Which At-Home Workout Options Are Right for You?

At home workouts

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

In the age of COVID-19, many of us have chosen to exercise at home. Even if your local gym is open, you may opt for a home-workout to limit your exposure and stay safe. Thankfully there are streaming services, fitness apps, and inexpensive home workout tools to accommodate every exerciser regardless of fitness level and personal needs.

Use this guide to set up your own exercise program at home. Consider different options and try various workouts to see what works best to keep you fit and healthy.

Home Workouts for Strength

Strength training provides a wide range of benefits. Of course, you can expect to get stronger with consistent weight training. Having strong muscles can help you to improve performance in sports and help you to move through activities of daily living with greater ease. But the perks don't end there.

Strength training may help to lower blood pressure, may assist in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, and even improve symptoms of depression.

Increasing the amount of muscle on your body also helps to increase your metabolism and can help reduce body fat.

There's no need to invest in expensive gym equipment to participate in a regular program of strength training. There are inexpensive tools, online strength workouts, and even handy home objects that you can use to build strength.

For instance, with just two sets of dumbbells (one lighter set and one heavier set), you can perform a complete full-body workout. And even if you don't have dumbbells handy, you can use everyday items, such as water bottles, to add resistance to exercises.

There are great weightlifting apps, like iMuscle 2, Sworkit, and Jefit that can help you to learn basic exercises and put together a complete workout. You'll also find workouts from companies like Daily Burn or Obé Fitness that you can stream to your laptop or smart TV

Your Best Options

Bodyweight exercises are your best option when starting a strength training program at home. They require no equipment and are well-suited for beginning through advanced exercisers. And bodyweight exercises require that you use muscles throughout the body which can help to improve stamina, balance, stability, and coordination.

You can complete a quick and simple bodyweight workout by doing a circuit that includes burpees, squats, lunges, push-ups, and plank. Do 7 to 10 reps of each exercise and move through the circuit 1 to 3 times. As you get stronger, add repetitions and then increase the number of times that you complete the circuit.

If you enjoy bodyweight exercises but want to add a piece of equipment to increase your options, consider getting a suspension training system, like TRX.

These systems are less expensive than complete home-gym systems but are extremely versatile and allow you to add a wide range of exercises to your routine to build strength, stability, and flexibility. They are also great for small spaces as they are easy to store.

Cardio Workouts for Everyone

There are many different ways to get your heart pumping at home. The best choice for you may depend on your preferences. For instance, if you enjoy the energy and excitement of dance-based cardio classes, check out 305 Fitness (free and subscription classes), Daily Burn, Obe Fitness, and well-known brands like Zumba and Jazzercise that offer virtual classes.

If you prefer more sports-based movements, you can do a complete cardio workout at home by combining different types of calisthenics and plyometric moves. No equipment is required! A complete gym-free cardio workout might include frog jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, and squat jumps.

If you're not comfortable with the jumping involved with high-intensity moves, consider doing a low-impact workout in the comfort of your living room. Put together movements like marching in place, knee lifts, and side lunges to raise your heart rate and burn some calories. You can also try an indoor walking workout on DVD or use an audio workout at home or at a neighborhood park.

Of course, you can also invest in cardio equipment like a treadmill, an elliptical, a vertical climber, or a stationary bike that streams classes, like Peloton or SoulCycle. But these options are more expensive and require dedicated space.

Your Best Options

When you're first starting out, you may not want to invest in expensive cardio equipment until you have a solid fitness program in place. Instead, you can use what you have or invest just a minimal amount of money.

For instance, if you live in an apartment building and have limited space for workout equipment, use the stairs to get your workout. You can even combine stair climbing with strength moves for a total body stair workout.

Another inexpensive option is a jump rope. Ropes are inexpensive and easy to store. There are even weighted jump rope systems like CrossRope that come with an app that guides you through complete workouts for beginning through advanced level exercisers.

At-Home Options for Yogis

If you are confined to your home during the pandemic or for other reasons, practicing yoga can offer you a wide range of both physical and mental benefits.

Yoga is known to relieve stress, support good health habits, and improve emotional health, sleep, and balance.

Yoga can also help to relieve low-back or neck pain, reduce menopause symptoms, or help you to quit smoking. And while yoga has not been shown to reduce clinical disorders such as PTSD or clinical depression, it might help people manage anxiety or depressive symptoms associated with difficult life situations.

Compared to cardio and strength-training workouts, practicing yoga at home is relatively simple as long as you have a mat and a small area in which to practice. Of course, you can add items like a yoga block, a yoga strap, a bolster, or a yoga towel, but these items aren't required.

You'll find plenty of online yoga classes and yoga apps that provide classes that are comparable to studio classes. There are also yoga books that you can use to build your practice. But to get the full studio experience, you may want to define your yoga space by adding candles, inspirational messages, or incense. This may help you to center your focus when you come to the mat to practice.

Your Best Options

To make the most of your home yoga experience, try to schedule your practice just like you schedule other important events during the day. If you share your home with others, let them know when you plan to practice so that they don't interrupt you. Ask your spouse to entertain the kids during that sacred time, if it's helpful.

Then choose a flow that suits your needs. If possible, take a few minutes to rest quietly on your mat before you begin to set an intention.

Workouts for Mental Health

Exercise, in general, is known to provide benefits to those who may be managing a mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Exercise has been researched and validated for treating a variety of mental issues and mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, addictions, grief, relationship problems, dementia and personality disorders." It may also be helpful in the management of bad moods, stress, chronic pain, and chronic illnesses.

Published research reports investigating the relationship between exercise and mental health don't usually provide specific workouts that are necessarily better than others for improving mental health. Scientists know that cardiovascular training and strength workouts contribute to improved cognitive function and that aerobic exercise may be helpful in the management of depression, but they don't know that those workouts are necessarily better than others.

This may be why the experts at NAMI suggest using the FITT principle to develop a program that suits your own personalized needs. The FITT principle has four components:

  • Frequency refers to how often you plan to exercise. For instance, you might set a goal to exercise every other day.
  • Intensity refers to how hard you are working when you exercise. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that we get 2 hours and 30 minutes, or 30 minutes 5 days a week, of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
  • Time refers to the length of your workout. When you're first starting out, try exercising for just 10–15 minutes. Then add time as your fitness level increases.
  • Type refers to the kind of workout that you choose to do. For improving mental health, you can choose whatever workout you enjoy the most. If you enjoy the activity, you're more likely to stick to the program.

Your Best Options

If stress or frustration is getting the best of you, think about activities that might target your needs. Especially in the midst of the COVID-19, it’s normal to feel intense emotions that might drag you down. Get creative and try different workouts to see what you enjoy.

Tai Chi

This gentle workout allows you to focus on your breath as you move slowly through various postures. It is sometimes called "moving meditation." With the help of online apps for tai chi, you can select a workout and get guidance in the comfort of your home.

Boxing Workouts

If you need to work out some tension or frustration, a home boxing workout may be the best fit for you. You may want to invest in some inexpensive gear for your home boxing gym or just get pair of boxing gloves and do your own home boxing workout or online kickboxing class.

Outdoor Exercise

Getting outside and enjoying some fresh air can help to alleviate stress. If you have a backyard, or even a small patio or balcony attached to your apartment, put it to use. Try an outdoor pilates class, or have fun with the kids in the yard or at a local park.

Uplifting Online or TV Workouts

You'll find several workouts designed specifically to help you to express yourself and find joy and peace. For example, join an online social distance dance party, such as Social DisDance and dance along with others from around the country.

Or check out Dance It Out with Billy Blanks on Lifetime TV and YouTube and learn choreography to get your heart pumping in a non-judgmental, supportive environment. Or you might feel inspired to join The Class by Taryn Toomey, online streaming workouts especially helpful for those who’ve experienced trauma.

When You Don’t Feel Like Working Out

When you go to a gym, a workout studio, or a health club you are surrounded by others who are exercising—and that can help inspire you to work out. Unfortunately, when you work out at home, you're usually not surrounded by dozens of other exercisers.

When you're spending more time at home (especially during the pandemic), it's normal to lack motivation. But there are ways to get yourself moving even when you feel uninspired.

Your Best Options

If your motivation is lackluster, consider doing a short workout. For most people, committing to a 5-minute workout seems far less overwhelming than the thought of working out for an hour. Or do a complete workout in seven minutes to get your body moving. You may find that once you get started, you're willing to do more than you had initially planned. Or you might want to schedule one or two more short workouts for later in the day.

Another option is to make the workout as fun as possible. For instance, a rebounding workout on a small trampoline can feel playful but also gives you a great cardio and stability workout.

There are also dance-based video games that are fun for the whole family. Lastly, consider becoming part of a virtual fitness community. Connecting with others can boost accountability and give you a reason to "show up" for class even when you don't feel like it.

For instance, through the membership-based Equinox+ app you have access to streaming classes from brands including SoulCycle, Rumble, Precision Run, and others. Taking classes in real time with others provides a sense of community that can be helpful, especially during a pandemic.

"Now more than ever community is so important!" says Kathleen Kulikowski, SoulCycle Master Instructor on Equinox+. "Having a fitness community isn’t just about accountability. Yes, it can hold you accountable and therefore help you get to your fitness goals, but for me it’s about being surrounded by people you feel safe around."

A Word From Verywell

For many reasons, working out at home can feel terribly different than working out in a gym or studio. But that doesn't mean that you can't have fun and stay in shape when life requires you to shelter in place. Regardless of your fitness level, your interests, and your budget you can create a home workout space that meets your needs. You'll find that staying active with fun and challenging home workouts can keep your body and your mood in top shape.

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Article Sources
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