Exercising at Home

A home-exercise routine should be structured to include stretches to improve flexibility, aerobic activities, such as skipping or stepping, and muscular work. It is important, when exercising at home, to remember not to miss out warming up, cooling down and stretching.

Stretching

Because stretches require no equipment and little space, they can easily be done at home.

Some people – particularly older people, those new to exercise or anyone who suffers from work-related stiffness – find it helpful to work specifically on flexibility. It is important to warm up the muscles first with about 10 minutes’ gentle activity. To maintain flexibility, each stretch should be held for up to 8 seconds. To develop and improve flexibility, each stretch should be extended and held for up to 30 seconds.

Some exercises, such as the inner thigh stretch, can be performed with a friend. Two people sit on the floor facing each other with their legs wide apart, one person’s feet inside the other’s; they grip each other firmly by the wrists; the person with his feet inside leans backwards, pushing gently with his feet to stretch the inner legs of his partner.

People who are particularly interested in working on flexibility should consider Yoga, which can be practised at home. It is helpful to also attend a class so that the teacher can ensure correct execution of the postures.

Aerobic fitness

Although walking, running, swimming and aerobics classes are among the most popular forms of aerobic exercise, it is possible to do an aerobic workout at home. You can tailor the intensity to suit your own needs and fit the workout in at a suitable time. You may find that exercising at home to some favourite music helps with motivation and encourages you to maintain a good pace. Aim to do three sessions a week.

The kind of aerobic exercise chosen does not matter, so long as you move energetically, using your arms and legs, to bring your heart rate into the training zone. During each session, your heart rate should stay in the training zone for at least 20 minutes. If you find it difficult to sustain the activity for this period of time, you should start off with briefer sessions, building up gradually. Once you can do 20 minutes, you can progress by working harder, longer or more often.

If you decide to invest in some home-exercise equipment, one of the cheapest options for aerobic work is a step (as used in step-aerobics classes). Stepping to music is fun and an efficient method of burning calories. It is possible to improvise by stepping up and down on the bottom step of the stairs (after checking that any carpet or covering is firmly attached), or even a solid crate (making sure that it is completely stable). However, a purpose-made step is best – it is hard-wearing and most models are height-adjustable. Placing the entire foot solidly on the step avoids accidental injuries. Keeping the step low at first protects the knees. Intensity can be added if you use your arms – hand-held wrist weights can be used if the arms are already quite strong. Increasing the height of the step adds intensity. Simply stepping and doing some basic arm movements for 10-20 minutes provides a good aerobic workout, but you may prefer to buy a video that guides you through an established step routine.

A rebounder (mini trampoline) is ideal for beginners or older people, because it is so easy to use and it can be used for ‘jogging’ without stressing the joints. If an individual is overweight, he should check that the rebounder can support his weight.

Skipping is an excellent form of aerobic exercise, although it can be very intense for beginners. Skipping for 30 seconds, marching for 30 seconds, skipping for 30 seconds and so on keeps the heart in the training zone. A skipping rope is inexpensive and can be used indoors or outdoors; for a low-impact workout, the feet should be kept close to the ground.

A home-exercise DVD or video – one with the words ‘aerobic’, ‘cardio’ or ‘high energy’ in the title – is another option for an aerobic workout. If you are new to aerobics (or are worried about making a noise), keep the exercise low-impact by-keeping one foot on the floor at all times.

A more expensive way of taking aerobic exercise is to use a home cardio-machine, such as a treadmill, stationary bicycle or rowing machine. A treadmill is useful for women wanting to do weight-bearing exercise to reduce the risk of osteoporosis