By Wendy Watkins
Looking to kickstart your fitness routine but aren’t quite ready to join a studio or gym? You don’t need a lot of equipment or space to get into great shape at home. It just takes a little ingenuity, motivation and planning. Plus, thanks to technology, you can enjoy many gym features – including some of your favorite classes – from the comfort of your living room or home office.
One of the biggest takeaways from the past year and a half has been the power of being prepared. That also applies to your fitness and wellness, since it has such a major impact on your overall health, including your immune system.
“Exercise benefits you from your brain to your toes,” said Dr. Michelle Toder, a surgeon who is board certified in obesity and bariatric medicine, and who serves as medical director for Northern Light’s weight loss programs.
Picking up a regular fitness habit helps your cognitive function, your mood, heart health, blood pressure and digestive system as well as your bone density, said Toder. It also can help improve your strength, balance and flexibility, cutting back on the risk of falling, she said.
Exercise is especially important if you’ve fallen off your healthy habits because of social distancing and more time at home. Not only did many many people stop working out since the beginning of the pandemic, but they became a lot less active in general, said Toder.
While sneaking extra activity into your day – like parking your car farther away from a store entrance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator – is a great idea, it shouldn’t be counted as part of your exercise routine.
“This is about setting aside a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week, when you put on your workout clothes and you go as hard as is possible and reasonable for you,” she said.
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity – or a combo of both – per week. Plus, the association recommends getting in at least two total-body strength-training workouts per week.
That’s the amount of exercise needed for basic health benefits. If weight loss is a goal, the amount of necessary exercise climbs to 300 minutes per week, or 45 minutes a day, said Toder.
She also advocates getting outside for that exercise whenever possible. “Being outside really lowers stress levels, lowers your heart rate and it’s good for mental health,” she said. Plus, it can help boost vitamin D levels, which is important for keeping your immune system strong.
She said she personally brings a mask along when she exercises outside, so she has the option of putting it on if she nears a group of people.
TRYING NEW WORKOUTS
When it comes to the format of your home workouts, the sky’s the limit thanks to the internet.
Some Maine gyms and studios are offering streaming services for their clients and members, bringing training and classes from their facility into your living room. Many personal trainers and fitness coaches are also offering custom workout training via applications such as Zoom.
Plus, many popular fitness class formats are now available through your Smart TV or home computer. Companies like Les Mills (BodyPump, BodyCombat, etc.), BeachBody and Zumba all stream classes on-demand on a monthly subscription basis.
Not only that, but there are also thousands of workouts available for free via YouTube. Just type in what you’re looking for – such as “low impact cardio workout” – and you can test out a free workout.
These can be a fun and easy way to try out new styles of workouts without the intimidation factor of being in a classful of other seasoned exercisers.
During the height of the coronavirus shutdown, finding exercise gadgets like weights, resistance bands and home gym equipment was almost impossible, and prices skyrocketed due to shortages. While that equipment is becoming more available, you can still get a solid workout with just your own bodyweight and some light dumbbells (we have one below).
If you need weights but can’t find any in stores or online, you can use cans of food, bottles of water or other sturdy, heavy containers that you can safely grip.
If it’s been a while since you’ve worked out, it’s best to start doing a little less than you think you should. Starting slow can help you avoid soreness and burnout, allowing you to stay motivated for the long term. Always listen to your body and be sure to get your doctor’s okay before starting a new workout program.
We have a sample week of workouts and a basic strength-training routine to get you started.
Note: This is just a suggestion – switch up your activities to include other forms of workouts you enjoy, based on the season and the weather. You can dance, jog, swim, snowshoe, cross-country ski or use cardio machines.
Monday – 30 min. brisk walk outside
Tuesday – 15-20 min. “interval” walk or bike ride — add short (30-60 second) bursts of more intense activity to rev up your heart rate and alternate with slower activity. Plus weight workout.
Wednesday – 30 min. brisk walk
Thursday – 15-20 min. “Interval” walk or bike ride, plus weight workout
Friday – 30 min. brisk walk
Strength training routine:
Start with light dumbbells and add weight as you become stronger.
10 pushups (you can do these standing with your hands on the wall or kitchen counter)
10 lunges each side
10 one-arm bent-over dumbbell rows
10 step-ups each side
10 overhead dumbbell presses
10 biceps curls
10 triceps dips
30 second plank
Repeat entire sequence for a total of 1-3 times through.
Wendy Watkins is a fitness and wellness coach in Bangor and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months.
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