It’s hard to believe there was a time in human history when being a little overweight was seen as a good thing. It makes sense, though: when food is scarce, a little extra weight was a sign of health prosperity. Nowadays, though, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, and the western world – America in particular – is in the grip of an obesity epidemic. Food is plentiful and most of us make enough money to have as much of it as we need. To make matters worse, more and more of us have jobs where we spend all day sitting at desks instead of being up and moving.
The simple fact of the matter is that most of us need to get off our butts. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. Gym memberships are expensive, and America’s basements are littered with expensive workout equipment that has slowly become just another place to hang laundry. What’s to be done? Well, if you’re tired of feeling flabby and unhealthy, but don’t have the money or time for the gym, you’re in luck. It turns out there are all sorts of exercises that you can do in the comfort of your home in just a few minutes a couple times a week, and you never have to pay a dime if you don’t want to.
Here’s an overview of some in-home exercises that will help you build muscle and burn fat:
Ah, the dreaded p-word. The fact is, most of us simply hate push-ups. They can be hard to do correctly, especially if you aren’t used to doing them, and they just aren’t much fun. What they are, however, is one of the best ways to tone your chest and arms short of lifting weights. They’re also extremely versatile – varying things like the width of your arms or the placement of your feet can change which muscles you’re targeting. They also provide an excellent static workout for your abs. However unpopular they may be, push-ups are essential to any in-home workout.
To do a proper standard push-up, place your arms on the floor about shoulder-width apart and your feet together on the floor. keep your back straight and don’t hang your head. Lower yourself down until your nose is about an inch off the floor, hold for one second, then push back up to the starting position. Repeat as many times as you’re able and do two sets per workout.
Crunches are another exercise everyone loves to hate. Like push-ups, crunches can feel difficult and awkward if you’re not used to doing them. Also like push-ups, though, crunches are one of the best and ways to work your abdominal muscles short of using workout equipment.
To do crunches, lay on your back with your knees in the air and your feed on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your head. Using your abdominal muscles only (don’t use your hands to pull your head up!), try to touch your elbows to your knees. Additionally, you can target your oblique muscles by alternating touching each elbow to the opposite knee (i.e., right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee). Repeat as many times as you are able and do two sets per workout.
Squats are one of the best ways around to tone your leg muscles, particularly your quadriceps and the other muscles of your upper leg. They tend not to have quite the same hateful reputation as push-ups and crunches, but don’t let that fool you: squats can be tough, especially if you aren’t used to doing them. Do a few squats and you can bet that you’ll be feeling it the next day. That also means, however, that they’re good for you. Squats are one of the best ways, short of weights, to build muscle in your legs.
To perform a proper squat, stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight, lower yourself until your thighs are roughly parallel with the floor. Hold for a second, then stand back up. It’s important to keep your back straight, otherwise you’re just practicing bending over, and that won’t do you nearly as much good.
This is arguably the single most important part of any workout. If you want to burn fat, increase your metabolism, and build up your endurance, there is simply no better way to do that than cardio. What’s more, when it comes to cardiovascular exercise, there are all sorts of ways to get a good workout. One of the easiest and least expensive ways it to start jogging. Running is simply fantastic exercise, and the only cost is a decent pair of shoes and a few minutes of your time a couple times a week. Another good cardio workout is biking. Of course, biking is more expensive, as a decent bike costs a fair bit more than running shoes, but on a bike you can go faster and farther than you can on a jog (and who doesn’t love that?). Plus biking is lower-impact, meaning it’s easier on your joints, which can be important if you’ve got bad knees. And if biking and running aren’t for you, there are other alternatives, too. You can also do aerobics, or even just spend some time in your living room doing jumping jacks.
Now Go Do It
So there you have it, a simple in-home workout that covers most of the body’s major muscle groups and doesn’t cost you anything, apart from about twenty minutes of your time two or three times a week, and maybe the price of a decent pair of running shoes (or a bike). While a workout like this may not make you the super-toned body-building god you see on the cover of a fitness magazine, it will definitely help you build muscle, increase endurance, lose weight (when combined with better eating habits), increase energy, and overall make you feel better about yourself. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!