Best At-Home exercise programs: Easy tips for fitness success

home workout wakeup and get fit exercise equipment with dumbell and yoga mat and resistance band

Published July 22, 2020

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Jump Around

No Gym Required

Your guide to choosing the best exercise program for your fitness goals at home-

Perhaps you’re like myself and cancelled your gym membership as soon as stay-at-home orders were announced. With all that money saved, suffice to say some of us gained it in unwanted pounds. The loss of motivation and sluggishness so many of us are experiencing is likely due to a disruption in daily routine and eating habits.

There’s already enough worry about: Unemployment is at an all time high, people are rioting and protesting the racial injustices within our systems, and so many people are struggling to pay rent or meet basic needs. To top it all off- nobody knows when this will end.

Many companies are opting to allow their employees to work anywhere permanently amid the pandemic. Massive shifts in the work-from-home trend have led to increased flexibility in workers’ schedules. More time to complete house chores, spend with family, and nix the commute are all bonuses. But one aspect that may remain absent in all this change and chaos could be your fitness routine.

It is no surprise that regular physical activity is important for your health. With more time to individualize our schedules, we may be under the impression that it is easier to get moving, but for many it might prove more difficult.

One of the biggest problems of working from home is inactivity. According to the World Health Organization, 31% of individuals 15 years of age or older are physically inactive, and approximately 3.2 million deaths per year are attributed to this unhealthy sedentary behavior.

The effects of sitting all day pose a risk factor for cardio-metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, coronary artery disease, musculoskeletal disorders, some types of cancer, and premature death. Exercise also improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood. 

It’s safe to say we all know exercise is good for us, but carving out that time and space in your home is easier said than done. The decrease in energy expenditure can especially be seen currently with social distancing and SIP orders. With less opportunities to venture outside of our homes and into our favorite gyms or public spaces, making that extra effort to transform our residences into yet another facet of our lives, our workout space, can seem even more taxing. 

EASY HOME WORKOUTS

The easiest and most effective way to make sure you start an exercise program is to pencil it in. Add it to your Google calendar, have a smart watch remind you, or even plaster sticky notes around your home office. You should pick the same time every day. Maintaining a consistent workout routine, even when you work from home, is important. 

Numerous fitness institutions have been offering free classes online. A quick search on Youtube will provide endless results for workouts from cardio and strength to yoga, and more.

The many effects of exercise on physical and mental health are indisputable. According to Dr. Pollock of American Alliance for Health, physical fitness can be divided into three major categories: cardiovascular-respiratory fitness, physique, and motor function.

Exercise programs should focus on increasing strength, endurance, flexibility, power, agility, and balance.

When focusing on strength and muscular endurance, you are able to maintain proper muscle tone, which protects against injury or lower back pain, and can improve the detriment that eventual hunching at your desk can cause. Flexibility exercises are also necessary and reduce the risks of poor posture, fatigue, and injury that are often associated with working at a desk. 

Whatever activity you choose, it is recommended to exercise 3 to 5 days a week at 60% to 90% of maximum heart rate for 15 to 60 consecutive minutes.

ACTIVITIES THAT CAN BE DONE INDOORS

Timed walk/jog

Make it a point to walk around or even pace back and forth in your living room. If you’re able and willing, take a lap around the block. Just make sure you keep it going for a set amount of time (20-30 minutes is a good start).  You can even utilize stairs if you have access to them. If you live near outdoor trails in your area, hiking can really boost your heart, mind, and body. The fresh air and the beauty of nature may be just the boost you need.

To explore trails in your area, visit AllTrails website, or download the app for Android or iOS. AllTrails helps you explore the outdoors with over 100,000 hiking trails and mountain bike routes.

 Yoga stretch breaks

Vinyasa yoga is a great practice to increase strength, flexibility, and endurance. It is a type of yoga that strings together different postures, or asanas, using breathing techniques. 

Use a mat like Toplus to aid in your practice. Having a durable, non-slip mat like this one will provide a comfortable foundation and grip to practice a few asanas. 

