Contrary to what you might think, exercising doesn’t have to cost much. Nor do you have to belong to a gym to get in shape. Whether you’re a busy mom or a millennial with a limited budget, exercising at home – provided you have the motivation and discipline – can be as effective as going to the gym. The biggest difference? Besides not having to worry about what you wear, you just have to employ a little more creativity. Below, experts dish on 18 ways you can get your sweat on at home.

Sweat it out

1. Strengthen your muscles:

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), strength training is crucial not only for building bone density but also reversing muscle loss (a normal part of aging), reducing body fat, improving heart health, lowering diabetes risk, and enhancing mental health. [1] The ACSM recommends that adults do two to three strength straining workouts a week, allowing a 48-hour break between each one. Start with eight to 12 repetitions, choosing a weight or resistance so that you reach fatigue by the end of each set. But which tools should you use? At first, try your own body weight or pick up inexpensive tools like dumbbells, resistance bands, stability and medicine balls, or even a TRX. And women, forget that myth that lifting weights will make you bulky: with more lean muscle on board, studies have shown you’ll actually slim down.

2. Walk your way fit:

Walking is the most popular activity in this country – and for good reason. “Just a half-hour walk every day can help you lose 10 pounds in a year,” says Jason Kozma, celebrity personal trainer in Los Angeles. [2] Bonus with walking? You can walk anywhere, you only need a pair of good walking shoes, and you can make it social by going with girlfriends. To get even more from your walking program, bend your elbows to 90-degree angles and pump them forward and back (not across your body), take shorter strides which will help you move faster (translation: bigger calorie burn), and roll from your heel to the ball of your foot.

3. Take up a running program:

Like walking, running is an activity you can do anywhere, and all you need is a good pair of running shoes. Yet because running is a high-impact activity and injuries can happen if you start too fast too soon, begin slowly. Kozma recommends starting with run-walk intervals and keeping miles low at first.

4. Climb stairs:

Climbing stairs not only raises your heart rate, it also builds strength in your legs, says Rick Kattouf II, O.D., personal trainer and triathlon coach in Greenville, S.C. [3] Start by climbing stairs one step at a time and then walk back down, repeating for 10 minutes. As you get stronger, increase the time you’re climbing until you reach 30 minutes. Once you reach 20 minutes, take two steps at a time as you climb for a better butt-burning workout. No stairs at home? You can get similar benefits by walking through your neighborhood (grab a friend to do it with you if you feel awkward). Start by walking from one mailbox to the next. When you hit that second mailbox, do walking lunges to the next mailbox and continue this pattern. Start with 10 minutes and build to 30.

5. Sign up for a streaming fitness site:

Fitness classes have gone viral – literally. The Internet is teeming with sites that let you stream fitness classes, many of which are live. Kozma notes this takes the pressure off figuring out what to do in your workouts, and it can help you work a little harder. Expect to pay a monthly subscription fee – they generally cost about $20/month – but many do offer free trials. Some to consider include DailyBurn.com, BooyaFitness.com, onepeloton.com (which offers classes not only in strength training, boot camp, and yoga but also on stationary bikes and treadmills), and thebarrecode.com. Or search YouTube for free fitness videos like those from jessicasmithtv.com.

6. Strengthen your core:

You might only think about your tummy when it comes to bathing suit season, but your core is your daily powerhouse, literally giving you the power to do all forms of exercise and other activities. “Having a strong core improves your posture, relieves back pain, and is the most important area to firm if you want overall health,” says Risa Sheppard, founder of The Sheppard Method Pilates in Los Angeles. [4] An easy way to strengthen your core is to stand in front of a mirror with your feet directly under your hips and your heels and toes evenly distributed on the floor. Imagine a rod running from one hip to another and another from your belly button to your lower back. Now that you’re aligned, imagine you’re wearing a “girdle of strength,” holding all these muscles in place whenever you move.

7. Try circuit training:

Circuit training is comprised of several exercises done in rotation, and it’s a quick and easy way to get fit, especially if you’re pressed for time, says Jackie Wilson, CEO and founder of NOVA Fitness Innovation in New York City. [5] He creates circuits with four movements that challenge the entire body; picking one movement each for the upper body, lower body, core, and cardiovascular system. Want to try it? Choose one movement from each of these four categories and complete as many circuits as you can in 30 to 45 minutes: upper body (shoulder taps, push-ups, or dips), lower body (squats, lunges, or jumps), core (V-ups, crunches, or leg raises) and cardio (mountain climbers, burpees, or jumping jacks).

8. Stretch it out:

A complete fitness program involves not only cardiovascular activity and strength training but also stretching, which offers unique benefits. “Stretching releases tension in the body, helps you prepare for future activity better, and decreases chance of injury,” Sheppard says. While stretching after exercising is always wise, you should also do simple stretches whenever you can throughout the day like when you’re watching TV or just hanging out with your dog.

9. Do HIIT training:

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most convenient ways to exercise. By alternating intense phases of exercise with periods of recovery, you can burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time. Bonus? You’ll even burn calories for hours after the workout, says Samantha Clayton, vice president of WW Sports Performance & Fitness for Herbalife Nutrition. [6] In just 10 or 20 minutes, you can log a complete workout with a flexible structure. The work and rest phases can last several seconds to a few minutes, and although you can do this with any cardio activity, using body weight exercises is also effective. If you’re a beginner, divide your time between working out and resting in a two-to-one ratio; work out for 20 seconds followed by 10-second recoveries four to five times. More advanced exercisers can follow three-to-one ratios, doing 45 seconds of workout followed by 15 seconds of rest.

