The coronavirus outbreak has forced us all to re-shift our working and living habits. Working from home makes it hard to separate office hours and down-time, and keeping your body moving and your mind stimulated is more important than ever when you’re stuck inside.
Exercise is a vital part of keeping well both mentally and physically, even more so during these challenging times, and there are plenty of ways to work out effectively at home.
The mental benefits of exercise are vast: it can boost your mood, relieve stress, improve your memory and help you get a better night’s sleep. These things are all especially important during a crisis, and luckily there is a range of equipment out there to help you break a sweat at home.
Thanks to social media, we have direct access to top fitness trainers, many of whom have started live streaming work out classes to help people feel connected during the pandemic, plus there’s a range of fitness apps available to help you plan your work outs and stay motivated.
Then there’s the kit you need to take your work out to the next level, from hand weights and rowing machines to yoga mats and fitness skipping ropes.
To help you stay fit while stuck at home, we’ve compiled a list of the best exercise products that will ensure you get the most out of your work out.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Best fitness app
Fiit membership: £10 a month, Fiit
Think Netflix, but for fitness. Fiit provides access to many of the best trainers in the country – including Adrienne Herbert, Alex Crockford and Richie Norton – for video-led workouts that can be completed in your bedroom and beyond. There are three categories to choose from – cardio, strength and rebalance, which includes yoga, pilates, mobility and breath work – and all feature sessions comprised of body weight moves, so they’re accessible to everybody.
There are hundreds of videos already available – either 25 or 40 minutes in length and varying in difficulty – and new ones drop frequently. Upgrading to a premium membership (which costs from £10 per month) provides you with a Fiit device, which allows you to live track your heart rate and calories burnt during a workout, and also provides access to unlimited classes and exclusive content. Plus, if you have more specific goals you can try out one of the new personalised training plans, which recommends specific videos along with nutritional advice to help you hit your goals.
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Best rowing machine
JTX freedom air folding rower: £499, JTX Fitness
Dimensions: 225 cm (l) x 58 cm (w) x 86 cm (h)
Resistance: Air + magnetic
Max. user weight: 130 kg
Combining air resistance with 16-levels of electromagnetic resistance, the Freedom Air is a big step up from some of the other models on our list. We loved the range of guided fitness programmes, which maximise the cardio and strength training benefits on offer. It also ships with a chest strap for monitoring your heart rate for interval programs, while enabling users to set BPM-based workout targets.
It also offers more detailed metrics like revolutions and power, as well as split times. The more substantial build gives a sense of security while rowing at full speed, while it has a sleeker design than some of the other rowing machines in our round up. Oh, and if you hadn’t guessed by the name, it folds down too.
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Best boxing gloves
Venum elite boxing gloves: From £58.48, Amazon
Material: Skintex leather
These gloves have been completely handmade in Thailand with 100 per cent Skintex leather (which is a high quality imitation leather making it suitable for vegan pugilists). These gloves offer a triple density foam, which serves to minimise shock and reduce the stress on your arms whenever you make impact. There’s a mesh panel underneath the fist to improve thermal regulation and of all the gloves tested, these were the least sweaty. The long Velcro cuffs and the fact the thumb is also fully attached to the glove, are both helpful for injury prevention. Plus, that matte black finish is all kinds of menacing.
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Best men’s yoga pants
Warrior Addict eco-warrior sweatpants blue: £65, Wolf & Badger
These sweatpants do everything you want in yoga pants: they stretch effortlessly when you need them to, are lightweight and comfortable, and they stay cool even when your movements are pacey. The material, Tencel, is also anti-bacterial. Tencel is made from wood pulp and there is even an eco story: Warrior Addict makes them from up-cycled sample fabric – most companies don’t use all their sample fabric. The blue is dark and discreet-looking. Also available in grey cotton for lower-intensity yoga.
