If you want to improve your fitness but you’re short on time or money (or both) – don’t stress! Fitness fads and workout trends will continue to come and go, but experts now say it’s the simplest fitness moves that are the most effective and enduring.
“People were being healthy long before gyms and fitness bands were introduced,” says exercise physiologist Alex Lawrence from Exercise & Sports Science Australia.
Fortunately, it’s really easy to get into a routine that’ll give you an all-body workout and doesn’t take up much time.
Start doing it and you’ll begin to build strength and it will become easier to work up to the recommended two to five hours of moderate-intensity physical activity every week.
“The key is getting professional guidance at the start so you can go off and work out on your own,” Lawrence says.
Try these four exercises for no-fuss fitness you’ll quickly get the hang of.
This yoga pose strengthens the arms, chest, shoulders and back. If you have a history of lower-back pain or injury however, you should consult an exercise professional before trying it.
Lie face down on the floor, legs out behind you and palms near your chest. Tighten your stomach and gently push yourself off the ground, keeping your shoulders pulled back and hips pressed down.
Hold for 15-30 seconds, depending on your level of strength and experience, then gently lower yourself back to the floor. Repeat 3-10 times.
WHY IT’S GREAT “Yoga keeps you mobile and stable,” Lawrence says. It can also reduce the risk factors for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
HEADS-UP If you’re new to working out, go slowly. Starting off too vigorously can have a negative effect on your body.
SIMPLIFY IT Not ready for Cobra? Another gentle pose to stretch the back is Cat-Cow.
Kneel on all fours, then draw in your belly button as you breathe out and round your spine towards the ceiling and look towards your thighs (Cat). As you breathe in, lower your belly and look up (Cow).
‘Yoga keeps you mobile and stable’
Core strength is essential to staying strong and mobile. That’s why it’s worth learning how to master the plank, which gets a gold star for working your trunk muscles.
To make a plank, lie on your front and prop yourself up on your forearms and toes. Engage your core and hold the position for up to 30 seconds, then carefully lower yourself to the ground. Repeat two to three times. Once you become familiar with the exercise, you can try holding the position for longer.
WHY IT’S GREAT This position recruits a load of muscles on the front, sides and back of your body. Along with tightening your abdominals, it’s great for your back, spinal mobility and posture.
HEADS-UP Make sure your back isn’t sinking or arching upwards. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles.
SIMPLIFY IT Don’t worry if planking on your toes is too hard. “There are multiple progressions you can try instead, such as on your knees with your forearms on the floor,” Lawrence says. As always, go slow and steady.
Want to tone your bum and thighs? Try the humble squat!
Stand with arms out straight ahead of you or folded with your hands holding the opposite elbow and your feet a bit wider than hip distance apart. As you squat, imagine you’re slowly lowering your backside onto a seat.
Keep your head up and make sure your knees are in line with your hips and ankles. Also, hold your back straight, your chest out and your weight anchored through your heels.
Do continuous squats for a minute followed by a 15-second break. Repeat two to five times, depending on your level of fitness.
WHY IT’S GREAT It’s a whole-body strength exercise.
“Doing squats works your buttocks, quads, hamstrings and torso, and builds hip mobility and stability, which is good for lower-back health,” Lawrence says.
HEADS-UP “The key is bending at the hips and pushing your bottom out backwards when you squat down, rather than bending too much at the knees,” Lawrence says.
SIMPLIFY IT For support, use a chair as a guide or squat against the wall to help your back. Get the technique right before doing it on your own.
Swimming, dancing and jogging are all excellent forms of cardio exercise, but for a workout you can do every day that’ll get your heart rate up it’s hard to beat a brisk walk.
“Walking is a great choice for most people,” Lawrence says. It’s very adaptable, so as your fitness increases you can add pace, distance and hills.
To make it more fun, try teaming up with a friend, joining a walking group or listening to music, and try to do 30 minutes at least four times a week.
WHY IT’S GREAT Brisk walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease by 9%, first-time high cholesterol by 7% and first-time diabetes by about 12%, according to a US study.
Plus, cardiovascular fitness gives you a strong, healthy heart and lungs – perfect for giving you an energy boost.
HEADS-UP For an extra challenge, try bursts of jogging in between power walking. If you’re unfit or have a medical condition, discuss it with your doctor beforehand.
SIMPLIFY IT “Break up your walks into short stints,” Lawrence says. Even three 10-minute bursts a day are beneficial, experts say. So ditch the escalator and step to it!