Red-faced, heart pounding, I flop into a cool-down stretch. “Ahhh, the satisfaction of building up a good sweat!”, I think to myself.
As much as I love and have always loved the feeling of being fit – the energy increase with its mood and mind boosting effects, I do struggle to motivate myself to fit exercise in on top of everything else, especially since having a family. My day seems active and tiring enough without trying to exercise as well, yet my exertions don’t quite produce the same benefits as an exercise routine. Combining exercise with activities I have to do on a daily basis anyway, makes it much easier to achieve, say, 15 minutes of exercise each day. To do this, we need to focus on exercises that produce maximum benefits in a short space of time. Interval training fits the bill. This means working at maximum intensity for 1-2 minutes followed by a longer period of less intense activity such as strengthening exercises. Here are some of the best exercises to incorporate into our daily lives:
These are important as the more muscle we have, the more calories we will burn during exercise.
These can be done while hanging out the washing, ironing or cooking. The correct technique is important here. Practice by sitting down on an imaginary chair. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your back straight. Bend your knees and lower your bottom down, keeping your knees above your ankles as much as possible.
Try these while hoovering. Again, maintain good technique. Keep your back straight and keep your knee in line with your foot. To increase efficacy, add lunges to the side and lunge backwards too.
These can be done while playing with a young baby who is lying on the floor. Start at any level you can – kneeling being the easiest – and progress to a full standard push up.
Try these while listening to the news or a lecture. By doing standard crunches and crunches which incorporate a twist to the side, you will have worked the major abdominal muscles. Be careful not to pull yourself up with your hands, concentrate on using the abdominal muscles, and keep your lower back on the floor. Throughout the day, whenever you remember, tighten your tummy muscles and try to keep them like that for as long as possible; this will add to the benefits of sit ups.
All of the above exercises work a number of muscle groups at the same time and so represent good ‘value for money’!
Additionally, try to do calf lifts while folding clothes for example. While driving or sitting at a computer, clench your bottom muscles as much as you can, hold and repeat.
With all these exercises it’s better to do 10 repetitions properly than 20 with poor technique. Also, to use your time most effectively, do the hardest form of the exercise you can for a smaller number of repetitions, for example do 10 full push ups rather than 50 kneeling.
Whether it’s pushing a buggy to the shops, walking the kids to school, or walking to an appointment, walking can be a great cardiovascular work-out. To maximise the benefits, try to walk as fast as you can for 1 -2 minutes then return to a more comfortable pace for 3 minutes, repeat for a total of 15 minutes. If you wear shoes that are comfortable for walking in most of the time, then you can use unexpected time windows to get some exercise. For example, if you arrive for an appointment but the person you’re meeting is running late, maximise your time by getting in a quick walk rather than sitting around waiting.
Playing with the kids
This is another good opportunity for a cardio work-out. Chase them around the house or garden, do jumping jacks, knee raises, skipping, hopping, high kicks, have races, see who can jump the highest. Try to be active for 15 minutes without stopping, injecting bursts of flat-out activity into this time. Your heart rate should be raised and breathing rate increased – it should feel challenging.
Hoovering with lunges
This can be a good cardio work-out if you inject some intensity and raise your heart rate.
Sometimes exercising can seem like too much trouble – ‘I’ll have to change my clothes, have a shower, it just takes too much time,’ we say to ourselves. Hopefully, such excuses don’t apply to these exercises as they can be slotted seamlessly into the day. Our bodies are an amanah from Allah (SWT) and so we have a responsibility to take care of them. If we do, we will be rewarded with good health and vitality in this life and a much better reward in the next, insha Allah.