Exercises at Home Can Push the Body as Successfully as the Gym, Research Finds


Now you don't have to, according to a sports scientist at the University of Worcester.

Alice Burgin says studies she has conducted show people can challenge their body in the same way as they could in the gym from the comfort and convenience of their own home, and for free.

"The most reported reason for not exercising is lack of time, which is why high intensity intermittent exercise is becoming popular as it can be done in short spurts of exercise and in a shorter amount of time overall," she said. "The hope is that exercise becomes something that people can do and like doing at home and that breaks down that barrier a little more."

In the third year of her PhD studies, Miss Burgin's work focuses on novel approaches to physical activity and how people can regulate their energy balance and manage their weight effectively.

Over the last year, Miss Burgin has been looking at whether people can replicate the intensity of exercise, and the body's reaction to it, that you get through high-intensity interval exercise on an exercise bike by using simple no equipment exercises at home.

Her study compared the impact of two non-gym-based bouts of high-intensity interval exercise, namely stand-to-sit squat exercises and star jumps, with gym-based high-intensity interval cycling.

She looked at heart rate responses, metabolism in the blood and other markers of exercise intensity, during and after the exercise, and found that people who did star jumps in four sets of 30 second bursts achieved similar responses in the body to more established high-intensity intermittent exercises of four 30 second sprints on an exercise bike.

Significantly, Miss Burgin also found that people felt better in themselves and enjoyed the star jumps more than the exercise bike. She said this could be positive in terms of encouraging long-term participation.

"There's evidence to suggest that many inactive people don't enjoy sprinting on an exercise bike," she said. "I think it's possibly because we found that there's less of that burning sensation in the legs with the star jumping as it is more of a whole-body exercise, but you're still putting in the high intensity. It's all very well working at a high intensity and we know that it works, but if people don't enjoy it or get bored they're probably not going to be doing it for a long time. And, if they don't do it for a long time, they won't see the benefits."

Now Miss Burgin is looking in more detail at whether purely using these short bouts of high intensity exercises on a regular basis at home can have a measurable beneficial impact on people's health long-term.

Other studies have shown that doing short sprints on an exercise bike (such as four lots of 30 seconds) over a few weeks can have many important benefits for your health and all with less than 10 minutes of total exercise at a time. Now she wants to see whether people are able to do apparatus-free exercises repeatedly over an eight-week period, doing the star jumps twice a day three days a week, outside of the laboratory in their own time.

This latest study will analyse the effects of the exercise programme on the volunteers, by looking at various health markers, including body composition, cardio respiratory fitness and metabolic health " markers in the blood that tells us about their health, such as their risk of developing diabetes " before and after.

Miss Burgin, whose study focuses on women only, said: "There is evidence to suggest it would improve all of these things based on previous results, but no study has done it in this practical apparatus-free way which could be done at home on the female population.

"It's quite well documented that females are less active than men so the fact that there's still more research in men to help increase activity is not really answering the need of the population that's actually less active."

For this study she needs women aged 18 to 45 who are non-smokers and currently exercising less than 150 minutes per week and above their ideal weight but are otherwise healthy.

Each participant will be briefed at the end of the study, outlining their results.

Anyone interested should email a.burgin@worc.ac.uk.