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Going to the gym requires time, money and willpower. For those of us with deficiencies in any (or all) of those areas, how can we burn calories and gain muscle without leaving our home?
You might be surprised at how easily you can improve your fitness with a home workout that requires no equipment and very little space.
Home Workout Guidelines
A good rule of thumb is to do your cardio routine one day and muscle building the next. This allows your different muscle groups to rest between sessions. Before you do any of these exercises, stretch and warm up. Stretching isn't complicated. Just focus on the muscle groups you'll be working and stretch as you would if you were trying to relieve an ache. To warm up, simply lightly jog in place for at least five minutes. You should also cool down the same way and then stretch again.
To burn calories, you need to move, and move a lot. Set your pace to slightly harder than comfortable and work as long as you comfortably can. Your goal is 30 minutes of cardio without taking a break. Don't just choose one activity and do it day after day; mix it up. You'll enjoy yourself more and be more likely to stick to your routine. Dance: This activity also requires loud music and enough room to dip and dive. Get the kids to join you, and you'll have a riot. If you're dancing alone and need inspiration, tune into a music video and follow the dancers' moves. YouTube is a great source of music videos for all kinds of music. Since each video is short--usually only three to five minutes--either watch the same one over and over until you have the moves down pat or queue of four or five in a row. Aerobics: Aerobics classes are a great way to add variety to your home cardio routine, and all you need is a TV and YouTube. A search on YouTube for "aerobics workout" gives about 114,000 results, so narrow the search by level, such as beginners, or type, such as low impact. These videos run from 15 to 30 minutes, and once you find an instructor you like, you can progress with them through different routines. Dance and aerobics are similar enough that you can even find dance aerobics routines--the best of both worlds. Skipping: It was fun when you were a kid and it's still fun now. Technically, skipping requires equipment (a jump rope), but you can mimic the benefits of skipping by holding small weights, such as hairbrushes. Just skip as long and as fast as you want. Stair Climbing: Steps are great for a variety of exercises. If you don't have a flight of stairs in your home you can use a solid box the height of one stair. With this, you can step up and down, on leg at a time, or you can hop on and off. If you've got a flight of stairs, you can run up and down as many times as you can. For an added challenge, skip every other step on the way up. Be sure to wear shoes with a good nonslip tread so that you don't slip and fall.
Home Muscle Building
The weight of your body and gravity are all you need to strength and tone your muscles. There are many muscle-building exercises you can do at home, but here are four basics: for upper body--push-ups, for your core--yoga crunches, for your butt--walking lunges, and for lower body--squat jumps. Repeat each exercise slowly while keeping proper form, until your muscles are too tired to do any more. Be careful not to push yourself into pain and injury. Beginners can start with one set of 15 repetitions followed by a one-minute break. As you improve, add more sets. Push-ups: Whether you are a novice or an old hand, push-ups can be modified to give you the upper body workout you need. Total novices can do push-ups standing against the wall instead of the floor. Once that's easy you can move to the floor with your knees down. After you've mastered that you can progress to full-press, plank-style push-ups. Remember to keep your elbows close to your sides and your hands directly under your shoulders. Yoga Crunches: Nothing strengths and tones abdominal muscles like yoga crunches. Lie flat on the floor with knees bent. Raise your legs until your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Support your head solidly in your hands. Pull your abs down deeply as you gently curl up. Curl up and down slowly and mindfully. If you're a beginner, place your heels on a chair seat to protect your back. Walking Lunges: These not only work your glutes but also improve your balance. First, stand with feet together. Take a comfortable step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your hips until your front upper leg is parallel to the floor and your back knee is close to the ground. Push off with your right foot, returning your right leg to starting position. Repeat with your left leg. Be sure to never extend your front knee over your ankle. If this happens, take a longer step. Squat Jumps: Just like the name implies, you squat with feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides, then jump as high as you can and reach for the ceiling. When you land, use your whole foot, then return to squatting position. References: 1) Money Sense: Get Buff Not Broke2) LifeHacker: How to Get a Full Body Workout With Nothing But Your Body3) Fit Sugar: No Equipment Necessary: Full Body Circuit Workout4) About: Beginner's Cardio5) About: Anatomy of a Workout6) Momtastic: Stair Workouts at HomePhoto Credit: Phil Roeder via Flickr.