Starting an At-Home Exercise Program

Just because you may not have access to a gym, does not mean you cannot exercise. Here are some ways to help you get started on an at-home exercise program.

Woman using dumbells and working out at home.

Working out at home is a great way to become active and fit.

© RealPeopleGroup | Getty Images

You don’t need to leave home to get active. You can get your heart rate up at home by just getting chores done. Cleaning and yardwork can get your blood pumping, or you can walk up and down the stairs, dance during television commercials, use cans or milk jugs as weights, or follow an exercise video or DVD. If you have a video-game system, many excellent games are well designed to give you a workout, from dance games to virtual personal trainers.

For some people, buying fitness equipment for home use may be a good alternative, especially if it makes it more likely you’ll exercise. You can purchase low-cost stability balls, free weights (dumbbells), and resistance bands, as well as pricier equipment, such as home weight machines and cardiovascular workout equipment, such as treadmills and exercise bikes.

Some businesses rent exercise equipment, such as treadmills, rowers, elliptical machines, and weight equipment. Renting gives you a chance to try machines and determine how much you’d really use them.

If you already have an outdoor bicycle, consider buying a bike-trainer device, which allows you to ride your regular bike in place indoors. You’ll pay a fraction of the cost compared to a dedicated exercise bike.

Tips for At Home Success

It takes discipline and willpower, especially in the beginning, but once you experience how good it feels to live in a stronger, healthier body, the drive to keep it going will appear. Here are some ways to get started.

Make It a Habit. Getting into the exercise habit doesn’t happen overnight. Studies suggest it may take about 10 weeks of consistently repeating a desired behavior, such as fitness walking, to form a new habit. The more consistently you exercise, the easier it should get and the more likely it will become second nature, so that if you skip doing it, it will feel strange.

Anchor It. You are more likely to exercise if you make it a regular part of your day and anchor it to an existing habit, just as you might do for brushing your teeth before you go to bed. To anchor exercise to an existing habit, think about what time of day you’d like to exercise. For example, if you’d like to go for a walk in the evening after dinner, you might anchor your habit like this: After I do the dishes, I will go for a walk.

Find Joy. No matter what type of exercise you’re doing, it’s important to select activities you enjoy. Trying something new can boost motivation and having fun increases the odds you’ll do it again. In one study, women who were asked to use a hula hoop for 30 minutes reported significantly higher intentions of doing aerobic exercise in the next month compared with those who had walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes.

Track Progress. Setting clear, manageable goals can be motivational, and tracking your activity can help you assess your progress toward those goals. Record how much weight you lifted, the number of sets and reps, steps taken, distances run, or exercise classes attended. Seeing improvement may encourage you to keep going, and a lack of improvement could signal the need to change your approach. Missing a single day of exercise won’t necessarily derail your exercise habit, but missing a whole week could. Aim to be as consistent in your routine as you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you get off track. Every day is a new day to try to do a little bit better.

For more information on the benefits of exercise, purchase Eat Well and Exercise from University Health News.

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