the door to go for that first run.

Giving yourself 20 seconds to be brave is a great stepping stone. Use it to search for a workout plan online, or even just to walk into the gym and straight back out again, suggests Kamb. "It doesn't matter if you finish the task just yet. Sometimes getting into the gym in the first place is the victory."


Planking engages a number of muscles in the shoulders, back and stomach. Achieving a non-stop 30-second plank is harder than it looks, but planking helps to build a stronger core and improve posture and even flexibility.

Muscle burns more calories than fat, so planking can help you to burn more calories even when you are not working out.


Sprinting for as little as a minute each day can reduce body fat, build muscle and increase the rate at which your body burns calories while resting.

Marathon runners regularly incorporate short bursts of sprinting into training because it drastically improves speed and cardiovascular fitness so that people can exercise longer.

Sprints should be broken into 20-second bursts, so that you are working flat out.

It is also one of the best abdominal workouts you can do - raising your leg at the 45-degree angle required for a proper sprint is equivalent to doing a crunch, and sprinters repeat this movement about 60 times in a 100m sprint.


If your goal is to one day do a pull-up, starting with your grip strength could be an idea, because it is what determines if you fall off the bar.

"There's nothing to stop you from picking up dumbbells and going for a walk," says Kamb. He suggests carrying them like suitcases at your side, an exercise known as "the farmer's walk". Each week, your grip strength will get a little better.


A four-minute workout could help you to silence the voice in your head that says: "I don't want to work out."

Tabata workouts are made up of 20-second intervals of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times, totalling four minutes.

"Often, when people miss one workout, they feel they've lost all their gains. Tabata keeps up momentum and will sustain your muscle growth even when you can't make it to the gym," says Kamb.


Get ready for tomorrow's workout tonight. "Put your alarm clock against the other side of the room, a glass of water by your bed, sleep in your gym kit and put your shoes by your bed," says Kamb.

His reasoning? Everyone wants to be as lazy as possible when it comes to exercising - if you are already in your workout clothes when you wake up, you have eliminated a major hurdle.


Take the stairs - it is great for you. Research shows that stair-climbing improves cardiovascular health and fitness, reduces "bad" cholesterol and can result in moderate weight loss.

"You are raising your weight against gravity. Even going slowly, it's as intense as jogging," says Dr Frank Eves, a senior research fellow in sport, exercise and rehabilitation sciences at the University of Birmingham.

"Climbing four flights of stairs will get your heart rate working at up to 80 per cent of its maximum capacity. When you're feeling breathless, it's because your muscles just got a little bit fitter."

But make sure you walk up - not down. "Climbing stairs is two to three times more strenuous (than walking down)," adds Eves.


Get off the bus or train a stop early and walk home. Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University looked into the benefits of walking for 30 minutes a day in three 10-minute bursts, compared with people fitting in the often recommended 10,000 steps a day.

The former fared better. The researchers put this down to the intensity of the walks - so make sure your walk home is a brisk one.


"Low-intensity steady state" cardio exercise (Liss) is essentially the opposite of high-intensity interval training (Hiit).

It has cardiovascular benefits, as well as increasing and strengthening the legs. The advantage over Hiit is that you can do it for longer.


Avoid getting hungry and you stand a better chance of eating more healthily. Health is as much about what you put in your mouth as it is how you move.

Batch-cook your lunches for the coming week if you want to get ahead - when you are not hungry or rushed, you will make healthier choices.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 20, 2019, with the headline 'It's time to get fit'. Print Edition | Subscribe