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Best fitness tracker
Withings pulse HR tracker: £89.95, Withings
Heart Rate monitor? Yes
Built-in GPS? No
Battery life: Up to 20 days
Withings makes outstanding health and fitness gadgets, from smart bathroom scales to sleep monitoring pads. This one can track over 30 different activities and the built-in heart rate monitor measures heart rate continuously during workouts. There’s also sophisticated sleep monitoring that can analyse how well you’ve slept, showing a graph with details in terms of light and deep sleep on your smartphone. Since it’s lightweight enough to wear in bed, it’s a great sleep companion. You can also set smart alarms, that is, the tracker will spot when you’re going from deep to light sleep and wake you at that moment when it happens just before your set alarm time. This means you are waking up at the optimum moment in your sleep cycle and, because it wakes you through vibration, your significant other can keep slumbering. Although it doesn’t have GPS built in, if you’re running with your smartphone it can connect to that. The Withings interface on the app is clear and attractive and if you have other Withings devices, the information is collated there, too. Some basic notifications are passed from your phone to your wrist but this is primarily a health gadget.
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Best yoga mat
Liforme yoga mat: £80, Liforme
The first mat to convert our reviewer to a smooth surface, this ingenious, spacious offering from Liforme is as balanced as a good tree pose. The surface is really grippy, even in the most intense hot yoga class our reviewer tried, and it is longer and wider than most (at 185cm x 68cm) and it sits right at the sweet spot for thickness (4.2mm). What makes it so unique, though, is the grid system laid over the top to help you align yourself in poses.
This is brilliant for anyone with a home practice, who doesn’t have a teacher on hand for adjustments. The lines are very slightly textured and they do take a bit of getting used to – particularly if you have a set shape for downward dog, for example – but it’s worth playing with. The mat comes with its own carry bag but is heavy; if you plan to mostly use it at home, that doesn’t matter.
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Best fitness skipping rope
Beast Gear beast rope pro: £19.97, Beast Gear
In our previous roundup on the best fitness skipping ropes, the beast rope came top by a country mile. This time around, we’ve turned to Beast Gear’s next generation beast rope pro – and we’re pleased to say that it is one of those rare sequels where it’s even better than the original.
Like its cousin, the beast rope pro is fast, durable and pretty nice to look at. It includes a unique double bearing system, which enables a smooth rotation, and a locking mechanism to prevent the cable from slipping, even during the fastest workouts.
The steel coated cable is ultra strong and can withstand users putting it through its paces day after day in HIIT sessions, interval training and longer aerobic workouts. We loved the smaller, lighter handles, which are hollow, and found it aided our sessions although some beginners might prefer something a little more chunky. Plus, the rope is easy to adjust and you get a nylon bag for storage. What’s not to like?
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Best hand weights
Bodymax deluxe 30kg rubber dumbbell set: £69.99, Powerhouse Fitness
If you have floors that don’t take kindly to having iron weights clonked down on them or you’re afraid of dropping them onto yourself, these rubber-coated adjustable dumbbells are what you’re after. The rubber handle provides good grip when you’re lifting, and the whole set is durable and well made. It consists of eight 2.5kg weight plates, four 1.25kg and four 0.5kg. The bars weigh 1.5kg each. The only slight downside is the smell of rubber, but this does lessen once they’re out of the box for a while.
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Best women’s yoga pants
Sweaty Betty power gym leggings: £75, Sweaty Betty
We’ve been wearing these Sweaty Betty Power leggings for years now and can confirm that even after hundreds of gym sessions and just as many machine washes, they’re still as good as new. They feature a small zip pocket at the back where you can stash your keys and another pocket on one side, perfect for storing your phone. These fit us perfectly but there’s also an internal drawcord if you need to make them tighter at the waist. The stretchy fabric is very flattering, with one fellow gym-goer even coming over to complement us while we were wearing them (not something we’d expect when red faced and out of puff).
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Best reusable water bottle
Thermos super light direct drink flask in rose pink, 350ml: £21.99, Lakeland
This diminutive Thermos holds an impressive 350ml of liquid despite its size and is super lightweight too, making it brilliant for squeezing into a handbag on your commute or a suitcase even. The clever flip-lock airtight design ensures this will never leak or spill (it didn’t!) and there is an insert inside the mouth of the flask for easy sipping on the go. All Thermos products are brilliant for keeping things hot or cold, and this model keeps soups, coffee etc piping hot for eight hours and drinks cool for 24 – it’s best to get the flask to temperature first with hot or cold water before pouring away and adding your desired contents if you’re going to put these claims to the test. We’ve opted for the metallic rose colourway, but there is also a graphite option too. It’s a little fiddly to hand wash all the components of the lid after something like soup (again, not dishwasher-proof) but overall a brilliant and reliable buy.
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