The dawn of a new year brings the inevitable question: what goals do you hope to achieve during the next 12 months? The answer for many includes better health. Good health requires proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, and exercise. Since New Year’s is moving to the rear view and spring is on the horizon, how consistent have you been with those resolutions? Now is a great time to revisit your goals and to explore new exercise options.
If the pandemic has taught you anything positive, it is that you can do things in more than one place. Having spent so much time at home, many have discovered the joy of exercise there. It eliminates the “hardest part about going to the gym is going to the gym” excuse since you do not need to pack a bag, get in the car, and go somewhere else.
Exercising at home offers a crowd-free option during the lingering trials of COVID as well as the flexibility to choose the schedule, program, workout duration, and instructor. If you are working from home, you can time your exercise around meetings, squeeze a little movement into a break, and still return to your computer screens dressed in work tops and pajama bottoms. Best of all, you have so many different choices for exercise at home.
These options are nearly limitless and fit every budget. Some of the best exercise is free or nearly so. Walking, jogging, and running all are excellent choices that burn calories, move the whole body, provide vital Vitamin D, and fresh air. Many choose to pair their walks or runs with music playlists, podcasts, or the company of a friend. Walking can be paired with light hand weights. Simply holding the weights while walking sculpts the arms, an irresistible bonus to walking’s appeal. Some choose to intersperse their walking with running or with sessions of lunges, another great body sculptor.
Bicycling is almost free since the only expense is the bike itself. Budget hunters can likely find one for a reasonable price at secondhand stores or through online marketplaces. Nothing improves the mood like a bike ride. All of these are excellent aerobic choices, and cost is minimal.
Bargain-priced exercise choices do not end with walking, running, and biking. Strengthening workouts just using your own body weight or dumbbells are extensive and effective. Tried and true pushups are a fantastic upper body workout. Whether you do them on your toes or your knees, the goal is to do as many repetitions as possible, three times per workout. Squats, which will tone hips and legs, can be combined nicely with hand weights to maximize effectiveness and add challenge. Single leg dead lifts work your core and test your balance.
The plank is a big win for the core, whether you place your hands at pushup position or create a triangle by bringing your hands under your chest, or whether you try the various variations, such as the side plank. Glute bridges, like squats, are a great booty booster and an exercise easy enough for anyone to do. Dumbbell rows, done leaning at the waist, create strong and beautiful back muscles. Standing overhead dumbbell presses work your core, shoulders, and back and, like dumbbell rows, are easy to do.
What are not easy to do, and challenge even the most fit person, are burpees. From standing, squat, put your hands in pushup position, jump out to the on-toe pushup position, then jump your feet back up near your shoulders, stand up, and jump in place. Online videos make this workout easy to follow. A complete set of these exercises would rival the most challenging gym workout.
For those who enjoy the feeling of a class, plenty can be found online. Some classes may require special equipment such as mats or stretching bands. Even newly trending barre exercises can be done at home using a sturdy chair. If you have TV streaming, a computer screen, or a tablet device, you can find free workout classes online. Many apps are specific to a particular kind of exercise, such as yoga or boxing.
Apps also are available with libraries of many kinds of exercise classes catering to every degree of difficulty. Some exercise apps to try are the Nike Training Club, barre3, Beachbody on Demand, P.volve, Daily Burn, Obé Fitness, and the Boxx Club. Exercise apps’ monthly expenses range from pennies to pricey. The priciest ones are taught by celebrity trainers but often offer coaching and other incentives to justify their price.
Apple Fitness+, as you might expect, is in a different realm from your normal workout app. It requires at least two Apple products: the Apple Watch and an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. Assuming you have these, Apple Fitness+ has much to offer. Like many services with exercise class libraries, this one has a wide variety. Some require no special exercise equipment. Others, like rowing, bicycling, and treadmill, do.
This may be good news to those who have this type of equipment lounging in storage areas or doubling as clothes hangers. Having an instructor and music may be just the needed motivation to pull that rower out from under the sofa. The biggest bonus to Apple Fitness+ is the information it provides via Apple Watch, which then syncs to the device screen. Heart rate, calorie burning, even countdowns to the end of that super steep cycling hill are there to see.
Some of the newest fitness products double as home accessories. Lovers of weightlifting will enjoy the Tonal. This wall-hung device can not only assess strength, but it also packs 200 pounds of weights inside, making it challenging for even an advanced weightlifter. It offers classes, but users can lift on their own as well. Another option, the Tempo, is a freestanding cabinet-screen combination. Having a cabinet in which to store one’s equipment is a handy feature. This touchscreen device has many types of classes to choose from, including live ones, and also features sorting by goal, such as weight loss or strength training. What is really interesting about the Tempo is its 3D technology that both creates a skeletal map of your body and lets you know when you need to make an adjustment in your form.
A final new-wave option is the Mirror. Boasting a wide variety of classes, the screen experience is what makes the app-driven Mirror appeal, creating the feeling of a one-on-one class with the instructor. While it can be used with a stand, the device is helpful when mounted because it doubles as — you guessed it — a mirror.
Arguably, the fitness device that has enjoyed the highest level of renewed popularity in recent years is the stationary bicycle. What once was a simple bike on a stand has evolved into an immersive experience, thanks to the addition of screens and smart technology. At the top of this popular heap are Peloton Bike+ and NordicTrack’s Commercial S22i Studio Cycle. In addition to a wide variety of spin classes, these devices offer yoga, meditation, and strength classes.
However, investing in a smart bike is not required to enjoy a similar experience. Any spin bike can be used in concert with a tablet, smart TV, or even a phone to stream spin classes. Or, for those who do not want a spin class, stationary bikes come with stands to hold a book or e-reader. Airbikes combine pedaling with arm exercise, making the whole body healthier and creating a satisfying wind in the process. Stationary recumbent bikes take pressure off the back and put the work into the legs. From plain to posh, bicycling is an excellent at-home exercise choice.
When circumstances beyond our control stopped gym attendance in its tracks, exercise habits adapted in amazing ways. Becoming reacquainted with outdoor exercise has been good for both physical and mental health. It has also allowed us to see more of our neighbors than we have in years. Technology has improved so much that the perfect workout is just a few clicks away. Unlike in the past, when we might be limited to the few workouts owned on DVDs, today thousands of workouts are available that require little to no equipment and cost.
For those who enjoy that special touch and do not mind paying for it, the smart exercise devices allow us to high five our friends from our spin bike or take yoga instruction from the same person the stars use. Best of all, we can do all these things where our heart is: at home.