Most people who are concerned with their health (and waistline) are wondering how to exercise at home when gyms are closed, especially when they don’t have access to any facility, health classes, or personal trainers.
Whether you believe the current measures being taken to control the virus are overkill or spot on, I will tell you this: we’re all in for a significant change. Whether you take protocols to isolate yourself from crowded areas is your call, but if you decide to stay home from the gym, I want you to have the tools you need to succeed. The way I see it, the stronger and healthier you are, the better your body functions, whether you need to perform your best at work or ward off a virus.
The problem most people face though is the lack of direction and clear rules on how to maximize both the efficacy (how good the exercise you pick works) and the efficiency (how quickly you get it done) of their at-home training.
This article will offer you a solid foundation to bodyweight training and a few tips on different strategies you can implement to get some exceptionally effective workouts from your living room.
Training Philosophy for Exercise at Home
These are tough times. You know that. Less obvious is the much more positive flip side: The tough times offer you the ability to emerge smarter, more resilient, and yes, in better health and fitness.
It’s less about biceps and PRs and more about the link between mindset, health, fitness, and becoming a better person so you can best lead others and provide an example to them. It’s now all about maintaining a positive mindset and emerging triumphant from these troubled times.
A full set of weights, dumbbells, and on occasion, cables and machines are the ideal. But these aren’t ideal times. So here’s the good news: You can still build an incredible physique and prevent the loss of muscle even with a partial layoff and/or limited equipment when you exercise at home.
In the current coronavirus climate, some special considerations are required to help you not only make progress but to maximize health along the way. What follows are daily steps you should be taking, as well as tactical training tips to adjust workouts on the fly.
Daily Movement and Wellness Steps
Before doing any exercise at home, consider these steps to lower your stress levels and prepare your body to move.
Mediate for 3-10 minutes first thing each morning.
In times like the current pandemic, stress-relief practices are key to true health and fitness. Meditation has been proven time and time again to help people cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. With so much uncertainty, starting a daily meditation practice will help you navigate the troubled waters ahead.
The most common reason people self-sabotage when it comes to fitness can be summed up in a single word: stress.
When you struggle with stress (and who doesn’t these days?), you will end up skipping workouts, gorging on junk food, drinking too much, and sleeping too little. All this undermines your ability to make progress and get stronger, leaner, and healthier.
The takeaway? Attack stress directly through meditation. You’ll be able to better handle the root reason many people struggle to make the progress they deserve.
Try meditation on your own each morning before your day gets going and/or use an app like Headspace, which is currently offering free service during the coronavirus outbreak.
Want an extra blast of positivity in the morning? Jump in a cold shower for 30 minutes.
The brutality of this practice has the power of taking every single thought you have in your head away. It’s cold…that’s all you can think about, but after 30 minutes you feel amazing. A cold shower has been proven to have amazing benefits like reducing stress, improving resilience and willpower, and increasing fat loss. Don’t just take my word: try it, and meditate just after you’ve done that!
Aim for 10,000 steps per day.
If you’re able to be out and about, aim to get 10,000 steps per day. Walking serves as a great way to clear your head, manage stress, and keep fat gain to a minimum.
This may not sound like a big deal, but getting around 10,000 steps per day may burn as many as 500 calories. Taken over the week, that’s 3500 calories, or the same number of calories in a pound of fat.
Walk in the morning. Walk while doing meetings on the phone. Walk after meals. Walk while you listen to podcasts. Walking time doesn’t need to be dead time.
When you go for your walks, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and breathe through your nose. Nasal breathing has a ton of benefits including better oxygen extraction (which can lead to more energy), maintaining a balanced pH in your body through improved carbon dioxide breakdown, and decreased nerve activity in the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system arouses the body (the fight or flight response). When this is chronically high due to periods of high stress, cortisol increases, which can suppress your immune system, increase fat gain, and decrease muscle gain. Long story short: Nasal breathing reduces stress and improves your health.
Performing a simple warm-up daily is the key to restoring mobility, wiping out pain and dysfunction, and making pain-free progress in the gym and when you exercise at home. Think it’s too simple to be true? Think again.