10. Jump rope:

Jumping rope isn’t just for kids. It’s also a great cardiovascular workout that can challenge that heart rate, not to mention your coordination. Turn on your favorite tunes and start slowly, perhaps jumping only a few minutes at first. The good news? “Jumping rope is all about practice, and no matter how you move, that practice burns tons of calories,” says Adita Yrizarry-Lang, mind-body coach in Miami and author of A Busy Woman’s Guide to Health and Happiness. [7]

Need exercise ideas for a targeted workout? Download our free bodyweight exercise cheat sheet, no equipment required!

Meld mind with body

11. Hit the mat:

Yoga isn’t only a stress reliever, it can also improve heart health and increase muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness. While it does help to take at least one class with an instructor so you can learn proper form, you can easily start a yoga practice at home. Invest in a yoga mat – doing yoga on carpet without a mat is tricky, as you’ll slip a lot – and then purchase some yoga DVDs or sign up for a streaming yoga site like myyogadownworks.com, yogaglo.com, or yogadownload.com. Each site offers beginning yoga classes and allows you to try the site before subscribing.

12. Take up tai chi:

When you’re looking to balance your mind and body, turn to tai chi. This ancient Chinese practice uses movements that engage the entire body by focusing on breath and posture. As a result, “you can learn simple practices that restore harmony and balance in your body, mind, and spirit,” says Chris Shelton, certified Qigong and Tai Chi master in San Jose, Calif., whose YouTube channel, “morningcrane1”, offers free workouts. [8]

13. Practice Pilates:

If you’re hoping to develop dancer-like curves in your body, Pilates is where it’s at. You’ll also keep your back strong, your muscles flexible, your joints supple and pain-free, and your posture erect, Sheppard says. Look for a beginner Pilates DVD or online classes.

Hack your daily routines

14. Be a better breather:

You might not think of breathing as a fitness activity, but it is. Here’s why: “Breathing helps you focus, relax, and move your body more efficiently with extra oxygen to help supply vital organs,” Sheppard says. The trouble is that most people don’t breathe properly, which robs them of energy and makes their body tenser, affecting movement. To improve your breathing, start by simply being aware of your breath. Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and breathe in as fully as you can. Then exhale until all the air is released. Repeat as often as possible.

15. Stand, don’t sit:

Standing might not be an exercise per se, but it does burn more calories than sitting – about 50 more per hour, according to one study. [9] And it’s good for your health, as too much sitting has been linked with health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. While you can purchase a stand-up desk for your home office, consider standing whenever possible – like when checking emails on your iPad or during TV commercials. Another strategy? For every 30 minutes that you sit, get up for five minutes and move.

16. Track your steps:

Structured exercise isn’t the only way to get fit. Just adding more movement to your daily activities can also help you shed pounds, increase your fitness, and improve your health. New exercise guidelines suggest that every minute of activity counts to making you healthier, and one way to make sure you’re logging additional activity is by tracking your steps. [10] Using either a pedometer or activity tracker, log your steps for seven days. Add them up and divide by seven to find out your daily step count. Then increase that count gradually, adding 10 percent every week or so. Three simple ways to do that: pace as you chat with friends on your cell, take a longer route when walking to your mailbox, or carry grocery bags in one at a time.

17. Adopt a canine workout buddy:

Exercise is as good for your dog as it is for you. Regular exercise can help prevent many of the same health issues in your dog that affect people, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. [11] Plus, exercising with your dog not only provides you a reliable workout buddy, but it can also strengthen the bond with your dog. If your dog isn’t used to walking, start slowly, perhaps only walking five or 10 minutes at a time. No dog? Volunteer to walk dogs at your local animal shelter, ask to accompany your friends when they walk their pooches, or check in with older neighbors to see if they need help walking their pup.

18. Get your groove on:

Dancing isn’t only a calorie burner, it’s also a great mood booster, Sheppard says. Crank your favorite tunes and whether you’re dancing by yourself or a partner (your significant other, kids, or your pets), just let yourself go and have fun.

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References

  1. https://www.prescriptiontogetactive.com/app/uploads/resistance-training-ACSM.pdf
  2. https://www.jasonkozma.com
  3. https://teamkattouf.com
  4. https://sheppardmethodpilates.com
  5. https://www.novastudios.com
  6. https://iamherbalife.com/samantha-clayton-bio/
  7. https://www.aditalang.com
  8. http://sheltonqigong.com
  9. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24532996
  10. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/report/pdf/02_A_Executive_Summary.pdf
  11. https://petobesityprevention.org/weight-loss-dogs/
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Karen Asp
Karen Asp is a leading, award-winning journalist who covers fitness, health, nutrition, pets and travel. A former contributing editor for Woman’s Day, she writes regularly for numerous publications, including Better Homes and Gardens, Cosmo, Delta Sky, Eating Well, Forks Over Knives, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Martha Stewart Living, O, Oxygen, Prevention, Real Simple, Sierra Club, USA Today, VegNews, Weight Watchers and Women’s Health. She’s the author of the upcoming Anti-Aging Hacks (Simon & Schuster, 2019). Karen is also a certified personal trainer, health educator who’s certified in plant-based nutrition, and plant-powered athlete who holds several Nordic walking world records.