A Guide to Home Fitness
Regular exercise is key to staying healthy and fit. Beyond building a lean physique, regular exercise has been shown to keep your vital organs functioning optimally. From memory to digestion and longevity to metabolism, there are very few corners of physical and mental health that exercise leaves untouched.
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. In fact, around 30 minutes, five days a week, is sufficient. Creating a consistent fitness routine to meet this target can be relatively simple with some planning and a bit of strategy. At-home workouts simplify daily exercise by removing common barriers such as time and expense.
Bringing your fitness routine inside has a few basic requirements to consider, though: time, space, equipment, and – unless you are a personal trainer – qualified guidance on completing safe and effective exercises. While you can start off with a few basic pieces of equipment, if you plan to exercise at home for the long term, investing in premium equipment may improve your overall workout experience.
Building consistency with at-home workouts starts with carving out a realistic amount of time each day. While you don’t have to maintain the same time each day, a routine lets your brain know what’s coming. Even better, fitness performance may improve when exercise is completed at the same time each day.
Before deciding on a time, consider your work, home, and social calendars. Typically, there are fewer obstacles to an early morning workout than almost any other time of day. If you’re not a morning person, afternoon or evening workouts can be just as effective, but you may need to be more proactive about scheduling to ensure life doesn’t get in the way. You’ll also want to consider additional factors, such as noise if you live in an apartment or with roommates. Neighbors and family members alike will appreciate you avoiding a 5 a.m. plyometrics session.
Exactly how much time is required? As mentioned, 30 minutes a day for most days of the week is sufficient. However, exercise is cumulative, meaning small chunks of time throughout the day are as effective as one large chunk. Research has shown that the health benefits of working out can be observed in as few as four minutes. If you can’t allot 30 minutes, start with five to 10 minutes and build from there.
While it may be nice, a dedicated room is not required for at-home workouts. Larger spaces can increase the variety of exercise equipment; however, most workouts can be customized to the space that you have available. At a minimum, your fitness area should be big enough for you to comfortably lie down, run in place, and do jumping jacks without bumping into walls or ceilings.
Ideally, your home fitness space should have a place for water and a small towel, a comfortable temperature, and adequate lighting. It should have a nonslip floor and be clean and free of clutter. Foam tiles can easily be placed atop hard or slippery surfaces to add comfort and safety.
Effective at-home workouts can be completed with no equipment. A few popular, science-based resources for equipment-free workouts include The New York Times “7-Minute Workout,” Dr. Zach Bush’s “4-Minute Workout,” and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Exercise Library.
For increased variety, additional equipment can be added to spice up your at-home workout routine. The cost of equipment can be considerably less than the cost of a gym membership, boutique fitness classes, and the investment of travel time.
A basic home fitness area might include a yoga mat, medicine ball, and a set of free weights. If space is limited, resistance bands and adjustable free weights are great options to conserve real estate. A yoga mat can be used not only for yoga but also for Pilates and core work. Free weights, medicine balls, and resistance bands are great for toning and can be added to basic moves, such as lunges, to increase effort and maximize the efficiency of the workout.
Beyond the basics, the next tier of gym equipment requires a bit more space. A weight bench and small barbell with adjustable weights can expand strength and resistance training options. Strength training is great for those looking to build lean body mass (muscle). Building lean body mass also helps with fat loss, as an increase in muscle gives a boost to the metabolic rate, both during exercise and at times of rest. This means you’ll burn more calories even while sleeping or watching TV.
A bike trainer can convert a road bike into a stationary bike for some added cardio. This is a great low-budget option if you have a bike and live in a climate with less-than-ideal weather. Cardiovascular exercise, such as bike riding, helps to increase muscle mass much like weight training, but it also has the added benefit of working your heart. Endurance exercises pertain to longer periods of cardio, such as long-distance biking or running, and are optimal for fat burning. If there is a bike race or triathlon in your future, a bike trainer will allow you to train on the same bike you’ll use in your race and at home when the weather isn’t ideal for outdoor exercise.
Integrating technology into your home gym is an upgrade to the workout experience that may pay off in the long run. A flat-screen TV or tablet for streaming fitness content can add variety and provide structure and guidance. A wireless speaker can play motivational music, improving the experience and possibly resulting in longer workouts. Activity trackers assist with accountability and performance tracking. Users are also more likely to lose weight with regular tracking.
To create an at-home workout experience that rivals a gym or boutique fitness studio, you may consider investing in a few pieces of premium equipment. This might include an interactive screen or smarter traditional equipment such as a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical with streaming capabilities. These machines are now available with integrated technology, and the options are endless. You can attend a live spinning class, get your butt kicked by celebrity trainers, and squeeze into a downward dog on a virtual beach all from the comfort of your own home.
