Shape up: 10 ways to get fit without spending hours on a treadmill

 

New Year may be a time for taking stock of everything in our lives, but it's our health and fitness that are the focus of our most penitent promises. Though we ignore dust thickening on our trainers during the festive season, January demands action. But before the dutiful search for your gym pass, it's worth considering that if your mind-numbing treadmill routine hasn't worked thus far, it's probably time to try one of the ever-multiplying alternatives for getting – and staying – active.

Matt Roberts, personal trainer to the Prime Minister, believes that the standard gym offering simply isn't enough to keep most of us on track: "For a long time we have accepted the lazy approach to running gyms – you pay whether or not you turn up and no one cares either way. But the biggest global fitness trend we're seeing is for specialised one-on-one or group training, because people are realising the one-size-fits-all, solo gym work-out doesn't deliver the experience or results they want."

Even if you can't afford to enlist a personal trainer, Roberts believes there are key elements to a successful fitness regime that can be found in a host of other activities: "Social contact is a huge part of it, so I'm all for group activities, whether it's five-a-side football or military fitness in the park – whatever inspires you and creates a responsibility to turn up. Variety is also vital, for the body certainly, but also mentally. And, finally, setting goals is something I constantly do with my clients as training for a specific event is always good."

So, smug in the knowledge that it's not your fault that you visited your gym only seven times in 2011, take heart and have a look through this selection of new ways to get moving in 2012 that are more inspiring than half-an-hour on the cross-trainer. But remember – reading doesn't burn many calories, sadly.

1. Rush Hockey

Best For: Thoroughly Good Sports

If the word "hockey" summons memories of that extraordinary part of the school week when bullies were licensed to beat up the rest of us with sticks, you won't be enthused by the England Hockey Board's drive to get grown-up men and women to rediscover the game. If, however, you have fonder memories of the team spirit and healthy physical rivalry that often vanish from life post-school, you'll be pleased to hear that the game's latest incarnation delivers all that while being infinitely easier to fit into adult life, thanks to smaller teams, shorter playing times and the option to play indoors or out. Stick and ball remain unchanged. And beginners are welcome.

For more, see rushhockey.co.uk

2. Mixed Martial Arts

Best For: Aspiring Superheroes

Most of us can call to mind a situation in which a fantasy version of ourselves would have taken care of business by breaking out a few ninja moves. But back here on Earth, for growing numbers of participants, mixed martial arts – a combat sport that is a mixture of styles from Brazilian jiu-jitsu to kickboxing – is about getting a full-body work-out, not transforming oneself into an ultimate fighter. You needn't get within grappling distance of anyone else to receive the benefits of the training, either. Khalid Ismail, leading British MMA fighter and founder of Lion's Den Fitness Centres, has seen a big increase in uptake, particularly among women: "It offers incredible physical and mental benefits, from increased confidence and energy levels to improved co-ordination and weight loss." Ismail is also keen to stress, vis-à-vis cage-fighting eight-year-olds, that in the right environment MMA can be a force for good among youngsters, teaching discipline and self-restraint.

3. Circle Rules Football

Best For: Aesthete Athletes

Physical and mental prowess aren't mutually exclusive, but for anyone who excelled in the classroom but not on the school playing fields, there's something gratifying about recent moves by artier types to reclaim sport via street games; Circle Rules Football, for example, which was born out of a university drama thesis. This isn't to say it's high concept: two teams play with a super-sized ball, which can be kicked or handled around a central set of goalposts. You score by passing the ball through the posts, the direction depending on which team you're on. Like many street games taking place at dedicated festivals or one-off events around the world, Circle Rules is about mixing things up so everything is new and nobody has the advantage.

For more, follow @circlerulesuk or see fire-hazard.net

4. Fusion Fitness

Best For: Muscle Multitaskers

Once, a single form of exercise at any one time was more than enough. These days, however, hectic schedules demand the total work-out be squeezed into a single session – hence the raft of emerging fusion approaches. If it's the mind-body connection you've been missing, you'll like the holistic approach of Meditation in Motion, new to the programme at London's Third Space gyms, which mixes body conditioning with guided meditation. If you remain more concerned by body than soul, opt for one of the ever-increasing pilates hybrids – piloxing (with boxing), cardiolates (with spinning), rebounder pilates (with trampolining) – which combine its core strengthening with vigorous calorie-burning. Or, if you're a cynic, an opportunity to lie down for a bit in between bouts of busting your guts. Check out your local pilates studio for options.