NEW YORK — Are Americans freeing themselves from their gym memberships? Two in three people say the pandemic has made them realize a gym isn’t actually necessary for them to stay fit.
A new survey of 2,000 people who regularly exercise is revealing how the pandemic has impacted the nation’s relationship with fitness. Researchers find Americans engaging in new at-home workouts are also seeing things improve in the bedroom. Nearly one in five respondents agree that keeping up with a workout routine at home has led to better sex during lockdown.
Work(out) from home
Another perk of at-home workouts is finding some peace and quiet. The vast majority (85%) say their new routines have allowed them to find time for themselves away from the family. Three-quarters feel that the past year isolating indoors has allowed them to reconnect with their bodies and improve their self-confidence. Another 81 percent add working out at home has also positively affected this.
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of AI fitness app Freeletics, the survey also finds more Americans are finding it easier to maintain an at-home fitness routine now compared to last year (82% vs. 72% in 2020). Despite many gyms closing due to COVID, 78 percent of the poll believe fitness has actually become more accessible to them over the past year.
The results also reveal more Americans believe gyms will actually become a thing of the past due to the pandemic; up to 72 percent in comparison to 60 percent in 2020’s survey.
Freedom and flexibility are big home workout perks
Respondents say the top benefits of working out at home include feeling more confident to try new fitness activities (48%), flexibility to work out whenever (48%), and flexibility on the activities they can do (46%). Nearly four in 10 respondents add they have more motivation to work out since they started exercising at home.
Over half of those surveyed say their top motivating factor to work out at while at home is improving their overall health. Boosting energy levels and improving mental health, both at 50 percent, follow closely behind. Nearly eight in 10 people (78%) agree that their mental health has become more of a priority since the start of the pandemic. Another 86 percent plan to keep prioritizing this once the pandemic ends.
“Over the last year, we have experienced once more the huge importance of physical and mental wellbeing and how positive routines that holistically support both can act as a catalyst for physical and emotional self-preservation,” says Vicky Hallbauer, CMO at Freeletics, in a statement. “It is imperative that we continue to use exercise as a tool to boost mental and physical health – not only until the pandemic ends, but also well into the future.”
Parents are looking to set a good example
Thirty-five percent of respondents also shared that a key reason for working out at home during this time is so they can keep up with their kids. Seventy-eight percent of respondents with children (just over 1,500) shared they started taking their fitness and overall health more seriously once they had their children. Four in five respondents with little ones also said it’s important for them to show their kids how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Of those who want to have more children (approximately 900 respondents), a whopping 93 percent want to take time to get in better shape and improve their overall health so they’re healthy enough to take care of their future kids. For the women who want to have children in the future (approximately 400 respondents), 91 percent believe having a healthy future pregnancy is the top benefit of exercise.
“It’s a very positive sign that many women already recognize the benefits of regular exercise when it comes to future pregnancy, as some may shy away from physical activity as a precaution” says Dr. Kian Missaghi, Senior Training Experience Manager at Freeletics. “However, if women exercise before conception in alignment with medical advice, many will find that they can safely continue with physical activity throughout their pregnancy for even more benefits – a perfect setup for long-term healthy lifestyles for both mother and child.”
As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the United States, many gyms have closed their doors.
Fitness studios that do remain open are taking extra precautions by disinfecting equipment and surfaces and reducing their class size to help their clients practice “social distancing.” SoulCycle, for example, announced last week that only odd-numbered bikes could be booked, and have temporarily closed some studios in the country.
Other gyms and studios have shuttered.
How do you stay fit if you can’t — or don’t want to — leave your home?
Whether you’re using your SmartTV, tablet or cellphone, there are a number of options available for people who want to maintain their fitness routine at home.
Some gyms are offering regular studio classes online. The Bar Method, a popular barre studio franchise, is partnering with some of its New York City-area studio owners to offer livestreamed classes for its members.
Lara Meehan, one of the owners of Bar Method NoHo and Bar Method Darien, said the goal of the live classes was to make “everybody feel like they were with us and feel the presence of each other because I think that’s everything in the classroom.”
I’m an extrovert so I know the mixture of cabin fever and not being active will put me in a funk so I’m trying to stay as active as I can with the resources I have at home.
Washington, D.C., resident Taylor Jackson, 28, was asked to work from home for at least the next two weeks. She signed up for Tone It Up’s free month of workouts to help maintain her active lifestyle.
“I know it’s a big part of my mental health in addition to my physical health,” she told NBC News.
Jackson took the mindfulness meditation class, as well as the yoga classes in her living room.
“I’m an extrovert, so I know the mixture of cabin fever and not being active will put me in a funk. So, I’m trying to stay as active as I can with the resources I have at home,” she added.
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For many, going to the gym is becoming an increasingly difficult decision, and others cannot go at all.
Katie Martin, 32, of Dallas, said she was searching for workouts to do at home to avoid unnecessary exposure.
She has a ClassPass membership, as well as individual fitness memberships.
ClassPass, the popular app which allows users to find workout classes and studios in their neighborhoods, is waiving all cancellation fees related to COVID-19 and rolling over unused credits at the end of a user’s cycle, the company said in a news release posted to Twitter on Friday.
However, Martin said that she’s opting to find new ways to work out at home “rather than risk continuing the chain of transmission that probably won’t affect me but could potentially affect others who may be more vulnerable.”
Cheap Workouts 5 free workouts you can do on Amazon Prime
Albert Aydin, 31, said he stopped going to his gym last Wednesday. The Jersey City, New Jersey, resident is working from home now, and finding ways to fit his fitness routine into that schedule.
“I invested in some free weights for my apartment and will be doing workouts on my own with a mix of cardio videos on YouTube,” Aydin said over Twitter. “There are so many but I haven’t researched enough. [I] may just try Beachbody On Demand trial for 2 weeks.”
If you’re looking for more ways to work out at home, these fitness companies offer free workout videos or trial periods:
Cardio and Strength Workouts
- Fitness Blender: Free cardio, strength and stretch workout videos
- Tone It Up: Daily online workouts with a 7-day free trial
- Beachbody: Online classes with a 14-day free trial
- ObéFitness: Live fitness classes with a 30-day free trial (use code ATHOME)
- CrossFit: Free at-home workout videos, including single exercises and drills
- The Sculpt Society: Online cardio and sculpting workouts with a 14-day free trial
- NEOU: Various live, on-demand workouts with a 30-day free trial.
- P.volve: Streamed functional movement workouts with a 30-day free trial (use code ONEPVOLVE)
- Fhitting Room: On demand HIIT and strength workouts with a 30-day free trial
- YogaWorks: Online yoga classes with a 14-day free trial
- Down Dog App: Free yoga, HIIT and barre classes until April 1, 2020
- SkyTing: Online yoga classes with a free 7-day trial
- The Bar Method: Online barre classes with a 14-day free trail, plus some free workouts via Instagram
- Physique 57: Online barre classes with a 7-day free trial
- Barre3: Online barre classes with a 15-day free trial
- Blogilates: Free workout videos, challenges and plans
- Pilates Anytime: Access to over 3,000 Pilates classes with 15-day free trial
TRY THESE AT-HOME FITNESS ROUTINES
- Back to basics: Your one-month treadmill workout
- A one-month resistance band workout you can do anywhere
- 10 core exercises that are better for your back (and body) than crunches
- A 15-minute full body HIIT workout — no equipment required
- 2-in-1 exercises that will tone your arms and abs
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Health & Wellness
- Better You Hub – Stories and Content
Exercise Tips to Help You Stay Healthy While Gyms are Closed
We know the benefits of exercise, but what if you are a regular “gym go-er” and now they are closed?
There is good news! You can get a “mood boosting cardio workout” without going to the gym. In fact, you can do your workout inside or outside with no equipment needed.
Below, you will find a few of my favorite workouts. Always remember to warm-up and cool down when you exercise.
Cardio Strength Workout
You don’t have to do all of these and the amount shown. Start with a smaller amount and challenge yourself to build up your repetitions.