Research suggests that yoga may help improve general wellness by relieving stress and improving mental and emotional health, sleep, and balance. Yoga helps relieve low-back and neck pains often associated with sedentary jobs.

Yoga also provides relief from the stressors and hectic nature of modern life. Taking a break to practice yoga during your work day not only heals and strengthens the physical body, but induces a balanced mental state.

Examples of different Vinyasa poses can be found here. You can choose to take a 15 minute stretch break every couple hours, or virtually take a power-flow class after work.

Fitness apps 

Fitness apps and trackers are a great way to load a quick workout and get going. They allow virtually any user to create their own exercise routine at any fitness level, with the added benefit of tracking.

Fitbit Coach (available on Android and iOS: FREE or $39.99/year)

  • While there are free workouts, the Fitbit Coach app, available in conjunction with Fitbit watch, is one of the best fitness trackers on the market. It tracks exercise and activity, has innovative sleep tools, and even provides reminders to get up and move each hour. The personalized training app uses dynamic workouts that track goals and progress. It also gives you access to unlimited video workouts and audio coaching. 

MyFitnessPal (available on Android and iOS: FREE or $49.99/year)

  • MyFitnessPal is one of the best calorie-counting apps on the market. The website and mobile app contains a dense searchable food database. Through its use, users can track macronutrient nutritional information (breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) for ultimate weight loss and health tracking. 

Nike Training Club (available on Android and iOS: FREE or $119.99/year) 

  • Nike Training Club app provides free workouts for all fitness levels, including bodyweight-only sessions, yoga classes, targeted training programs, and full-equipment home workouts. There are photo descriptions and video demonstrations of every workout, helping you maintain form. For a limited time due to Covid-19, premium membership remains free. 

Incorporate Weighted Workouts

Muscle-strengthening exercises are an important role in cardiovascular health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, to add some simple strength training to your routine.

Using body weight exercises develops body control and fosters joint health, but there are limitations. If you’re looking for a more intense, strengthening workout and want to build muscle, incorporate free weights.

Purchase an all-purpose weight set like this one from BalanceForm.

This particular set comes with three pairs of dumbbells in 3-pound, 5-pound, and 8-pound sizes.

If you’re on a budget, grab some soup cans. Never underestimate the simple addition of resistance.

Start with two basic exercises that strengthen a wide range of muscles in the body: a squat and a bent-over row.

Squat

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Your toes should be pointed slightly outward.
  • Look straight ahead and keep your chest up and spine in a neutral position.
  • Keep your weight on the heels and balls of your feet and hinge forward at your hips, bending your knees to lower.
  • Keeping your knees in light with your feet and squat down until your hips are lower than your knees.
  • Making sure your knees aren’t bending inward, return to the starting position.

For added intensity, beginners might want to start with one to five pound weights.

Bent-over Row

  • Stand with a weight in your left hand and a bench or sturdy chair at your right side.
  • Place your right hand and knee on the bench or chair seat and bend over at the waist, keeping your lower back tight.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then bend your left elbow to slowly lift the weight toward your ribs.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side

HIIT Workouts

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a form of interval training. It is a cardiovascular exercise method alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. This is a great way to get fit with the same benefits of a longer, less intense workout, yet accomplished in a short period of time.

Research suggests that aerobic capacity is the strongest predictor of future health, mortality, and cardiovascular risks. HIIT and sprint interval training (SIT) increase oxygen uptake and mitigate risks associated with sedentary lifestyles, more so than moderate-intensity continuous training (such as brisk walking, gardening, or dancing). Best of all, you can knock out these style workouts in shorter amounts of time, and with less boredom. 

When you’re first starting out, alternate a few short intervals of high-intensity exercise with longer periods of moderate or easy exercise. The goal of HIIT is to push yourself close to your limit, usually to a level of 8 or 9 on a perceived effort scale, with 10 being the maximum.

