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Don't let winter turn you into a couch potato - use it or lose it

THE cold weather is finally here, yet that does not mean that it's time to hibernate. Woolies can be an excuse to cover up any extra bulge from comfort foods, but we're not going to let that happen this year.

The lure of cosy fires and hearty comfort food can be overwhelming on a frosty cold day, but hibernating is not going to do anything for your waistline, fitness or health.

So what can you do if you like the idea of a good exercise session, yet you don't want to leave the house?

IsoFit personal trainers specialise in fitness training at home, and we find it a very popular option for busy people. You'd be surprised just how much you can get done with very little equipment and without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Just by dedicating a small amount of time, using it productively and choosing winter-warming foods carefully, you might even find yourself losing some weight.

First off, make use of what you have at home – your stairs can give you a great cardiovascular workout.

Start at the bottom, go up one step and come back down, up two steps and down, up three steps and down, and so on.

Keep it going as quick as you can. Do it once or twice for a warm-up, or continue for 20 minutes (if you can) for a great cardio and leg workout.

Try to work as many muscle groups at once as you can – the more muscles you work, the more your heart has to work to pump to each area consecutively. You will also save precious time by not having to work each area separately.

Kettlebell exercises are a great example of multi-area exercises. You can also combine upper and lower body workouts together, for example a bicep curl with a squat.

There are always the good old reliables such as jumping jacks and burpees. Add cardio exercises like these in between your resistance exercises to keep you heart rate up throughout your workout.

If you really feel like pushing it, then alternate your resistance exercises from upper to lower body, all of which can be done in front of the telly!

Try to remember that even with exercise, the quality not quantity rule applies.

For those who don't feel confident or motivated enough to do their own routine, then use anything you can get access to. Most people have a fitness DVD they swore they were going to follow religiously, for example, and which is now gathering dust.

Alternatively, there are plenty of great sessions on YouTube to get you moving, so you'll have plenty of variety there to choose from.

Winter illnesses can also be an excuse to set aside fitness routines, but the benefits of regular exercise give rise to a healthy, resilient immune system, which will aid in a speedier recovery and make you less likely to become unwell in the first place.

If you're unlucky enough to catch a winter bug, try not to stop altogether. Keep up your fitness routine, but at a reduced capacity. This will also make it easier to get back to your workouts once you're back to 100pc.

Here are some other tips for the finer days and for when you want to brave the elements.

1Exercise before you go home. Once home it can be very difficult to leave your cosy confines. Take your gear to work and start your run from there. Stop off at the gym on the way, or join a class. Try something new!

2Mornings too early and cold – or too tired in the evenings? Integrate you exercise into your day by catching a lunchtime class.

3Going out in the cold? Do your warm-up inside to get the heart pumping and blood flowing. Also, try popping your clothes in the dryer for a couple of minutes before heading out. And dress in light layers which you can peel off as you warm up. Protect the extremities by covering hands and ears and ensuring shoes are water proof.

4Cold air means it can be hard to breathe as your airways naturally narrow. So breathe through your nose, creating a filtering effect before the air heads down towards the lungs, or wear a light scarf or high collar to cover your mouth and nose until you body has time to adjust.

5 Team up. If you can find a friend or group to team up with, it can be a source of motivation to know that someone else is relying on you to join them. Agree to encourage each other to get up off the sofa and get moving.

6 Try changing the intensity of your exercise. Getting out there can be made a little easier if you can get just as much out of your workout in half the time. If you usually walk for an hour, try a hill walk for 20 or 30minutes.

So cut the excuses and don't cancel fitness – find solutions. Set a date with a workout and put it in your diary! You can always book a personal trainer to come to your own home.

Esther Doyle is a personal trainer. For more information, log onto www.isofit.ie.