For a long time, we’ve known that being sedentary is bad for our health, but now a new study has shed a worrying light on the true toll that all that sitting down can take on our bodies.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it causes almost one in every 14 deaths.
The researchers found that some 7.2% of deaths around the world are attributable to physical inactivity, and this rises to 7.6% when only looking at deaths caused by heart or blood vessel disease.
It can be hard to find the time or motivation to take a home fitness class, but being physically active is a lot easier than you think.
Whether you’re a busy parent, you’re working from home or are an older adult, here are some gentle but effective exercises you can do on your next tea break.
1. Lunge it out
Lunges are bodyweight resistance exercises that can help you to sculpt a stronger lower body and core. They’re great moves to do in the kitchen, as you don’t need lots of space to reap the benefits.
“To perform a lunge, simply stand feet hip-width apart and stride one leg forward,” says yoga instructor Chatty Dobson. “Lower the body down, with control, into a lunge position with the knee roughly at a right angle.
“The heel of the back leg should lift to allow the lunge action, and your knees should be in line with your toes, with your front heel to the floor. After a beat, push through your thighs and drive upwards to return to the start position.”
Once you’ve built up some basic leg strength, Dobson says you can try pulsing at the bottom of the lunge for an extra Pilates burn.
2. Incline push-ups
Think of your kitchen worktops as your own personal barre – that’s the handrail that runs around the room that you often see in ballet studios.
“Once you’ve popped the kettle on, you could use the countertop as a space to perform a half press-up, as it’s the perfect height,” says personal trainer Rhian Cowburn. “Lots of people struggle to do a full press-up, so this is a really lovely way to build up strength.
“Put your hands on the kitchen counter, slightly wider than shoulder width, and align your feet so that your arms and body are completely straight. Bend your elbows to lower your chest, making sure they’re in line behind you, rather than sticking out to the sides.”
She adds: “With your chest forward, push back up again to the starting position and repeat.” Cowburn says to try doing three lots of eight exercises with a short rest in between.
3. Arm circles
Arm circles are a gentle way to get your blood pumping, and they can help to build muscle tone in your shoulders, triceps, and biceps.
“To do this move, simply put your arms out into a ‘T’ shape and rotate them in small circles clockwise,” says Cowburn. “A minute of circles will really start to burn the arms and shoulders.”
For an extra challenge, you could also hold some tins in your hands, as this will add extra resistance to the movement.
4. Sit to stand
Squats fire up the muscles in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, and they also help to build long-term mobility which is really important in older adults.
“Many people do squats in the gym, but you can do them at home with a kitchen chair at any time,” says pilates instructor Hollie Grant.
“Start by sitting on a chair, feet hip-width apart, with your arms raised out in front of you. Take an inhale, and as you exhale, engage your glutes, drive the weight into your heels and stand up. Inhale at the top and then exhale to reverse it, returning to seated.”
Grant says that this exercise encourages good technique, and the chair can be a really useful prop as it allows you get into a lower squat, knowing that there’s something there to catch you, should you fall.