Work it at home

By Michelle Coursey

Wii Fit. Photo / Supplied
Wii Fit. Photo / Supplied

Sometimes the prospect of getting fitter, healthier and losing weight just seems too hard. There are gyms to join, a shopping list of strange ingredients to scout the city for and meetings at inconvenient times with personal trainer types.

But there are some ways to start shedding the odd kilo and tone muscle without having to leave the house or even your own lounge. Here are five top ways to become a slimmer, healthier couch potato.

GET A BUDDY

One of the best things you can do to help you stay on your quest for a healthier lifestyle and weight loss is to get a partner, family member or friend to join you. Research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 2008 discovered exercising with a friend or partner gets the best results as opposed to those attempting to do it alone, and surveys have shown the majority of people who want to lose weight feel the mission would be easier if they have the support of a close friend or loved one.

Do a virtual workout

Gyms can be expensive, sweaty and pressure-filled places for some people, but if you have got internet at home, you can avoid the stress of signing up without losing the benefits of regular workouts. Many websites offer free workouts and exercise tutorials that you can easily do in your lounge, study or bedroom. Check out exercisetv.tv which has instructional videos you can follow for yoga, aerobics or simple weights exercises. You can also search YouTube (youtube.com) for the kind of workout you want with hundreds of free options. Bookmark the videos or find new ones and do them whenever you like without having to dress up in lycra. Just remember to check with a medical professional before undertaking anything too different from your usual exercise routines.

Do your chores

Staying at home for the day doesn't have to mean staying on the couch. There are many activities you can do to help speed up weight loss and burn through fat without fancy gadgets, all while getting the household chores done. Spend 30 minutes mopping or vacuuming the floors vigorously to burn off up to 150 calories - the equivalent of a Sante chocolate bar (25g). Head to the backyard to blast through even more, as gardening and mowing the lawn for half an hour will get rid of up to 250 calories - approximately one bag of peanut M&Ms.

Play video games

It may seem like dodgy advice, but studies have shown that the new brand of active video games, such as Wii Fit and Wii Sport from Nintendo, produce a cardio workout by increasing the heart rate, oxygen intake and perceived exertion of gamers. Research by the American Council on Exercise found doing the actual activity will always be better, but that participating in Wii sports games will give better fitness results than playing Space Invaders from the couch.

If you're looking for the best benefits try high-energy boxing, tennis and baseball, which are the most effective at increasing energy expenditure due to their fast, higher-impact nature.

Write a diary

A food diary, that is. While pretending you didn't just inhale a packet of Jaffas may feel like the best way to deal with the breach of a healthy diet, research has proven that people who write down what they eat often lose more weight than those who don't. In one study of 1600 overweight people, those who kept food records six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept records for one day a week or less. The trick? Be honest - write down everything you eat or drink in a food journal, and how much of it you consume, and take the time to review it at the end of the day or week. You'll be able to identify patterns of unhealthy eating and be accountable for what you put into your body. Even better, get someone else to have a look at it every now and then.

Get a cyber trainer

Can't afford the time or the cash for a personal trainer? Try a free online training service that is specially designed to coach Kiwis in achieving their exercise goals.

The ACC Activesmart site will give you a personalised exercise schedule for you to achieve any goal you like in running, cycling or walking - whether it's running a half-marathon, entering the Tour de France or walking for two hours at a time. It will work out a schedule for your exercise routines, and give handy tips to help you along the way, all supplied by expert trainers. Plus it offers extras, such as stretching advice, tailored nutrition plans to accompany your training and expert answers to your questions.

So get planning your weekly routine whenever you are ready to.

DVDS TO SWEAT FOR

Fat Burning Workout for Dummies

If you're easily intimidated by jumping around with strangers in aerobics classes, check out this DVD for instructions on how to do the moves. From $31.99, www.fishpond.co.nz.

Zumba Fitness

A latin dance craze that has swept the world, Zumba is the perfect option for people who want a little tango with their toning. The official workout DVDs come in a pack with toning sticks and a heart rate watch. From $149.99, available from the The Warehouse.

The Hotpants Workout

Get instruction from a choreographer to the stars with some high-intensity dance workouts. This DVD focuses on toning and losing fat from the bum, legs and stomach, all in aid of getting a hotpant-ready body for summer. From $11.99, www.mightyape.co.nz.

Yoga Journal

If you aren't looking for a cardio workout, but still want to stretch and tone, try the series of Yoga Journal DVDs, which are approved by the respected international yoga magazine and website. Try the Complete Beginner's Guide if you are new to it, or Strength and Toning if you have already mastered the basics. From $36.95, for sale at Whitcoulls and on selected websites.

Stott Pilates

International pilates organisation Stott has a huge range of DVDs to sculpt, strengthen, relax or energise. If you're pressed for time, get the Express Series DVD, which has short morning, relaxation and revitalising workouts for a quick pick-me-up. From $19.99, www.mightyape.co.nz.

- Herald on Sunday

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