- 30 Jumping Jacks
- 5 Pushups
- 25 High Knees
- 7 Burpees
- 10 Crunches
- 7 Squats (watch your form & don’t let your knees extend out over your toes)
- 5 Pushups
- 10 Crunches
- 5 Pushups
- 7 Squats
- 30 Jumping Jacks
- 1 Minutes Wall Sit
- 5 Pushups
- 25 High Knees
Hike for Your Heart
I have always enjoyed walking/jogging and taking in trails, but somehow in this present time, I realize how much I truly enjoy and benefit from climbing a mountain and seeing God’s beauty revealed in that moment. There are some beautiful trails and what better place to be than outside in the fresh air.
Remember, wear the right attire and carry water.
Planks and Squats
Planks & squats are excellent to help strengthen our core muscles.
Get Creative & Have Fun
You don’t need equipment to get a workout, so get creative and start moving! The added bonus is no “hidden” fees.
- Chair: great for toning triceps with the tricep dips and inclined push ups
- Stairs (inside or outside): run up and down and strengthen your calf muscles with toe lifts. Or, utilize the steps inside your garage; do a couple of dips or pushups before entering the house
- Wall: holding squats (pretend you are sitting in a chair & standing with your back against a wall) this is great for toning the upper legs
- Weights: grab a couple of cans from the pantry
- Telephone: You really can walk & talk at the same time. Try stepping it up and walk on your tiptoes
- Dance: Turn on the music and have fun!
For many of NC State’s faculty and staff, swinging by the gym before work in the morning or on the way home in the evening is a normal part of their day—or at least it was, until the coronavirus pandemic upended everyone’s routines.
Now that all gyms and fitness centers are closed, some are wondering how to keep exercising during a quarantine lockdown. For those who weren’t exercising to begin with, not much has changed in that regard; but nearly everyone is feeling greater stress and anxiety these days.
And that’s exactly why now is the perfect time to start exercising at home, according to Will Craig, assistant director of fitness for Wellness and Recreation at NC State.
“Physical activity is one way for people to manage the stress they feel in everyday life,” says Craig. “So right now, when you’re stuck at home—or maybe working on campus as a mandatory employee—and feeling even more stress than usual, you can use physical activity to help you deal with what life is presenting you.”
Craig, who is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, provides direction and vision for all fitness programs, services and facilities in Wellness and Recreation. He also leads his unit’s efforts to collaborate with campus partners to incorporate physical activity opportunities throughout the university.
Craig says his team’s ultimate goal is to enhance everyone’s overall wellness, not just their physical fitness.
“With all the research we have today, we know that physical activity is just one component of holistic wellness,” he says.
To that end, Wellness and Recreation has launched a campaign called Move30, which encourages people to move at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to achieve 150 minutes of physical activity per week as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.
“Research shows that people who achieve that level of activity have a tendency to have better moods, a higher level of energy and improved concentration,” he explains. “They also tend to have less stress, anxiety and depression.”
The benefits don’t stop there. “People who get that 150 minutes in every week also tend to sleep about an hour more per night,” he says. “It’s better-quality sleep, too. Physical activity has a drastic positive impact across many areas of your life. So under lockdown, when you have more going on around you if you’re working at home—and more going on in your head no matter where you are—if you exercise, you might be able to focus better, work more effectively and complete your tasks more easily.”
Craig offers these tips for exercising safely and effectively at home:
1. Start slow
If you’re starting an exercise program from scratch, the same cardinal rule applies whether you’re doing it at home or at a gym: Start off slowly.
“It might even just be moving for five minutes at a time to add up to 30 minutes,” Craig says. “Research shows that if you split your 30 minutes up into five-minute chunks, you get the same benefits as people who move for 30 minutes all at once. So start there if you need to. Then you can slowly build up to moving for longer periods of time.”
2. Find a movement you enjoy
“One of the most common things I hear is that people don’t like working out, they don’t like exercise,” Craig says. “But ‘exercise’ is actually not the goal here. We’re calling our campaign ‘Move30,’ not ‘Exercise30,’ because if you’re moving it doesn’t matter what type of movement you engage in. As long as you meet the criteria for what counts as ‘movement’—which means moving enough to increase your heart rate and speed up your breathing pattern—you get the benefits,” he explains. “So we want you to find your own movement that you like doing, because if you’re doing something you like, you’re more likely to keep doing it.”
3. Use all the resources at your disposal
Craig says fitness companies are providing free resources online, such as instructional videos and recorded workouts, that make it easy to exercise at home. In addition, Wellness and Recreation has launched the WellRec at Home initiative to help people engage in fitness activities no matter where they are.
“Through WellRec at Home we’re teaching about 30 virtual classes per week,” he says. “Anyone with a Unity ID can log into a live class taught by one of our certified instructors in a variety of formats—like yoga, cardio dance, kickboxing, barre—and it’s all free of charge.”
To register for virtual classes, first download and install the WellRec phone app. Then use the app to register for the classes you want to take.
WellRec at Home also offers a variety of prerecorded workouts for those who can’t attend a scheduled live class. In addition, the initiative provides videos on meditation, mindfulness, stress reduction and other practices that support mental and emotional well-being.
Beginning April 20, Wellness and Recreation will also offer an online group wellness coaching program called the Healthy Living Series. This four-week series of educational sessions, available free of charge to all faculty and staff, will cover healthy strategies for stress management, nutrition and mindful movement.
In Craig’s opinion, there’s an unintended upside to all the gyms being closed: “One of the cool things about exercising at home is that there’s no one there to see you or judge you,” he says. “You can truly take it at your own pace.”
When it comes to consequences of COVID-19, a lack of exercise may seem trivial, but for many people exercise is more than just a boost to their physical health.
Early-morning exercisers get in a workout at a Montreal gym on Oct. 5, days before the city’s gyms had to close again. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette
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Here we go again. As the number of COVID-19 cases has risen back to critical levels across the country, gyms are seeing their capacities reduced or being closed altogether. Limits have been placed on team sports at the recreational and competitive level. And while not all provinces have put the brakes on sports and certain other types of physical activity, the risk of another coast-to-coast shutdown is high.
Back in March, when gyms closed for the first time, spring was right around the corner. Days were getting longer and the weather warmer, which made it easier to find ways to do a workout outdoors. This time around, it’s dark when we roll out of bed and dark again when we sit down to dinner, which means it’s less inviting at either end of the day to get in a workout.
Fitness: Let’s stay active when gyms are closed and sports are on pause Back to video
With more obstacles in their way, Canadians are likely to go back to the more sedentary habits they adopted in the spring, when — according to data collected by ParticipACTION, the national organization whose mandate is to get Canadians moving — people were more likely to watch television or sit in front of a computer screen than exercise.
When it comes to the consequences of COVID-19, a lack of exercise may seem trivial, but for many people exercise isn’t just a boost to their physical health; it also improves their mental health — a theory that’s supported by a growing body of evidence. The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Some people actively seek out exercise as a therapeutic option to improve mental health, be it at the suggestion of a medical professional or by virtue of the good feeling that often accompanies a good sweat. Others are so used to their exercise routine that they go into a funk when their workout schedule is disrupted. Then there are those who have very defined goals that are at risk of being abandoned without access to a training facility, which adds to their stress level.
Also worth mentioning is the loss of social connection, which can be felt by anyone who plays team sports or prefers to sweat in a group versus on their own. Beer-league hockey, soccer and basketball players, curlers, masters athletes, gym rats and others of all ages who play organized sports are at risk of being negatively affected emotionally and physically by the loss of their exercise routine.
Several studies have emerged looking at the mental health effects of the change in physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of which came to a similar conclusion: those who let their exercise routine lapse reported an increase in depressive symptoms, loneliness and stress compared to those who kept up their normal workout schedule. With this in mind, it’s clear we need to find ways to be active and stay connected when gyms close and organized sports are put on pause. Governments need to understand the value of maintaining access to some sports and recreational facilities in the event that gyms and team sports are deemed too risky, and need to encourage Canadians to keep moving during stressful times. The goal is to find the right balance between keeping sports and exercise enthusiasts safe and allowing access to enough resources to keep them active.
It’s not just governing bodies that need to take heed of the physical and mental health costs of disrupting the exercise routine of active Canadians. Coaches, sport league administrators and parents need to find creative ways to fill the void. Team or group exercise workouts designed for the home and delivered in real time online by a fitness professional — ideally at the same time as regular workouts or team practices — are a good idea. So are online strategy sessions or educational seminars on sport-specific conditioning, nutrition or innovative training programs given by experts. And how about virtual team dinners spent together yet apart, team or group physical activity challenges using exercise apps to track activity — with prizes for the most calories burned or minutes spent on the move — and workouts designed to facilitate two people training together while still maintaining physical distancing?
These types of activities will become even more important as autumn leads into winter and the numbers of COVID-19 cases rise and fall. Restrictions on group exercise and places where exercisers congregate are usually announced with only a few days notice, so the time is now for gyms, coaches, trainers and sports leagues to start brainstorming ideas to keep their communities physically active and socially connected.
The first shutdown of athletic facilities and programming took us by surprise. This time, let’s learn from the past and ensure the physical and mental health of active Canadians are well looked after in the months ahead.
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Strategies for creating a successful workout plan
Barbara Stokes spends three evenings a week in her garage, performing a series of bicep curls, dumbbell thrusters and squats with 10-pound weights.
The workouts are part of her fitness plan that includes three days of strength exercises and walking 30 minutes every day. After repeated attempts to start a routine during the pandemic, Stokes reframed her workout to focus on strength training and walking.
“When I focused on weight loss, I would achieve a goal then lose focus entirely,” said Stokes, director of residential dining services for Duke Dining. “Now I focus my routine on what steps I can take to be healthier. I want to live longer and feel better. That’s good enough for me.”
Starting a fitness routine is a proactive way to improve your health and meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity guidelines. Guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. In addition, at least two days per week should involve muscle-strengthening activities, such as weights or push-ups.
“This past year has been a struggle for all of us, but sticking to a fitness plan is one way to physically and mentally feel better,” said MeKayla Parks, exercise physiologist for Duke Health & Fitness Center. “A workout routine helps you become an overall healthier person.”
Here are strategies for developing a custom fitness plan that works for you.
Identify your goals
Parks suggests identifying a specific goal as a first step of creating a workout routine.
Having a clear goal – complete a 5K, do 20 push-ups a day or squat 100 times in a week – will improve your chances of sticking to a routine because it improves motivation and helps measure progress.
“You have no direction if you don’t have a goal,” Parks said. “You can’t acknowledge success or failure. Ask yourself what you hope to achieve by working out.”
Stokes of Duke Dining set a target to increase her daily step count by 500 steps every week. If she takes 4,000 steps a day one week, she’ll try for 4,500 steps a day the following week.
“Having actionable routines helps me make a conscious choice to move every day,” Stokes said. “It gives me purpose.”
Pick workouts you enjoy
After trying high-intensity interval training and other exercises at a gym, Sylvia McCauley, nurse manager for Duke Raleigh Hospital’s Surgery Center, found a workout routine at home doing what she enjoys.
Five days a week, McCauley walks on sunny days for either 30-minutes around her neighborhood, or dances in her garage to a free gospel Zumba class.
“I thought I needed to do some complicated fitness class or have expensive equipment to lose weight,” said McCauley, who has lost 30 pounds since January. “That didn’t interest me. Now my workout is the best part of my day.”
Forming a fitness plan of enjoyable workouts will motivate you to stick to it.
“How often do you finish a long day of work and going for a run seems like a chore,” Parks said. “You need to implement what you enjoy into your workout plan because that’s going to encourage you on the days you’re uninspired.”
Take small steps at first
Dustin Champion, staff specialist for the Duke School of Medicine’s Office of Curricular Affairs, ran three miles and completed about 100 push-ups, lunges and squats most days of a week before the pandemic.
But after stay-at-home orders in March of 2020, he lost his drive.
Champion took a month off from his fitness plan to move into a new house and adjust to working from home. When he was ready to resume working out, he set small goals with one to two mile runs.
“I had to build up to what I was doing before,” he said.
