You’ve read the newspapers; you know that a little bit of exercise would make you healthier, and make you feel better. But you don’t really have a lot of money to join that fancy fitness club, and when it comes right down to it, you don’t really have a lot of time, either.
If this sounds like you, then working out at home is probably the best solution.
What should a home-based workout include?
Ideally, your home-based workout should include each of the ‘three pillars of fitness” – cardio, strength, and flexibility.
A cardiovascular workout is, to put it simply, a workout for your heart and lungs. This workout should start with a light warm-up, to loosen your muscles, lubricate your joints, and minimize the likelihood of injury. The subsequent aerobic workout could involve:
* walking – as long as you do it briskly enough that your heart rate goes up (aim for 140 beats per minute or more); incorporating some hills could also be useful
* running – no treadmill required – most of the year, anyway. If you haven’t run in years, consider mixing running and walking – run a minute, and then walk until you’re breathing more comfortably; repeat.
* stair-climbing – if you live in a house with stairs, or an apartment building with stairs, or near a walking trail with stairs, stair-climbing makes an excellent aerobic workout.
* skipping – you may not have done this since you were a kid, but it remains a very effective aerobic workout (remember Rocky?)
* calisthenics – some of the whole-body calisthenics exercises you may have done in elementary school phys ed, like jumping jacks, or squat thrusts, can be done at home, and require very little space and no equipment.
In general, you should try to work towards a minimum of ten minutes for the cardio portion of your workout. If you want, you CAN do interval training, alternating between a few minutes of cardio, then some strength training, then more cardio, and so on.
The strength-training portion of your workout is geared towards building muscle. This can and should include, over the course of a week, all of the major muscle-groups in the body: shoulders, back, chest, biceps, triceps, core, hamstrings, quads, and calf-muscles – it is not necessary to work on all of these at each workout-session, and there are many advantages to alternating workouts during the week. Body-weight is sufficient for many exercises, but owning a few dumbbells will extend the possibilities dramatically.
The flexibility portion of your workout is intended to keep your muscles and joints long, loose, and well-lubricated. Strength-training has a tendency to shorten muscles; following it up by appropriate stretching is necessary to lengthen them again. You can choose to stretch each muscle immediately after doing the strength-training exercise for that muscle, or do a simple stretching routine at the end of your workout.
Warning: before starting a new exercise program, you may want to consult with your medical practitioner.