Whether you are an avid gym-goer, new to exercise, or simply thinking about starting to move more, recent days have changed the way people everywhere workout. There are simple things anyone can do to get in exercise and movement minutes, even if you can’t leave your home, and I’m trying to do my part to help people realize just how much they can do from home.
Benefits of exercise: Everyone knows exercising regularly is a key component to losing or maintaining weight, but there are countless other benefits to regular exercise, including that it can:
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve memory and brain function
- Increase lung capacity
- Reduce pain
- Improve sleep
- Decrease risk of chronic disease
Very Beginner: If you are not used to working out or don’t know where to begin, the first step is to determine what kind of goals you want to set for yourself. If you get winded walking to the mailbox and back, maybe set a goal of walking to the end of the street and back. When it comes to your health and fitness, never be ashamed of where you are– everyone starts somewhere and any movement is better than none.
Walking is the best and easiest place to start. Luckily, we have had beautiful weather lately and just being outside is so good for your mental/emotional/physical well-being. Walking around your neighborhood not only gets your heart beating and your legs pumping, it also exposes you to extra vitamin D (which helps us absorb calcium and fights inflammation), provides natural aromatherapy (who doesn’t love the smell of blooming flowers?), and helps restore focus.
If you’re ready to move past walking, try jogging. A great way to start is to alternate walking and jogging from one mailbox to the next, then eventually from one light post to the next, then from one intersection to the next.
Home exercises that require no equipment: Maybe you need more than just cardio, but you don’t have exercise equipment at home. That’s not a problem! You have more options available to you than you realize. Below are some very simple exercises that require absolutely no special equipment.
Squats: Squats are my absolute favorite exercise. They mostly target your quads and glutes, but also help with core strength, stability, and ankle mobility. Your basic squat involves placing your feet hip-width apart with toes forward or pointed slightly out, then sitting back as if sitting on a bench, and returning to standing. However, there are countless variations on the squat and each one works your muscles and joints differently. Check out this article for tips on how to get the most out of your squats.
Push-ups: Push-ups are about as close to a full-body single exercise as you can get– they build strength in your chest, arms, and shoulders while improving core and lower body stabilization. Just hearing the word “push-ups” can sometimes cause people’s hearts to race with anxiety and fear. But they really aren’t so bad if you know how to modify for your needs. In a typical push-up, your hands are on the floor directly under your shoulders, your legs are extended straight behind you about hip-width apart, and you are on your toes with your back flat. But even on your knees, or elevating your hands (such as on a step), you can still get a good workout.
Sit-ups, crunches, planks, and other ab-work: Core exercises (those which focus primarily on your stomach, sides, and back) frequently can be done with no equipment at all, and there are so many to choose from! Check out this list of 15 different ab exercises for ideas outside of your basic sit-up.
Alternative weights you already have around the house: You may not own a barbell and a treadmill and various weights of dumbbells, but I guarantee that you already have plenty of things around the house that you can use as weights.
A soup can weighs approximately 1.25 pounds, making the perfect beginner dumbbells for tricep and bicep exercises. A box of cake mix also weighs about a pound. Two-liter coke bottles weigh 4.5 pounds, and a gallon of water is about 8 pounds. Bags of dog food/cat food can be anywhere from 3-30 pounds depending on the size. Fill a laundry basket with clothes, and that can make a pretty hefty weight for doing dead lifts, chest presses, or overhead presses. Be creative. (And if you’re feeling adventurous, you should know that the “Squat Your Dog Challenge” is a thing…)
In need of guidance?: Perhaps you struggle to motivate yourself or are overwhelmed about what to do. This might mean that you would benefit from group fitness or having a personal trainer, someone to guide you through exercises. However, in the current social distancing climate, group fitness and personal trainers are not exactly easy to come by. But don’t fear! You have lots of resources available to you.
Companies such as MOSSA and Les Mills are offering free trial subscriptions and some limited options of videos you can watch and follow along with from home. Amazon Prime users can simply search for the type of workout they want and there are several available and included with your Prime membership– including Zumba, kickboxing, yoga, and pilates.
Lots of fitness instructors have also begun expanding their audiences by posting workouts on various social media platforms. There are entire Facebook groups dedicated to encouraging people to exercise. One such group, which provides a weekly schedule of live feed classes plus various posts with exercise tips and more is FitFam Virtual Workouts.
YouTube is another great resource for finding instructor-driven workouts to try. Many instructors have entire channels dedicated to routines for their subscribers to follow along with. (*Note- it is important to be sure the instructors you follow are appropriately licensed/certified so as to ensure they are demonstrating the exercises in the safest way possible.) ***If you are interested in dance fitness (such as Zumba or Cardio Dance), I recommend checking out Fun Fit with Diny (an instructor based out of Ames, Iowa). She has over 100 videos that are one song each and cover everything from Salsa and Bollywood to Pop and Hip Hop. Play them back to back for a fun and exciting dance workout. ***Tona Barnes (a local fitness instructor) has videos listed as Senior Fitness, but really they are great workouts for anyone who just needs to move a little more. ***And finally, PopSugar is a channel that provides hundreds of different types of workouts, including yoga, HIIT, cardio, and toning.
Easy ways to mix it up at home: There are several ways to mix up workouts at home with minimal effort. Some of my favorites are:
Playing Cards: Take a standard deck of playing cards and assign each suit a specific exercise, and a harder exercise for the Jokers (if you choose to include them). For mine, I selected squats, jumping jacks, crunches, and push-ups for the 4 suits, and burpees for the Jokers. You can use a Sharpie to write the exercise on the cards if that helps. When you are ready to exercise, shuffle the deck and flip over cards one at a time, then do what they say. The number on the card tells you how many reps to perform; additionally, I do 15 reps for face cards and 20 for Aces. You can choose to do a few cards at a time, or go through the whole deck.
Spell Your Workout: this is an idea that can vary greatly depending on what you choose for each letter. The basic idea is to assign each letter of the alphabet a different type and number of exercises (for example: 10 seconds of arm circles, 15 sit-ups, 10 toe touches, etc). They can be whatever you want. Then you take your name or pick a word (typically 5-10 letters long) and do the exercises for each corresponding letter in the word.
Include the kids: Okay. So now you have ideas about kinds of exercises you can do, but how can you include the kids, since they are invariably going to be around while you’re trying to work out?
Have them exercise alongside you. Trust me, they are missing the daily movement breaks they would typically get with recess and PE at school. Ask them what their favorite activities at PE were, and try doing those. Even something as simple as hopscotch can get that heart-rate up! (Trust me!)
If you have smaller children, use them as weights. Strap a baby (safely!!!) onto your chest or back to act like a weighted vest while walking or doing squats. My 4-year-old loves to make herself stiff so we can treat her like a barbell and do chest presses and bicep curls with her.
Make them assist you. If you are using a deck of playing cards (as described above) have your child flip the card and tell you the number/exercise. For young children, this is a great way to sneak in letter- and number-recognition practice. Have them count your reps (and maybe have them count in Spanish, French, or any other language).
Ask your kids to help you find things to use as equipment. Maybe they have a hula-hoop or jump rope in the back of their closet.
There are a million ideas and options not explored here, but hopefully this post will be a good start for those of you struggling to workout from home. How are you staying fit at home?