5. Urban Poling

Best For: Reconstructed Ramblers

Unless you're a natural-born flâneur, it's hard to get your head around walking as a dedicated form of exercise. It's just too similar to that thing you do when you get off at the wrong bus stop. Nordic walking, or "urban poling" as its racily called in some parts, solves this by providing you with some gear – two hand-held poles to be exact – to make you feel purposeful. Of course, you may feel it makes you look a bit silly. But you'd be entirely wrong, since those poles are what turn a workaday walk into a full-body work-out by engaging the upper body and almost doubling the calories burned. If you remain unconvinced, it's worth noting that Matt Roberts arranges sessions of this fast-growing activity for his clients, and if it passes muster with the man who shows no mercy to the PM, there must be something in it.

6. Eco exercise

Best For: Weekend Warriors

Ever found yourself on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym contemplating a view of a car park and wondering how the human race came to this? Then get thee to a woodland glade and start channelling Bear Grylls. Bushcraft and survival courses have been popping up all over the UK and, while they're primarily aimed at teaching back-to-basic skills such as firecraft, foraging and shelter-building, expect a fair degree of exercise as an added bonus. Bruce Ferguson, who runs courses in the beautiful wilds of Kielder Water & Forest Park, reckons it's an all-round work-out for body and soul: "One activity we incorporate is green woodwork – turning wood on a pole lathe. You can lose several pounds easily doing that regularly. And, of course, it's outdoors, working with a wonderful natural material; you definitely commune with nature."

For more, see visitkielder.com

7. Multi-terrain racing

Best For: Short Sharp Shockers

If you fancy the adrenalised action of a large-scale fitness event, a new wave of souped-up obstacle courses arriving in the UK this year should test your mettle without troubling your attention span. Pitched for the semi-fit as well as the super-fit, events such as Warrior Dash (warriordash.com) and Tough Mudder (toughmudder.co.uk) are more quick thrash than marathon, and promise a mix of physical challenge and fun (skewed towards the latter). That might sound contradictory when mud tunnels, icy water, 12ft walls and shock-wires are involved, but, in contrast to similar events aimed at a more hardcore crowd, the emphasis is on entering with mates, donning silly costumes and dragging each other to the finish line – where the festival atmosphere continues in the form of beer and bands.

8. Blokarting

Best For: Free Wheelers

Though it sounds off-puttingly like something Jeremy Clarkson may have invented, the appeal of blokarting, a go-karting/land-sailing hybrid, lies in its inclusivity. All ages and levels of fitness can get involved; it's simply a question of choosing your terrain, wind speed and the kind of event as to whether you get a gentle run-around or a thrills-and-spills race. In part, its broad appeal is due to the fact that it's technique rather than brute force that's key to blokarting success, but since it works the upper body alone you can expect to feel as if you've put your arms and shoulders through their paces. It also makes this sport one of the few in which people with different levels of mobility can compete on equal terms.

For more, see theblsa.com

9. Padel Tennis

Best For: Rebel Racqueteers

If mixing things up is the key to keeping both brain and body engaged, padel (paddle) tennis – massively popular in Latin America, hence the Spanish name – ought to be just the thing for people who know their way around a tennis or squash court. A mixture of the two games, the serve is underarm, it's played in doubles with a smaller, solid paddle and a slightly depressurised tennis ball, and the ends of the court are enclosed so that the ball can bounce off and stay in play. All of which make for a fast-paced game that will force you to rip up your usual on-court rulebook. Although facilities remain limited in the UK, David Lloyd plans to introduce the sport into selected clubs this year.

For other venues, see padelfederation.co.uk

10. CrossFit

Best For: Urban Cavemen (and Women)

Some days you wake up and feel as if you just don't have it in you to wrestle a woolly mammoth. Perhaps it's time for you to reconnect with your prehistoric self. A relatively recent arrival here, CrossFit is a cult hardcore programme in the US, where it's the preferred work-out of people who follow the Paleolithic diet (think very few carbs, intermittent fasting and a tonne of red meat). CrossFitters exercise in small groups – adding to the tribal feel – and follow an intense, constantly varied regime of lifting and gymnastics, the idea being that you're ready for anything nature throws at you. Not sure whether that includes placating a vegan at a Paleo dinner party.

For more, see crossfit.com

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering