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No Gym Required: How to Get Fit at Home

Get in shape without leaving the house
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Exclusive Feature

You want to get fit. But you don't want to join a health club -- it's too expensive, there's no gym convenient to you, or maybe you're just the independent type. Or perhaps you're already a gym member, but your schedule has been too manic for you to get away.

That leaves working out at home. But can you really get a great workout without leaving the house?

Absolutely, says Kevin Steele, PhD, exercise physiologist and vice president of 24 Hour Fitness Centers.

"In today's world, the reality of it is people don't have time to go to a facility every day anyway," he says. "And consistency is key."

Believe it or not, Steele says, at 24 Hour Fitness, they encourage folks to exercise at home as much as at the gym. This way, they are more apt to adopt fitness as a lifestyle. "The key thing is that you do something, somewhere, sometime," he says.

Steele and other fitness experts say it doesn't take much effort or money to design an effective workout program at home. Things like fit balls, dumbbells, exercise bands or tubing, and push-up bars are an inexpensive way to create a routine that works all the major muscle groups.

But even with no props or machines, you can build muscles and burn calories.

"If someone wants to get started, they could take a brisk walk, then do abdominal exercises and push-ups," says Richard Weil, MEd, CDE an exercise physiologist and WebMD Weight Loss clinic consultant.

The 5 Elements of Fitness

According to Steele, an effective fitness program has five components, all of which you can do at home:

  • A warmup.
  • A cardiovascular (aerobic) workout.
  • Resistance (strength-building) exercises.
  • Flexibility moves.
  • A cooldown

A warm-up could be an easy walk outside or on a treadmill, or a slow pace on a stationary bike. For the cardiovascular portion, walk or pedal faster, do step aerobics with a video, or jump rope -- whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up.

The resistance portion can be as simple as squats, push-ups and abdominal crunches. Or you could work with small dumbbells, a weight bar, bands or tubing.

Increase your flexibility with floor stretches or yoga poses. And your cooldown should be similar to the warm up, says Steele -- "cardiovascular work at a low level to bring the heart rate down to a resting state."

You can do strength work in same workout as your aerobic work, or split them up. Just be sure to warm up and cool down every time you exercise.

If you're short on time one day, increase the intensity of your workout, says Tony Swain, MS, fitness director of East Bank Club in Chicago. Instead of your usual 45-minute ride on the stationary bike, choose a harder program for 25 minutes and really push yourself. Choose the hilly walk in your neighborhood, or jog instead of walking.

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