How to Exercise at Home

Bicycle abs

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

There are many reasons you may not want to exercise in a gym. Some people feel intimidated in a gym environment. Some may struggle with child care or other logistics. Others simply want to create an exercise routine they can do whether at home or while traveling and without access to a gym.

What's more difficult is figuring out what to do. How do you set up an effective home workout? What do you do if you don't have much equipment or space?

The following series takes you through a variety of choices for exercising at home. And you can do them whether you have nothing but yourself and a pair of athletic shoes—or a home workout room tricked out with every piece of gym equipment imaginable.

Body Weight Exercise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

The simplest way to work out at home is to use your own body. There are a variety of effective body weight exercises that can help you build strength, endurance and burn calories. And by circuit training (going from one exercise to the next, with little or no rest), you keep your heart rate up, burn more calories, and get the most out of your exercise time.

How to Do It

  1. Choose your workout: Cardio, strength training, or a mixture of both
  2. Choose 10 different exercises: For cardio, focus on exercises with different levels of intensity. For example, you might alternate a high-intensity exercise (such as jumping jacks or burpees) with an easier move (such as marching in place). For strength training, choose pushes, pulls, front-of-leg, back-of-leg, and core movements, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and dips.
  3. Choose the length of each exercise: Beginners might start with 10 to 30 seconds or 8 to 16 reps, while intermediate or advanced exercisers might go for 60 to 90 seconds or 20 or more reps.
  4. Get ready: Set up a timer or use a stopwatch, turn on some music or your favorite TV show and start with a warm-up
  5. Go! Do 1 circuit if you're a beginner or short on time. Do 2 to 5 circuits for a more intense workout.

Sample Cardio Circuit Workout

  • 1 min: March in place, lift the knees high and swing the arms
  • 1 min: Jog in place, pushing the arms overhead
  • 1 min: High knees
  • 1 min: Slow, controlled plyo-jacks
  • 1 min: Regular jumping jacks
  • 1 min: March in place
  • 1 min: Skaters
  • 1 min: Mountain climbers
  • 1 min: High knees
  • 1 min: March in place

Sample Strength Circuit Workout

  • 1 min: March in place to warm up
  • Squats: 20 reps
  • Reverse lunges: 12 reps on each leg
  • Push-ups (on the knees or toes): 10 to 12 reps
  • Dips: 10 to 12 reps
  • Walking lunge with arms overhead: 10 to 12 reps
  • Lateral leg lifts: 10 to 12 reps
  • Planks: Hold for 30 to 60 seconds
  • Glute bridge: 10 to 12 reps
  • Back extensions: 10 to 12 reps

Exercise ideas: Step by Step Cardio Exercises, Step by Step Bodyweight Exercises

Exercise Videos

For variety, convenience, and more structured home exercise, you can't beat exercise videos. There are workouts for every age, gender, goal and interest, and you can work out anytime you like in the privacy of your own home.

The best thing about exercise videos: There are thousands upon thousands to choose from, so almost anyone can find a video they like.

The worst thing about exercise videos: There are thousands upon thousands to choose from, making the search for the perfect video an overwhelming process.

Though you can find exercise videos almost anywhere videos or fitness equipment are sold, you'll find some of the best videos are only sold online.

Video Resources

  • Collage Video: Search by keyword, fitness level, instructor, and much more. The user reviews and video clips make finding the perfect video a little easier.
  • Video Fitness: There are so many video reviews on this website, you could spend more time reading about videos than actually doing them. However, the site is well-organized and you can find videos in a variety of ways: by instructor, type of workout, fitness level, and more. The reviews are posted by real exercisers, giving you more detail beyond the generic, sometimes misleading descriptions on the video covers.
  • Amazon: The online giant is a great place to find exercise videos, compare prices, and read reviews about different videos and workouts.
  • Instructor Cathe Friedrich offers tons of videos and collections. A bonus: Friedrich offers her workouts in two formats, on DVDs or as downloadable versions you can watch on your computer, smartphone, or iPad.

Popular Home Exercise Videos

Best for Beginners: Leslie Sansone's Walking at Home Videos, Shapely Girl Workout Videos

Great Circuit Training Videos: Paul Katami's Hollywood Bootcamp 4x4, Michelle Dozois' Peak 10 More Cardio Strength, and Cathe Friedrich's Circuit Max

Best High-Intensity Cardio Videos: Amy Dixon's Breathless Body 2, Michelle Dozois' Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn, Cathe Friedrich's HiiT Training

Best for Seniors: Jane Fonda's Prime Time Firm and Burn, The Kettlebell Boomer Workout

Online Workouts and Resources

The internet may be your favorite way to waste time but it also offers a wealth of resources for home and/or traveling exercisers. Not all content is created equal on the web, but if you know where to look, you can find almost everything you need to know about exercise: how to set up a home gym, create your own exercise program, and learn the basics of cardio, strength training, and how to get in shape with exercise.

You can also take advantage of the many websites offering both paid and free online workouts and exercise programs. You'll find workouts you can print, view online, or even stream to your computer, phone, or iPad.

Workouts from Verywell

You can start right here with some of the many free workouts available to you from Verywell:

iPad, MP3 and Smartphone Fitness Apps

Remember when the only thing your phone did was make calls? Now, smartphone apps allow you to do everything from playing Scrabble to exercising. Smartphones, iPads, and MP3 players are excellent resources for home exercisers, particularly if you find yourself getting bored from doing the same old thing, day after day.

With the right apps, you can find guided workouts, paced music, timers, and more, all of which can add variety and fun to your home workouts.

Workouts, Music, and Apps for Home Exercisers

  • For Cardio: BeatBurn Treadmill/Outdoor Trainer or BeatBurn Elliptical (iPhone or iPad) — If you have a treadmill or elliptical at home, workouts get tedious rather quickly. BeatBurn offers guided interval workouts complete with music and a coach who, very enthusiastically, tells you when to change your settings throughout the workout.
  • For Workouts: Workout Trainer by Skimble (iPhone or iPad) — This is another app that works great for home exercisers with a number of free guided workouts you can listen to (and view demos of each exercise, if needed) while listening to your own music. You can also pay for workouts within the app for more options.
  • For Ready-Made or Make Your Own Workouts: Fitness Builder (iPhone or iPad) — This is one of my favorite exercise apps, offering a variety of ways to exercise. You can choose workouts based on the equipment you have, the muscle groups you want to work, or the type of workout you're looking for. There are a range of ready-made workouts and you can also create your own workouts from the amazing database of exercises included.
  • For Streaming Exercise Videos: Fitness Class for iPad (iPad) - This is a free app giving you access to hundreds of streaming exercise videos (many from well-known instructors like Kathy Smith and Tracie Long) which you can preview and purchase. With the variety available, you can use your iPad to do just about any type of workout you can imagine.
  • For Paced Audio Workouts: Motion Traxx (iPhone or iPad) — This music-based app is another great option for home exercisers, particularly if you're a walker or runner. Deekron the Fitness DJ has put together an incredible variety of music mixes, all set at different beats per minute, so you can find the perfect pace for any workout—walking, running, lifting weights, or other activities. There are also coached workouts (these cost extra) available at iTunes.
  • Best Timer for Interval/Tabata Workouts: Tabata Pro Timer (iPhone or iPad) — If you're creative and like to set up your own interval workouts, this app is a must. It's designed for Tabata workouts (alternating hard intervals of 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 4 minutes), but you can create intervals any way you like.
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