Visits to the gym can be time-consuming, expensive and crowded. If you want to exercise but you hope to avoid the gym, there’s good news. It’s actually possible to get a great workout right at home. You don’t even need to buy any equipment, though simple things like a jump rope, an exercise ball or a workout video can certainly bring a little variation and challenge to your routine.
When working out at home, there are three types of exercise you’ll want to focus on: cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. Use this guide to get a great workout whenever it’s convenient for you without spending a penny on a gym membership.
If you want to keep your heart healthy and burn calories, cardiovascular exercise is essential. Also known as aerobic exercise, this is a sustained activity which challenges the heart and lungs. Running and jogging are basic examples of cardio exercise. While endurance is certainly something you can achieve with cardiovascular exercise, try to mix it up with some high-intensity bursts of cardio exercise as well.
While running or using an elliptical machine are great cardio workouts, they may get a little boring after a while. The following are a few additional options for at-home cardiovascular workouts to keep things interesting:
This is similar to step aerobics classes you may have seen on TV or at the gym. While you can purchase a step pad, you can also just use the stairs in your home. Play some music with an upbeat tempo. This will help you keep a beat while doing your exercises.
- Stand in front of your stairs or step pad with feet shoulder width apart.
- Step up onto the stair using your right foot, then bring your left knee up to hip level.
- Place your left foot back on the ground, followed by your right foot.
- Repeat with your left foot placed on the stair.
- Continue alternating, adding variations like stepping out to the side or twisting at the hip when you bring your knee up.
Jump rope isn’t just for kids. Once you learn a few techniques, you can use a jump rope to get a great cardio workout in a short period of time.
- Jump rope with your feet together, raising both feet off the ground at the same time.
- Jump rope with feet separated, bringing up one knee to hip level as you jump. Alternate the right and left knee for each jump.
- Jump rope with feet separated, bringing one foot up behind the buttocks as you jump. Alternate the right and left foot for each jump.
- Work your way up to doing each of these jump rope variations for 5 minutes each with short periods of rest in between.
Burpees are one of the tougher cardio exercises, but they also have great results. Start slow if you’ve never tried these before.
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
- Jump straight up into the air.
- As you land, move into a crouching squat position.
- Place your hands on the ground next to your feet and jump your feet back behind you so that you’re in a pushup position.
- Do one basic pushup, then jump forward to bring your feet next to your hands so that you’re in a crouching squat once again.
- Stand back up quickly and continue into a jump. You’re now at step 1 again and should repeat the exercise multiple times.
Now that you have a few cardio workouts you can use, it’s time to work on your strength. Strength exercises are important because they burn fat and turn it into muscle. At the same time, you’re also strengthening and protecting your bones. With this type of exercise, it’s important to start small and then gradually challenge yourself more as you get stronger. You can do that by doing more reps, by increasing the amount of weight you’re working with or by doing variations on an exercise.
Lifting weights and doing pushups, sit-ups and crunches are some basic examples of strength exercises you can use. The following are a few variations and additional options you can use to mix up your strength workouts:
This variation on the basic crunch works your oblique abdominal muscles and offers a more challenging strength exercise.
- Lie on your back and gently place your hands behind your head (remember not to use your arms to lift your torso during the exercise).
- Bring your right elbow towards your left knee while extending your right leg out parallel to the floor.
- Keeping the top of your torso in the air, bring your left elbow towards your right knee and extend the left leg out.
- Continue alternating sides, moving your legs in a bicycle motion.
Dips work your arms, particularly your triceps.
- Place a chair with its back to a wall.
- Facing away from the chair, place your hands on its front edge and keep your arms straight.
- Move your legs out in front of you so that your heels are on the floor and your legs are straight.
- Lower yourself down until your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
- Push down on the chair to lift yourself back up. Repeat as desired.
You’ll feel the burn in your thighs when you practice this leg-strengthening workout.
- Stand about a foot in front of a wall facing out. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Lean back so that your back is against the wall.
- Slide your back down the wall until your thighs are about parallel with the ground.
- Hold that position for 5-10 seconds initially, but continue repeating this exercise to try to increase how long you can hold the squat for.
You can help yourself stay flexible by stretching before and after exercising. In addition, however, you can also incorporate some flexibility-enhancing exercises into your routine. These exercises increase blood flow, burn calories and decrease pain. Here are a few examples:
Stretch out your arms and shoulders with this easy exercise.
- Stand up and hold your arms straight out from your shoulders.
- Create small circles with your arms in a clockwise direction.
- Slowly increase the size of the circles you make until making large rotations on both sides.
- Start over at step 2, this time going counterclockwise.
This stretch helps stretch out the ankles and knees, an area many people miss when doing pre- and post-exercise stretches.
- Stand next to a chair and place one hand on the back for balance.
- Raise your right foot off the ground and slowly circle your ankle in a clockwise direction.
- After 20-30 reps, switch to a counterclockwise direction.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Don’t forget to stretch your hip flexors with this exercise.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hands on your hips.
- Push one hip out to the side, keeping your back straight.
- After a few seconds, make a wide arc with your hips to push them out to the other side (think of a hula hoop motion).
- Hold for a few seconds, then swing your hips back around. Repeat as desired.
Working out at home is convenient and cheap. Speak with your doctor before starting an at-home workout routine to get suggestions for which exercises will benefit your health the most.