Smart machines – equipment utilizing integrated technology – track your training and progress using both machine-generated and user-entered data. So if numbers motivate you or you want to dial in your workout to hit specific targets such as heart rate, speed, effort, total calories burned, and resistance, then this may be a good option for you. Some equipment even suggests ways to improve the efficiency of your at-home workouts, helping you to reach your fitness goals.
With all of the options available, it can be overwhelming deciding on which equipment to purchase. Treadmills are great for runners and walkers, and they are extremely versatile when integrated with technology. They can be used for both endurance activities, such as long runs/walks, or interval training where settings transition the user between slow and fast tempos. Changing the elevation can add an element of resistance as well. If you’re training for a marathon or another running event, treadmills are a convenient way to get in the mileage each week and can be adjusted to mimic the conditions of the racecourse. Because treadmill exercises are weight-bearing, they are not ideal for individuals with lower extremity joint pain or inflammation.
An elliptical machine also involves weight-bearing activity, but it puts less pressure on the joints due to the gliding motion. It also can provide an endurance- and interval-type workout without many transitions. Elliptical machines further involve the upper body, as users engage the arm and back muscles when they pull and push the handlebars.
Smart stationary bikes are a great all-around option for at-home workout equipment. Much like a treadmill and elliptical, a bike can transition between endurance and interval training, and tension can be adjusted to increase resistance. Because of the seated position, this can be ideal for someone avoiding weight-bearing exercise.
To ease the sticker shock of technology-integrated and subscription-based home equipment, consider what an annual gym membership costs, as well as any one of the classes you’re likely to attend, and compare. You may find that you can save both time and money with a premium home workout space, and it may even get you to your health and fitness goals faster.
Establishing a Routine
Once you have your home gym in place, establish a well-rounded routine that incorporates a variety of exercises. A sound fitness regimen includes:
- Strength or resistance training to increase muscle mass and improve bone health. This includes lifting free weights, using resistance bands, and performing exercises that utilize your own body weight, such as pushups or planks.
- Cardiovascular activity to keep your heart strong. Running, swimming, and biking are all included in this category.
- to keep mitochondria in shape (these are the little metabolic engines in cells). HIIT can be just about anything that gets your heart rate up for short bursts of time, from running up a flight of stairs to 60 seconds of burpees.
- Flexibility and balance exercises, such as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi, to prevent injury.
- Core work to strengthen and stabilize core muscles, such as planks, crunches, and certain elements of Pilates and yoga.
If you’re more of an advanced athlete training for a specific event, incorporating a variety of exercises can help you prevent injury and improve fitness.
To maintain safety and avoid injury, strenuous at-home workouts should include a warmup and cool-down period to transition the heart and muscles to and from activity. Most streamed content will include a warmup and cool down in the workout or as a stand-alone feature that can be added to any routine.
Expert Fitness Guidance
Posting videos on the internet does not, by itself, qualify someone to guide exercise and fitness. Make sure to utilize qualified resources for instruction. This may include certified personal trainers, athletic trainers, certified yoga or Pilates instructors, exercise physiologists, and programs that source content from these same qualified individuals.
There is no shortage of free and paid expert content online for exercise instruction. ACE Exercise Library is a great resource for form and to educate yourself on specific exercises. PopSugar, Fitness Blender, and Nike Training Club offer an endless variety of content to keep your at-home workouts challenging and engaging.
New to at-home workouts or exercise? It may be helpful to start with a structured program that incorporates all elements of a sound workout regimen. Beachbody on Demand has several programs that incorporate both exercise and nutrition in a scheduled format for a streamlined lifestyle overhaul.
If you’re seeking a premium experience, subscription services such as Peloton and Bowflex Max Intelligence offer live and personalized workouts that will make you feel like you’re in a modern studio with your very own trainer.
Home Fitness for Good Health
At-home workouts are an effective and efficient way to meet exercise goals. Your personal gym can be ready to go in a few hours with a small amount of time to designate, clean, and declutter. Advancements in fitness technology allow you to start with little or no equipment and get in an enjoyable workout. Transitioning from a monthly gym membership also frees up some capital to invest in premium equipment, so you can upgrade any space to a high-end fitness studio.
Once the space is ready to go, establish a routine and schedule your workouts to maximize effectiveness and create consistency. In no time, you’ll be fit in the comfort of your own home and wonder why you didn’t make the transition to a home workout sooner.