Easy Ways to Exercise at Home
don't need a home gym to exercise at home. Here are four inexpensive,
easy-to-store alternatives that, together, enhance all the elements
of fitness: muscle strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular
endurance. All are sold in sporting-goods stores.
on the bandwagon
exercise bands are a perfect option for beginning strength training.
They've been used by physical therapists for years. Cheap (usually
about $3 a band), portable, and versatile, these long, wide
bands provide the resistance you need to work your muscles.
They often come with illustrated booklets. The bands' colors
reflect the level of resistance. You can strengthen and tone
virtually all your major musclesand work them from a variety
of angles, depending on what you use as an anchor for the elastic
Sitting on the floor with your legs extended, loop band under
arches of feet and hold one end in each hand. Start with arms
extended forward. Keeping your back straight and shoulders down,
pull your elbows back slowly, contracting shoulder blades. Hold
for 2 seconds; release slowly. Repeat.
Start with easy resistance and gradually increase the difficulty.
If you're stretching the band too much, switch to a harder resistance.
Keep the band at its normal width so that it doesn't cut into
your hands, feet, or ankles. After stretching the band, release
it slowly, but do not let it go slack. Wrap the band securely
around your hand or foot so it won't slip. When an exercise
calls for anchoring one end of the band, choose an object that
won't move, such as a pole or heavy piece of furniture.
a BIG ball
big vinyl therapy ballalso called a physio-, Swiss, or
gym ballhas been used for 30 years in Switzerland. Now
these balls are turning up in gyms and physical-therapy offices
across the U.S. Filled with air and relatively soft, unlike
medicine balls, they cushion you as you stretch. They come in
different sizes, for people of different heights. For instance,
a 65-centimeter (about 24-inch) ball is recommended for those
between 5'8" and 6'. Inflated with a simple pump, they
start at about $20.
can do calisthenics (strengtheners) and stretches on the ball,
as well as warm-up and cool-down routines. Ball workouts require
the use of multiple muscle groups. For instance, by simply sitting
and bouncing on the ball, you work your hamstrings, quadriceps,
abdominals, and back muscles. Add arm movements, and you also
get an upper-body workout. The main benefits are improved coordination,
balance, and posture.
for hip flexor muscles. Kneeling, put your stomach on
the ball. Keeping one knee forward and bent at a 90° angle,
put forearms on the ball. Extend the other leg backward, with
the knee on the floor. Hold and feel the stretch in the front
of your hip. Your front knee should be over the foot. Then lift
the back knee, straighten the back leg, and stretch again. Switch
When you sit on the ball, as you would a chair, your thighs
should be parallel to the ground. Don't wear pins or anything
that might puncture the ball. Make sure you have enough room
so that if you lose your balance you won't fall onto a piece
of furniture. If you are older and/or have poor balance, start
off with a "spotter"someone who will stand alongside
you and make sure you don't fall off the ball.
your medicine ball
a different kind of ball workout, try medicine balls. Leather
versions used to be popular among trainers and athletes in the
1930s. Today these weighted balls, dubbed "plyoballs"
or "body balls," are usually made of polyurethane
you do with a medicine ball is called plyometric exercise. This
involves stretching a muscle (as when you squat before you jump
to shoot a basket) and then contracting it suddenly or "explosively"
as you jump. You can hold the ball above your chest to make
your sit-up routine more strenuous. Or substitute it for hand
weights while doing aerobic dance. Or play toss or keep-away
with one or two partners. Plyometrics can build muscle strength,
thus increasing power for specific sports.
Sitting with your back at a 45°
angle to the floor, move the ball from side to side, twisting
your upper body.
Start with a small, lightweight ballabout 18 inches in
diameter and weighing 5 to 9 pounds. Balls over 16 pounds should
be used only in professional training. Vary your workout to
avoid overuse injuries or soreness. For advanced or intense
plyometric exercises, consult a trainer.
rope is great exercise for adults as well as kids. All you need
is a rope and good shoesplus a little instruction at first
and then some practice.
aerobic exercise became a byword in the 1980s, rope jumping
gained new popularityfor good reason. As a way to build
cardiovascular endurance, jumping rope can be as strenuous as
jogging, but is lower in impact, since you should jump only
a little off the ground. It helps improve coordination, speed,
and agility. If you engage in a sport (such as tennis, basketball,
or skiing) that requires bursts of speed and power, jumping
rope can be particularly beneficial. It works muscles in the
legs, shoulders, chest, and forearms. And it burns lots of calories.
the rope length. Stand on the center
and pull the handles up your sides: the ends of the handles
should come just up to your armpits.
Wear shoes with good support; aerobics shoes or cross-trainers
(not running shoes) are best. Make sure the rope handles fit
comfortably in your hands. It's best to jump on the kind of
springy wood floor found at a gym or health club, but a lawn
or a mat works well, too. Carpets are fine, but a thick one
may throw off your timing. Concrete is too hard and increases
the risk of injury, but if your shoes are good enough you should
be able to jump anywhere.
you are just beginning to jump, start at about 70 turns a minute,
which allows you to double-hop each jump. Keeping your elbows
near the sides of your hips, turn the rope with your wrists
and forearmsdon't turn from the shoulders. To minimize
stress on your legs, jump just high enough for the rope to pass
under your feetonly an inch or two off the ground. Land
softly on the balls of your feet and let your heels help absorb
the impact. Land with your knees slightly bent. Keep your posture
erect, shoulders back, and abdomen tucked in. Slow down if you
get winded or too tired. Jumping rope can elevate your heart
rate very quickly.
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