In a world of office jobs and fast food takeaways, it’s not surprising that humans are now fatter and unhealthier than ever.
Being fit is vital: aside from helping you avoid health complications in later life, getting yourself in shape can yield immediate benefits. Scientific studies repeatedly prove you’ll be more productive, sleep better, be less stressed, have a better body image, and reduce your risk of contracting diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Best of all, the route to a better you doesn’t have to lie in expensive gym memberships and personal trainers. Any place and even your home can be your gym.
In this article, I’m going to show you how you can exercise for free, right now. Follow along and the pounds will be dropping off in no time.
Note: Proceed with caution. If you’re unfit, don’t push yourself too hard at the start — it will do more harm than good. If in doubt, consult your local doctor.
In the fitness world, the word “cardio” refers to aerobic exercise; it improves the performance of your cardio-respiratory system (heart, lungs, and blood vessels).
The benefits are numerous — they include reduced blood pressure, increased endurance, improved oxygenation of your organs, and even an increased gray matter density in your brain.
Activities such as long-distance jogging, cycling, power walking, and swimming are the most common forms of cardio. Sadly, they’re often boring and lots of people hate doing them.
Here are a couple of variations to make cardio exercises more fun:
Run Up a Staircase
It’s not just Rocky Balboa who runs up and down stairs. There’s a reason you often see pro-athletes performing the same activity: it is a great exercise.
Any staircase will suffice, even if it’s one in your own home. Start by running up and down as many times as possible, skipping every second step if possible. Stop when you can’t run anymore.
Divide your total in half. Next time you work out, perform as many sets of your halved number as possible, taking a 60-second break between each set.
There are several variations of this theme. Check out the video below for more ideas.
Run With Your Dog
Yes, it’s still running, but it’s a lot more fun if you’re slobbering best friend is chasing you around.
Rather than just running with your pooch, buy a slingshot, launch a tennis ball, and try and beat your dog to where it lands. Repeat indefinitely.
It’s great interval training for you and it’ll help get Fido in shape. It’s a double win.
2. Upper Body
Upper body workouts primarily focus on your shoulders, arms, and chest, though several of them will also benefit your core.
They often give quick results and are easy to do. But be careful, losing your form can result in injuries. Always focus on performing the routine properly, even if it means you achieve fewer reps.
To determine how many reps you should do in each set, do the same calculation as the aforementioned staircase workout.
Casual exercisers often overlook dips in favor of push-ups. In practice, they’re a better alternative. In addition to strengthening the pectorals, deltoids, and triceps, they also work out the rhomboid muscles in your back.
You can use any chair or bench in your house — just make sure it can support your body weight. Put your palms on the edge of the chair with your fingers facing forward. Bend your knees and walk your feet out until your arms are supporting most of your body weight. Then bend your arms so your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Make sure your hips drop in a vertical line.
I know what you’re thinking: you need to buy some dumbbells to do curls, right?
Actually, there are lots of things around your house you can use. Two of the most popular are backpacks and cartons of milk with a handle. If you use a backpack, make sure you distribute the weight evenly and pack it in a way that prevents the contents moving around.
To begin the exercise, keep your arms down by your side and grasp the weight with your palms facing forward. Keep your elbows tight to your body and ensure your shoulders are straight and upright. Slowly bring the weight up to your shoulder and lower it again. Do the full motion for maximum benefit.
Your core muscles are found around your stomach and lower/mid back. A stronger core provides a reduced risk of injury and can help with everything from stability and strength to continence and pregnancy.
The major core muscles are the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, sacrospinalis, and the diaphragm.
Obviously, common exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and planks strength your core, but here are three new ones to consider:
Stand up straight with your feet at the same width as your hips. Bend down from your waist and walk forward until you reach your maximum. Then walk backward, stand up straight, and repeat. For extra intensity, add a push-up when you’re horizontal.
Start in a high plank position. Put all your weight onto your left hand, then kick your right hand with your left foot. Repeat on the other side then alternate between the two as quickly as possible. Keep your core tight throughout.
Beginners should start on all fours. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees straight below your hips. Lift one leg up until it’s in line with your body and parallel to the ceiling. Repeat with the other leg.
For a more advanced variation, start in a high plank position. Kick your feet into the air and try to touch your butt with your heels. You should be putting your body weight onto your hands, but your shoulders should stay in line with your wrists.
4. Lower Body
Your lower body mainly refers to your legs and feet. It’s an oft-overlooked part of a full body workout; we’ve all seen people in the gym who are somewhat “top-heavy” and look out of proportion as a result.
This exercise is linked to the staircase workout, but instead of climbing up shallow stairs, you need something that’s a bit higher. A park bench is perfect — you’re looking for something that’s a touch lower than the height of your knee.
Put your left foot on the bench. Use the strength in that leg to push up and bring your right foot up onto the bench. Do not use the power in your right leg to help. Repeat the process on your right leg. Ten sets of ten reps on each leg will give you a good workout.
As it gets easier, do not increase the height. Instead, consider adding extra weight to each leg.
You didn’t think you’d get to the end and not be told to do squats, did you?!
Yes, they hurt — but they’re really, really good for you. They can strengthen your legs, lower back, hips, buttocks, and even your bones. They’re one of the most effective workouts you can do at home.
Stand up straight and place your feet at shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and lower yourself into a squatting position. You’re aiming to get your thighs parallel to the floor. Make sure you keep your back vertical at all times. You can put your arms by your side or at 90 degrees to your body, whatever feels best.
What Are Your Favorite Exercises?
I’ve shown you a few exercises to get you started on the road to fitness, but you don’t need me to tell you that the list of potential workouts is almost endless. A cursory search on Google with throw up thousands of variations and alternatives.
Remember: if you feel pain, stop immediately and consult a professional. If you have a medical condition or a long-standing injury, you should always check with an expert before starting a new fitness regime.
How do you stay fit? What are your favorite exercises to stay in shape? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below.
Image Credits: Jack Frog/Shutterstock