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8 Ways to Turn Your House Into a Home Gym – For Free

How to make fitness a part of your everyday activities

By Linda Melone, CSCS

People who don’t exercise often cite “lack of time” as their main excuse. Driving to a gym or studio, working out and then driving home can easily take over an hour, making it difficult to set aside the time in a busy day. Home workout DVDs can help, but doing an entire program can be nearly impossible some days.

The best solution: Look at your home as your personal workout facility and turn your everyday activities into calorie-burning opportunities.

Check out these tips from top experts to firm, tone and strengthen as you go through you day. (I’ve featured a few of them in videos, which you can watch below.)

Walk/Run Up and Down the Stairs

Doing chores that involve walking up and down the stairs in your house provides a great cardiovascular workout. Athletes use stadium bleachers to train by running up and down them.

“You can do a modified version at home with your own stairs,” says Tom Holland, Connecticut exercise physiologist and author of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat: The Complete Guide to Fueling Your Triathlon (2014). Walking up stairs burns 286 calories per 30 minutes, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, versus 107 calories burned walking on a flat surface.

Stair Step-Ups

While running or fast-walking up and down stairs burns many calories, you can also use stairs as “step-ups” for glute and upper leg strength, says Jacque Crockford, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Step up to the first step with your right foot, followed by your left foot and then reverse the process by stepping down with your right foot and then your left. Repeat 15 to 20 times per leg.

“Just make sure to step fully on to the step (not with just the ball of your foot) to ensure safety,” she says. Hold on to a laundry basket or another object destined for the second floor for added resistance — as long as you can keep your balance.

Grab a Milk Jug

Full gallon-sized milk bottles with handles can be used like any weight and are great for upper body strength and total conditioning, Crockford says. Use them for biceps curls, overhead shoulder presses or as added resistance when doing squats.

Chair Dips for Triceps

Grab a chair while waiting for tea water to boil and have a seat. Then shimmy to the front of the chair, place your hands on the edge of the seat and lower your hips towards the ground and back up.

“This is great for strengthening the triceps (backs of arms),” Crockford says. Strive for 12 to 15 reps.

Soup Can Kickbacks

Another great exercise for the backs of the arms involves using soup cans for resistance, Holland says.

Bend forward and place your left hand on the kitchen counter for balance. Grasp a soup can with your right hand. Move your right elbow back until your upper right arm is parallel to the floor. Let your forearm dangle. Then bring your hand back by straightening out your arm and extending your right hand behind you. Repeat 12 to 15 times and switch arms.


Floor Sliders

These very challenging, advanced exercises work the core and are great for upper body strength, Crockford says. Wear a sock on one foot and slide that leg behind, in front or to the side of the body, lunging with the stationary leg.

“Strengthening the legs is great for balance,” Crockford says. With socks on both feet, you can pull yourself with your hands down a hallway maintaining a plank position, which presents a serious challenge for trunk stability and upper body strength.

With a sock on one hand perform a push-up, allowing the socked hand to slide outward, forward, or backward. “This works on upper body strength and trunk stability,” Crockford says.

Kitchen Counter Pushups

The next time you’re in the kitchen, do a set of these before reaching for that sugary snack and you may skip the treat.

Stand about 3 feet away from the counter, lean in with straight legs and place your hands shoulder width apart on the edge of the countertop. Keep your abs tight and engaged and your body in a straight line as you bend your elbows and lower yourself towards the countertop and slowly push back. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Front and Side Shoulder Raises with Water Bottles

Before you take a sip, grab two water bottles, one in each hand, for this impromptu shoulder-shaping exercise.

Start by holding the bottles down to your sides, palms facing in towards your body. Now raise them straight out in front of you, thumbs up towards the ceiling, then bring them back down to your sides and then raise your arms out laterally, until arms are parallel to the floor. Each front and side motion counts as one repetition. Strive for 10 to 12 reps.

These small moves keep you moving on days when you can’t find the time for a longer workout.

“Plus, if you have a sedentary job, set reminders to get up and move around every hour or more and avoid sitting for too long,” Holland says.

Linda Melone, CSCS Next Avenue contributor Linda Melone is a California-based freelance writer and certified personal trainer specializing in health, fitness and wellness for women over 50. Read More
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