The key to any exercise program is consistency. You don’t have to join an expensive gym or pay hundreds of dollars for equipment. All you need is your own determination to get fit and a few spare minutes out of every day. Whether you can set aside a half-hour to follow along with an exercise video or want to squeeze in a few push-ups during commercial breaks, you’ll find that doing a little bit every day can make a big difference in how you look and feel.
The advantages of working out at home
The biggest advantage is that you eliminate all excuses. You don’t have to waste precious time driving to the gym. You can work out on your own schedule. You save yourself those monthly membership fees and have your gym as a close to you as where you’re standing right now! Convenience can be a big motivator for getting a workout going. Best of all, getting started requires nothing more than your desire to commit to feeling better.
What should your workout consist of?
Every exercise program should include some cardio exercise, strength-building and stretching. You can work with common household items to build strength. Create an inexpensive set of dumbbells by filling two empty gallon milk jugs with water or sand. You’ll be able to build your upper body strength by raising and lowering these weights and work your back, chest and arms. Do 10-12 repetitions of each followed by several bent-knee push-ups. Include sit ups, squats and calf raises to work out your lower body. A seated squat is one of the best ways to strengthen your legs. With your back against the wall, squat down until your knees are parallel to the floor and hold that position for 1-2 minutes and then come up slowly. Don’t do this exercise if you have problems with your knees.
When it comes to cardio, if you have stairs in your home, you’re all set. Going up and down those stairs for a straight 5-10 minutes each day will get your heart pumping. Depending on your fitness level, you can climb the steps slowly or briskly. Either way, you’ll be getting stronger and building up heart muscle. If you don’t have stairs in your home, then use a steady step stool or walk energetically from room to room or take a brisk 30-minute walk outside.
As part of your stretching routine, gradually bend over to touch your toes, do side bends and do gentle back bends by slowly bending your upper body backward as far as is comfortable. Get another leg stretch in by sitting on the floor with your legs out in front of you and touch your toes. To stretch out your back, lie down and bring your knees toward your chin. Stretching is as important as strength training. Yoga provides a therapeutic form of stretching. You may want to invest in a good yoga video and do ten minutes or more each day.
Remember to work your abs, too! Do a series of crunches. Lie down and, using your abs, raise your upper body up about 45 degrees. As you lift and contract your abdominal muscles, breathe out. As you lower and relax those muscles, breathe in.
Setting up an inexpensive gym at home
If you want to make a small investment in a home gym here’s what we recommend. You can get yourself all of the following for under $100:
- Jump rope – great for cardio workouts and leg strength!
- Dumbbells – purchase a full set or at buy at least a few different sizes so that you’ll be able to increase weights as your strength increases
- Ankle weights – add resistance to walking or leg lifts
- Fitness ball – will allow you to work out your upper and lower body as well as your abs and is great for stretching, look for a fitness ball that comes with its own workout video
- Resistance bands – these work well for building muscle strength. The shorter the length, the higher the resistance. They should come with an exercise guide.
If you have 20-30 minutes to work out each day, buy a videotape that will motivate you and make exercise fun. Before you invest, borrow some tapes from the library or select one or two from your local video rental store. When you find one you like, buy it.
As you continue to enjoy home workouts, you may want to consider purchasing a rebounder (a mini- trampoline with a supporting bar). It’s a great way to boost your metabolism and your immune system in just a few minutes a day. Shop around. The price can range from $100-$200.
You might also want to consider purchasing a treadmill. This will be the most expensive piece of equipment in your gym and if you’re not committed to using it, then don’t buy it.
Making the most of those spare moments
We all lead busy lives, but there’s always time to fit in a few minutes of fitness. Here are a few ways that you can integrate exercise into your day:
- Do some crunches during television commercials
- Pull in your pelvis and squeeze your buttock while waiting on line at the supermarket
- Slip in some wall push-ups while waiting for supper
- Add a few stretches in the shower
- Going upstairs for something? Go up and down several times before getting what you need.
- Watching your kids’ sports event? Don’t just sit there! Get up and walk around the field or pace back and forth – don’t let the kids get all the exercise.
There are so many moments like these that can be turned into mighty, mini exercise sessions. And, don’t overlook other opportunities around the house like: mowing the lawn, raking leaves, gardening, sweeping or other vigorous cleaning, and washing your car. Why pay someone else to do it? These are great calorie-burning activities.
As with any new exercise program, be sure to consult your physician before starting. Have fun and stay healthy!