Tanya Sweeney: It takes some motivation to do tricep dips during ad breaks

Trick to successful exercise at home is realising you don’t need the pricey gear

The Ideal Home Show stands often run a gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous but one concession in particular appeared to have everyone talking at the RDS last weekend.

In one corner of the extensive “wellness” section, a woman dutifully demonstrated an indoor “endless” pool for four days straight. Much like an oversized bath, the endless pool is like a treadmill you get wet on: a harness keeps you in position as you swim. People were entranced. I hear that by weekend’s end, sales of the endless pool were as healthy and hearty as their demonstrator.

The contraption was sizeable – at least a few metres cubed – prompting me to wonder where exactly in a regular home it would live. It would easily take over any large room or garden space. It just wouldn’t work in my bijou space but even if I did have room for it, it would end up like the fitness apparatus that came before it.

I learned the hard way that the mere having of gym equipment will not make you fit

In a fit of good intentions, I once bought a stationary bike that in time became a clotheshorse. Next came an elliptical machine that a drunken friend accidentally broke at a party. That lived on in its busted state in the spare room for a good few months; a visual signifier that the only Olympics I’m ever likely to end up in will be the Procrastination Olympics.


I learned the hard way that the mere having of gym equipment will not make you fit. A treadmill taking pride of place in the house doesn’t speak of your athletic prowess. In my case, they serve as a grim and constant reminder: “why don’t you use me? Ever?”

I understand the appeal of home fitness. Cut out the early morning schlep to the gym, and you’ll probably work out more, right? Um, wrong. In my mind, home is “sanctuary”, a place to relax and unwind and shake off the vagaries of the day. The last thing I want to be doing is more stuff that feels like work. Some people are able to work out at home: others need the watchful (read: bossy) eye of a trainer to get motivated. I’m certainly in the latter camp.

Yet I appear to be in a minority: more and more people are ditching expensive gym subscriptions. Yet it turns out the trick to successful exercise at home is realising that you don’t need all the pricey gear. You want to be buff, not broke. Those in the know have bought one small, portable item – a resistance band, a kettle-bell, hand weights, a foam roller.

In just 20 minutes, three or four times a week, results can be achieved

Unlike a bulky rower, it can be neatly incorporated into daily life, whether at home or not. And once you escape the mindset that the living room is for couch potato carry-on, making a home happier and healthier becomes easier than you think.

YouTube is replete with workouts that can be done with dumbbells and kettle-bells. A friend swears by a mini trampoline, which stores away nicely. Rebounding, as it's called, is particularly effective cardio exercise, thought to combat sagging skin, low metabolism, low energy and even cellulite with just 30 minutes a day. No wonder space agency Nasa officially reckons it's the perfect form of exercise.

Trainers have begun busting a long-held myth: that getting fit requires hours of repetitive exercise, gym membership and equipment. The same results, they say, can be achieved with short, sharp and highly intense workouts at home. In just 20 minutes, three or four times a week, results can be achieved. The best bit? No one need know if you’re wearing your grotty old tracksuit.

At the Ideal Home Show, TV presenter Kathryn Thomas, herself no stranger to regular workouts, let slip a few wily home fitness tips. "When there's an ad break on TV, you can do tricep dips on the edge of the sofa, " she said.

“Whenever I have something cooking in the microwave in the kitchen, I squat against the kitchen door for however long that is.” she added. “ The only piece of equipment I have is a resistance band, and that comes with me if ever I’m spending time away at a hotel.”

Another woman, Thomas recounted, was smart enough to do her workouts in the children's playroom, incorporating quality time with the kids into her exercise sessions. Word has it that she occasionally uses the children as weights, and they love it. It takes a special motivation to think about tricep dips during the ad break for Gogglebox, but as habits go, it's a relatively easy one to get into. Certainly beats getting shouted at in a bootcamp.

I suspect that this is precisely the key to ongoing success: incorporating activity into daily life and not making it a “thing” that clutters the house. In fact, a new study claims that doing housework can be as good for our health as going to the gym.

Apparently 30 minutes of scrubbing the bathroom will burn 200 calories

Canadian researchers recently found that whether you’re walking to work or simply doing the gardening, the form of physical activity is irrelevant, so long as the half-hour period of exertion is completed somehow.

The study looked at 130,000 people in 17 countries and found that no matter what form of exercise they chose to do, being physically active for that small amount of time every day extended lifespan and significantly reduced illness.

Household tasks or gardening will not only stretch and toe muscles, but they’ll also help you burn up to 315 calories an hour. Apparently 30 minutes of scrubbing the bathroom will burn 200 calories, while 30 minutes of carrying shopping bags home will burn 190 calories. Likewise, 30 minutes of making beds will reportedly burn 130 calories. Time to start vacuuming, I reckon.