Parks said to start a fitness routine in manageable increments, so you don’t lose enthusiasm or injure yourself. Try the “10 Percent Rule,” in which you increase your activity by no more than 10 percent per week. If you run 10 miles one week, run 11 miles the next week. If you do 20 push-ups a day, do 22 push-ups the following week.
“Achievable goals and gradual increases build self-confidence and momentum,” Parks said. “The more ambitious you are, the more likely you are to fail or get injured.”
Find friends to help
Stokes has a cheering squad to keep her motivated.
Stokes’ 25-year-old son, Aaron, leaves her notes on a board in the kitchen with a reminder to do strength training. Felicia Tittle, executive director of Duke Recreation & Physical Education and a friend of Stokes, texts her once a week to ask how workouts are going.
“Felicia and Aaron have been such advocates for me,” Stokes said. “They’re checking in on me from a place of love.”
Video: Watch how to properly perform push-ups, lunges, squats and other exercises to build your strength from employees with LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke’s employee wellness program.
Get in shape without leaving the house
You want to get fit. But you don’t want to join a health club — it’s too expensive, there’s no gym convenient to you, or maybe you’re just the independent type. Or perhaps you’re already a gym member, but your schedule has been too manic for you to get away.
That leaves working out at home. But can you really get a great workout without leaving the house?
Absolutely, says Kevin Steele, PhD, exercise physiologist and vice president of 24 Hour Fitness Centers.
“In today’s world, the reality of it is people don’t have time to go to a facility every day anyway,” he says. “And consistency is key.”
Believe it or not, Steele says, at 24 Hour Fitness, they encourage folks to exercise at home as much as at the gym. This way, they are more apt to adopt fitness as a lifestyle. “The key thing is that you do something, somewhere, sometime,” he says.
Steele and other fitness experts say it doesn’t take much effort or money to design an effective workout program at home. Things like fit balls, dumbbells, exercise bands or tubing, and push-up bars are an inexpensive way to create a routine that works all the major muscle groups.
But even with no props or machines, you can build muscles and burn calories.
“If someone wants to get started, they could take a brisk walk, then do abdominal exercises and push-ups,” says Richard Weil, MEd, CDE an exercise physiologist and WebMD Weight Loss clinic consultant.
The 5 Elements of Fitness
According to Steele, an effective fitness program has five components, all of which you can do at home:
- A warmup.
- A cardiovascular (aerobic) workout.
- Resistance (strength-building) exercises.
- Flexibility moves.
- A cooldown
A warm-up could be an easy walk outside or on a treadmill, or a slow pace on a stationary bike. For the cardiovascular portion, walk or pedal faster, do step aerobics with a video, or jump rope — whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up.
The resistance portion can be as simple as squats, push-ups and abdominal crunches. Or you could work with small dumbbells, a weight bar, bands or tubing.
Increase your flexibility with floor stretches or yoga poses. And your cooldown should be similar to the warm up, says Steele — “cardiovascular work at a low level to bring the heart rate down to a resting state.”
You can do strength work in same workout as your aerobic work, or split them up. Just be sure to warm up and cool down every time you exercise.
If you’re short on time one day, increase the intensity of your workout, says Tony Swain, MS, fitness director of East Bank Club in Chicago. Instead of your usual 45-minute ride on the stationary bike, choose a harder program for 25 minutes and really push yourself. Choose the hilly walk in your neighborhood, or jog instead of walking.
You can step up the pace of your strength workout by doing compound exercises — those that work more than one muscle group at a time.
For example, doing squats (with or without weights) works the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and calves. Push-ups involve the pectorals, deltoids, biceps, triceps — even the abdominals and the upper back.
If you’re not the create-your-own workout type, there are fitness videos galore — offering everything from kickboxing to belly dancing to Pilates. You can find them at local bookstores and discount stores, or on the Web. Just be sure to choose one that’s appropriate for your fitness level.
If you’re a beginner, aim for 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three times a week, and 20 to 30 minutes of strength work three times a week. Be sure your strength workout covers all major muscle groups, in your upper body, lower body, abdominals and back. Shoot for three sets of 10-15 repetitions of each strength exercise.