One example of a beginner HIIT workout is to do a five-exercise routine that works your entire body. According to Harvard Health, start by working for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. Complete as many reps as possible. As the workout becomes easier, perform each exercise only once for 30 to 45 seconds, then rest the remainder of the minute. These exercises below are plyometric and work on your upper and lower body, as well as your core.  Don’t forget to breathe continuously throughout the whole workout! 

Jumping Jacks

  • Begin in a standing position with legs straight and arms at your side.
  • Jump up and spread your feet beyond hip width apart, bringing your arms above your hand to almost touch.
  • Jump back down to the starting position and repeat. 

Burpees

  • Lower your body into a squat, and place your hands on the floor directly in front of your feet.
  • Jump your feet back into a plank position, and lower your body to the ground, finishing with a pushup.
  • Bring your feet back to your hands, then jump into the air, hands above your hands.
  • Repeat until the time is up. 

Plank

  • To achieve a proper plank position, your head should be in line with your spine (eyes should not be forward, but directly down toward the floor).
  • Place your hands directly under your shoulders, with the option to go down onto your elbows if you have wrist issues.
  • Ground your feet onto the floor and squeeze the buttocks, stabilizing the body.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, engaging your core.
  • A common mistake with planks is to spike your hips up, or dip the buttocks down. Your body should be in one, solid line, head to toe.

High Knees

  • Place your elbows on your ribs, arms parallel to the floor.
  • Drive one knee up toward your chest, hitting your hand at a 90-degree angle.
  • As your foot goes back toward the ground, drive the opposite knee high and out in front of you.
  • Alternate each leg and go as fast as possible.  

Mountain Climbers

  • Start in a high plank position with your shoulders directly over your wrists, shoulder-width apart.
  • Quickly drive each knee into your chest and alternate as if you’re running.

MOVE MORE AT YOUR DESK

The use of active workstations decreases sitting time and its adverse effects, and poses demonstrated benefits for remote and office workers. 

Sit-stand desks and other ergonomic office products prove healthful additions to your workday. Not only are you burning more calories as you get work done, you’re having more fun. Other active additions, such as walking or cycling workstations, and portable stepping or pedal devices, have a positive effect on general health of users because they- you guessed it- increase active behaviors.

These machines decrease sitting times and increase energy expenditure, leading to the myriad of positive effects on work performance and cognitive function.

EXERPEUTIC 900E Bluetooth Under Desk Bike

This portable under-desk bike fits the height of any user, and is a great addition to an active workstyle. Bluetooth technology allows you to track your workouts with time, distance, speed, calories burned, and rpm. Exerpeutic’s desk bike hooks to your desk chair to keep you in place while pedaling, and comes with fourteen levels of tension to create any style workout, from easy to challenging.

SITFLOW Under Desk Leg Swing

SitFlow’s under-desk leg swing allows you to exercise while you work, improving circulation and posture, and helping you burn calories as you send out pesky morning emails. This swing mounts to your desk is certified by Mayo Clinic. SitFlow’s leg swing is scientifically studied by leading institutions like The Mayo Clinic, University of Illinios Chicago, and Tokai University in Japan, and proven to increase productivity. 

TL;DR

With no end in sight, it is hard to say what lasting effects the COVID-19 pandemic will have on behavior patterns once life begins to return to “normal.” One factor of our health that we can control is our exercise regime. Enact just a few of these tips weekly to reap the overall health benefits.

  • Take a timed walk or jog around your neighborhood, or even within your home, for 15 to 60 minutes.
  • Honor your body while stretching out tired muscles with a yoga stretch break.
  • Fitness apps help you synchronize your health data and take the stress out of crafting a workout each day.
  • Incorporate weights into your workout. Weighted exercises like the squat or bent-over row are excellent full-body movements.
  • HIIT workouts bring the sweat and slash the time it takes to burn calories and shred fat.
  • Active workstations increase cognition throughout the work day while burning calories.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but adapting to these new circumstances involves a focus on personal health. The goal is to get moving, whether you adopt a fitness program, or simply walk for an hour every day. We’ve gotten through 2020 this far. Do a little cheer, drink some water, and get active- we still have more madness to survive.

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Interested in social reform, integral studies, and meatless pizza.

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