Want to get in shape but don’t have time to exercise? Unfortunately, there is no magic pill, no matter what the second-rate ads on social media tell you.
We won’t preach to the converted. Doctors know the importance of exercise for physical and mental health, but with busy shifts and unsociable rostered hours, it’s hard to fit it in a leisurely hour at the gym.
But you don’t always need to head to the pool or do an hour’s spin class to get your body moving – here’s a few simple exercises you can do at home (or even in the office), with minimal equipment.
Yoga isn’t just for holidaymakers in Bali and skinny people on Instagram. Yoga is an ancient exercise which focusses on slow, strong movements and controlled breathing. Some forms of yoga can be more intense, but here’s also more gentle practices which can be done in the office without breaking out in a sweat. It’s great for core strength and once you know a few moves, you can squeeze in a 10-minute practice on a lunch break or by waking up a little earlier.
Try YouTube yoga sensation Yoga with Adrienne, she’s got easy-to-follow sessions as short as 10 minutes, right up to 30-minute gut busters and hour-long gentle practices that are ideal when you want to chill out after a big shift.
Bike or walk to work
Doctors Richard Stephenson, Gareth Andrews and Dan Trevena shared with us some of their training tips as they prepared for their epic expedition across Iceland. One we liked was very simple – cycling or walking to work wherever possible.
It was part of a positive attitude which acknowledged that every little helped towards their goals. They also worked with a personal trainer to devise a training schedule which was flexible enough to squeeze in around their shifts.
Another good lesson to take from this is that having a goal in mind helps to motivate you (it doesn’t have to be traversing Iceland, a half-marathon would do the trick!)
Looking for an exercise that’ll ramp up your heart rate and have you puffing like a rhino in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea? Get yourself a skipping (or ‘jump’) rope. Boxers have sworn by this hard-core cardio for decades – it’s a quick way to warm up and helps to develop the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
One study even suggested that ten minutes of non-stop jumping at 120 repetitions per minute is the equivalent of a 30-minute jog.
If you’re new to skipping (or haven’t tried it since primary school), start with basic skipping with a 20-second high-knees sprint interval every minute. Work your way to double jumps, moving while skipping and other slick skipping tricks.
Callisthenics and bodyweight exercises
Another great exercise type that can be done at home or during a lunch break is callisthenics. From the Greek words meaning ‘beauty’ and ‘strength’, many of the basic movements are classic bodyweight exercises – press-ups, pulls ups, squats, planks, burpees and dips.
If you’re new to the ‘exercise thing’, it might pay to do a few sessions with a personal trainer to perfect your technique and avoid injury. But once you have the basics down, bodyweight exercises can be done almost anywhere – waiting for the kettle to boil? Do ten squats. Is your next patient two minutes late? Do a few office-chair-dips while no-one is looking! It may seem strange at first, but regularly doing a few simple exercises throughout your day will reap benefits over time – particularly if you’re a GP or spend a lot of time at a desk.