No matter what type of exercise you do, be sure to start slowly and gradually increase your workout time and intensity. And don’t forget to listen to your body, says Weil.
“Focus on the muscles that you think you should be working,” he says. “See if you feel it there. If you’re working your abs and you feel it in your neck, then it’s not right. Close your eyes and start to tune in to your body.”
It’s also important to stay tuned in to what motivates you.
Working out at home has obvious advantages. But there are obstacles, too: distractions from the phone, the kids, the dog, the Internet and the refrigerator can derail a workout. And that’s if you can get started in the first place. When you’re at home, it’s easy to find something else that needs to be done.
A good way to stay motivated and avoid distractions, the experts say, is to exercise early in the day. Morning exercisers are more likely to stick with their workouts, according to American Council on Exercise spokesperson Kelli Calabrese, MS, ACE, CSCS.
“Get (the workout) over with first thing in the morning, then get on with your day,” says Weil.
Tips for home exercisers
The experts offer some other tips for home exercisers:
- Challenge yourself and avoid boredom. At home, you won’t have the variety of equipment and classes that are available at a gym. So surf the Internet and browse fitness magazines to check out new workouts and make sure you’re exercising correctly. “Pictures are everything. Use them as a guide for form and technique,” Swain says.
- Find an exercise partner. You’ll be less likely to find excuses when you’ve arranged to work out with a friend.
- Schedule your workouts. “Have a plan,” says Calabrese. “Look at a planner and write out your exercise appointments one month in advance. If something comes up and you have to change one, reschedule it immediately.”
- Use a journal to track your progress and jot down any breakthroughs you may have. When you have a bad day, write that down, too, to help you to find patterns you can break. For example, you may find an egg-white omelet gets you through your morning workout better than a bagel.
- Set goals, like training for a race or losing 20 pounds. “A goals should be something you can’t do right now, but you know is within your reach,” Calabrese says. Give yourself mini-rewards along the way: a new fitness magazine, those workout tights you’ve been eyeing, or a new pair of sneakers.
- Perhaps most important, make exercise as integral to your life as sleeping and eating, says Swain. “You have to think of it as a lifestyle change. It doesn’t end. Get out of the mind frame that exercise is something you’re only going to do for a period of time.”
Originally published Dec. 19, 2003
Medically updated Dec. 14, 2005.
SOURCES: Kevin Steele, PhD, exercise physiologist; vice president, 24 Hour Fitness Centers, San Ramon, Calif. Richard Weil, MEd, CDE, exercise physiologist; consultant, WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. Kelli Calabrese, MS, ACE, CSCS, spokesperson, American Council on Exercise. Tony Swain, MS, director of fitness, East Bank Club, Chicago.
This stationary bike with a desk is a perfect way to stay active while working from home. (Photo courtesy of Amazon).
The coronavirus pandemic, along with being a serious health threat, has made life inconvenient for a number of people across the country.
It’s forced many to work from home, which can be difficult to adjust to. And with gyms closed until further notice, staying physically active has gotten much harder.
One solution to both problems: Products that can double as exercise equipment AND work equipment.
The two-in-one set-up, which is available on Amazon, gives those working from home an opportunity to stay active while getting work done at a desk. It also gives people a fresh perspective from their usual home office atmosphere, which can help create new and more productive habits.
Additional options of the same product can be found here.
Prefer a treadmill instead of a bike?
For those who like walking on a treadmill versus riding a stationary bike, Amazon has that covered, too — although it’s on the more expensive side.
And if you already have a stationary bike or treadmill at home but want to create a similar set-up, there’s a way to do that, too. This mount stand fits on any treadmill and will let you type out reports while getting a sweat. See additional options here.
A standing desk — which keeps you up and prevents slouching in your chair — is another way of staying active at work. According to a study from Dr. John Buckley at the University of Chester, standing for three hours per day is about equal to running in 10 marathons a year. Companies like StandDesk specialize in standing desks, and they are also readily available on Amazon.
Other gym equipment
For those who don’t want to exercise during work but want to do so afterwards, check out how to buy equipment for your own home gym here.
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