Monday, March 21

How to Make a home gym work for you

You can turn your living room into an effective workout environment with the correct props and instructions.

Although exercising at home is more convenient and cost-effective than going to the gym, you must still generate the motivation to work out.

Thousands of individuals join fitness clubs each year, expecting that the bright lights, glittery machines, and upbeat instructors will motivate them to exercise. However, after a month or so, a large percentage of new members stop going to the gym, having shrunk their wallets but not their waistlines.

Because aerobic exercise is so critical for heart health, you'll need to find a different strategy to stay motivated to exercise on a regular basis. Setting up a home gym may be a more practical and cost-effective choice for certain people.

Make a schedule for yourself.

Dr. Elizabeth Frates, director of wellness programming at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, says, "An effective workout plan has to be pleasant as well as meet your basic fitness requirements." At least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, severe enough to speed up your rate and produce a light sweat, is required for maximum health. In addition, at least twice a week on nonconsecutive days, you should follow a strength-training regimen that works all of your major muscle groups. Finally, including stretching and balance exercises in your routine might help you keep flexible and avoid falling.

Choose your props.

While there's nothing like a brisk stroll in the fresh air to get your heart rate up and running, the weather doesn't always cooperate. Working your legs using a small pedalling machine that fits neatly beneath a table or desk might help you duplicate the feeling at home. Other entertaining activities to work up a sweat include skipping rope, jumping on a little trampoline, and spinning your hips with an old-fashioned hula hoop. While working at the computer or watching TV, bouncing on a stability ball might help you reduce inactive time and increase your heart rate.

If you have more space in your home and money to spend, a dedicated aerobics machine like a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical stepper can be a good option. Dr. Frates advises that you make sure you actually enjoy an activity like running or bicycling before investing in a significant piece of equipment because these devices are notorious for becoming dust collectors.

Begin with the basics.

When it comes to strength training, the same advice applies. Begin with simple, low-cost things like a couple of sets of small barbells in various weights. To strengthen your lower body, wear weighted ankle cuffs when doing leg lifts or step-ups. "Mastering appropriate form is the key to efficient strength training with weights," explains Dr. Frates. As a result, she strongly advises including a how-to video in your training gear. Many nice options can be found online at places like these:

•The American Council on Exercise is a non-profit organization that promotes physical activity (www.acefitness.org; click on "Exercise Library")

•The National Institute on Aging's Go4Life program (https://go4life.nia.nih.gov; click on "Get Free Stuff")

An elastic workout band, which uses your own body weight to improve muscle strength, is another useful piece of equipment for resistance training. These bands are usually sold in pairs of four or five and range in stiffness from very elastic to very stiff. A foam pad or yoga mat will help you feel more comfortable when doing floor exercises like push-ups or stretches.

If you're a seasoned weightlifter with extra cash and floor space, a so-called home gym unit might be the way to go. Using a system of cables and piled weights, these small devices provide a wide range of upper- and lower-body strengthening workouts. If you take it this way, hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to help you create your exercise and learn good form and technique with each aspect of the machine may be useful.

Make a contribution.

"Before you begin setting up your home gym, you must first prepare your mentality," Dr. Frates advises. Knowing your specific objectives—whether it's to lower your cholesterol, spend more time with your grandchildren, or improve your golf game—is the first step toward a successful program. In the end, it'll be your commitment to improving your habit, not your flashy new workout equipment, that will keep you going. "Just because you acquire the most up-to-date fitness equipment doesn't mean you'll use it."

Guide to the Cost of Exercise Equipment

Visit a sports goods store to test the durability and feel of a piece of workout equipment before making a purchase. Make sure you "test drive" various equipment to ensure that you are comfortable executing the activity. Second-hand exercise machines may be available at a reasonable price for bargain hunters.



Price range

Aerobic activity

Fitness jump rope

$6 to $15

Hula hoop

$6 to $40

Portable pedaler

$25 to $35

Mini trampoline

$30 to $100



Recumbent or folding bike

$80 to $165

Elliptical or stepper (compact, nonmotorized units designed for home use)

$100 to $700

Upright stationary bicycle

$150 to $1,000

Treadmill, elliptical, or stepper (motorized, electronically enabled machines, like those found in fitness centers)

$2,000 to $10,000

Strength training

Yoga-style floor mat

$7 to $40

Ankle weight set

$10 to $20

Resistance bands

$10 to $20

Stability ball

$12 to $40

Hand weights

$7 to $40 for one pair;

$25 to $75 for set of three graduated weights

Home gym system

$200 to over $1,000

No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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