You don't need a gym or even a full hour to get in a good workout. The more intense the workout, the more calories burned, so even quick circuit training exercises at home can help you reach your goals.
Create a Home Circuit
A home circuit is a great way to challenge yourself in 20 to 30 minutes. A circuit simply consists of strength training exercises mixed with cardio segments. These exercises should include a range of upper and lower body exercises and should challenge your cardiovascular system, resulting in a complete full body workout. Get creative and imaginative in setting up your exercises. Anything from jumping on the kids' trampoline to doing lunges in the living room will work. It all depends on the space and equipment you have available.
The amount of time for each segment should last from 45 to 90 seconds. Depending on the number of segments, you can complete each exercise once or rotate through the circuit two or three times. For example, if you select 10 exercises and do each for 60 seconds, one circuit will take 10 minutes. Do 3 circuits and you’ll complete a 30 minute workout.
Exercises for Your Circuit
The key to effective circuit training is to keep your heart rate elevated. Move from one exercise to the next without any rest in between. The strength training segments will allow your heart rate to recover between cardio segments, but remember the shorter you want your workout to be, the more challenging you need to make it. However, don’t overdo it by going beyond an intensity that is safe for your fitness level. Exercise at the upper end of your safe intensity range.
Sample Circuit Workout
Warm-up: March in place, walk, or step up and down on a stair for 3 minutes.
Alternating forward lunges
Alternating side lunges
Jab-Cross boxing combination
Step-ups (on a stable chair or bench)
Cool down: March in place or take a slow walk around the room for 3 minutes.
Perform each segment for 60 seconds. Complete 2 circuits.
Warm up + 2 circuits + Cool down = 26 minute workout
The time of day you choose to exercise may be as important as the fitness activity itself. Research shows both pros and cons for morning and afternoon exercise, but finding your ideal time of day is the key to sticking with it. Work with your natural patterns and identify those positive points that make an exercise time right for you.
Your Best Exercise Time
Being a morning person or a night owl is linked to your circadian rhythm (your 24-hour biological clock). Exercising when your energy level peaks can make it more productive and enjoyable. If your schedule and energy levels don’t match up, don’t worry. Some research has shown that over time, our bodies adapt to an exercise time much like they adapt to waking up at the same time every day.
If you work out in the morning you are more likely to stay committed. This is because you get your exercise done before other tasks steal your attention later in the day. Morning exercise may also help with weight control. In one study, men who did vigorous morning workouts before breakfast saw no weight gain despite eating a high calorie and high fat diet. Another study shows that morning workouts may help lower blood pressure throughout the day and improve sleep quality at night, when compared to lunchtime and evening workouts.
One problem with early workouts is that body temperature is lower in the morning which may result in less power and poorer performance. Experts also warn that morning exercise can put you at risk for injury because muscles are not warmed and ready for work. You can reduce your risk by adding extra time to your warm-up.
There are fewer research results comparing lunchtime workouts to other times of day, but remember that the best workout is the one you do. Don't let support for morning or evening exercise lessen the benefits of a quick trip to the gym or a jog around the city on your lunch break. The lunch hour may be the perfect (or only) time you can squeeze in 30 minutes of physical activity.
Afternoon and Evening Exercise
Some researchers believe that late afternoon and early evening workouts are most effective, because both body temperature and hormone levels peak during this time. These factors give you more power to push through hard workouts.
The problem with saving exercise for later in the day is that it’s easy for schedule changes to get in the way. If you find you always have to cancel your evening workout plans, try a different time of day until you find one you can commit to.
Late Night Exercise
Exercise causes an increase in body temperature and blood pressure which could result in poor sleep when performed too closely to bedtime. If you work nights, this exercise time may be right for you. Otherwise the benefit of the exercise may not outweigh the loss in sleep quality.
Scheduling exercise the same time everyday can help you stick with it, but be flexible. Try out an exercise time for a week or two, switch to another time, and compare how you feel during your workouts. You may be fighting fatigue in the mornings and won’t realize how great you feel during evening workouts until you try them.
The time of day you exercise may change over the years. Work and school schedules, families, and age can all influence when you can commit to workouts and when you feel the most energy.
There are more ways to incorporate stretching than you may think. Exercise timing, your fitness environment, and your training goals all influence which type of stretching is best for you. All forms of stretching improve flexibility and range of motion. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) lists the following five types of stretches.
Static stretching is most often recommended for general fitness. With this type, you slowly ease into the position and hold for 10 to 30 seconds before slowly releasing the stretch. Static stretching should be performed with warm muscles, such as after a warm-up or at the end of a workout. There are two forms of static stretching.
Active Static: This form of stretching is used in yoga and martial arts. The stretch is held by the strength of agonist muscles (muscles responsible for the movement). Think of the stretch across the upper body during the Warrior II pose in yoga. Your arms are extended as your back, chest, and shoulders are stretched. The muscles of the arms and shoulders are the agonist muscles that allow you to hold this stretch.
Passive Static: During this type of stretching, you hold the limb to perform the stretch without any assistance such as a bar or bands. Think of a standing quadriceps stretch in which you bend your leg behind you and hold the foot, pulling the heel in close to your bottom, which stretches the front of the upper thigh.
Dynamic stretching is stretching with movement. The body transitions gradually into a position and this movement is repeated as you increase your reach and range of motion. If you have ever taken a group exercise class, you have likely engaged in dynamic stretching. Movements such as alternating knee lifts repeatedly stretch the hamstrings while keeping the body in motion. Research has found that dynamic stretching is less beneficial than static stretching for increasing range of motion, but unlike static stretching, it is ideal during the pre-workout phase because it gently warms muscles while also stretching them.
PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. This type of stretching is often referred to as partner stretching because two people are needed to perform the movements. There are many forms of PNF, but most involve an isometric hold followed by a static stretch of the same muscle group. An example of PNF is a hamstring stretch where one person lies on her back with the right leg extended straight up into the air. The second person grasps the ankle and gently presses the leg towards the other person’s head to stretch the hamstring. The pressure is released and then the stretch is repeated.
While PNF is as effective as static stretching for improving range of motion, it is less practical because of the necessity of a partner. It is most often used in clinical and fitness settings for training and rehabilitation.
This type of stretching uses bouncing movements to create momentum which moves the muscle into the stretch. For example, instead of holding a hamstring stretch you would quickly reach towards your toes and release repeatedly in short bursts of movement. Fitness trainers have long been warned about the dangers of ballistic stretching because it can cause a stretch reflex that injures the muscle. Current recommendations from the ACSM state that ballistic stretching can improve flexibility as well as static stretching when it is performed properly. It is best considered for those participating in ballistic exercises such as basketball and other athletics.
Exercising in worn out athletic shoes increases the stress on your joints, which could lead to overuse injuries. Use this buying guide to determine when you need a new pair, and how to get the best fitting shoe for comfort and performance.
When to Buy a New Pair
The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends that athletic shoes be replaced every 350 to 550 miles. This is a wide range because of the many factors that influence the lifespan of the shoe. Body weight, how your foot strikes the ground, and your exercise surface (treadmill, trail, or pavement) all play a role in how quickly your shoes wear down. Any changes in foot, knee, or back pain, or visible wearing on the soles of the shoes, are signs that you need a new pair.
Assess Your Foot Type
Before buying new shoes it’s important to know your foot type. Look at an old pair of shoes and take note of the worn areas of the sole. Next, perform the “Wet Test”. Simply wet the bottom of your bare foot with water and then step on a surface that will show a footprint such as dry concrete or a flattened brown paper bag. The patterns of wear on your shoes and the Wet Test assess pronation. There are 3 basic types of pronation.
Your shoes will show wear on the outside of the foot at the heel and forefoot.
Wet Test: On your footprint you will see your toes, forefoot, far outside of the foot, and heel. There will be no imprint of water at the arch.
Supinated is also called underpronated.
Look for shoes with extra cushioning to assist with shock absorption.
Your shoes will wear on the inside of the forefoot.
Wet Test: You will see almost a full footprint depending on how severe your overpronation.
A stability or motion control shoe will give you the support you need in the foot and ankle.
Avoid shoes with extra cushioning and those that are highly curved. These shoes will not give you enough stability.
The wear on your shoe will be evenly distributed over the sole.
Wet Test: Your footprint falls somewhere between supinated and overpronated. You will not have a full footprint, but more of your arch will come into contact with the paper than in the footprint of a person who is supinated.
This is the ideal level of pronation.
There are many neutral shoes available, but avoid motion control and stability varieties as they may reduce your mobility.
Get the Right Shoe for Your Activity
Cross trainers are ideal if you do a wide variety of activities. If you perform a specific type of exercise 2 to 3 times a week, buy a sports-specific shoe. Walking shoes have flexible soles and support the natural movement of the exercise. Running shoes have more cushioning to provide better shock absorption. Trail shoes provide better traction for rough terrain. Consider your exercise environment when buying shoes. More mesh allows for better air movement and cooling. Some shoes have more reflective areas making them better for nighttime exercise.
Find the Right Fit
When shopping, you can tell a lot about a shoe by picking it up for a closer look. Mark Fenton, walking expert and former host of PBS’s "America's Walking", suggests that you twist, bend, and poke shoes before buying. A walking shoe should bend in the forefoot while a running shoe bends more towards the arch. When the shoes are placed on a flat surface, the toe of the shoe should rock forward when you press on it. Press the heel and it should rock slightly back.
When trying on shoes, pay special attention to the heel and the toe area (called the toe box). You should have about the length of a thumbnail between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. A toe box that allows your toes to move will help prevent pain and cramping in the foot. The heel should fit firmly, yet comfortably, and it should not slip.
Buy your shoes late in the day or within an hour of exercising to accommodate for foot swelling. Wear the socks that you will be wearing during exercise. Most importantly, don't buy shoes that are uncomfortable in hopes of breaking them in. They should be comfortable the first time you wear them.
Information about the role of exercise in weight loss is readily available, but few sources address what this means for those who are obese. If you get out of breath walking from the car to the front door, even the smallest amount of exercise can be overwhelming.
Where do I start?
You simply start at the beginning. Everyone has a different beginning and your only task is to identify yours. Start moving little by little, pushing a bit more each day. It's easy to fear the unknown and imagine the task of exercise as complicated and difficult, but there is no secret to exercise. Our bodies are designed to move. Involve your doctor in this process. He or she will know your health history and can tell you what may or may not be good for you at this stage in the process.
If you often sit for hours at a time, start by standing for 5 minutes every hour. Walk down the hallway and back. Once your body gets used to this amount of walking, increase the distance. You might also try 5-10 overhead arm-raises every hour. Any activity above what you're currently doing is an improvement and a step in the right direction.
How do I progress?
The key is to progress slowly by adding a bit more activity as you build up your fitness level. For example, when you feel stronger, add small hand weights (soup cans do the trick) while you do your overhead arm-raises. As your endurance increases, begin incorporating two 10-to-15 minute walks a day around the block. By gradually increasing your activity level, you can avoid injury while improving your health and losing weight.
What if I get discouraged?
Don't let the exercise fanatics of the world intimidate you! You are a beginner. Everyone starts somewhere. Start at your personal beginning and stay with it. You will be more fit tomorrow than you are today. Don't let your long term goals overwhelm you. Take one day at time, and if that's too much, take one hour at time. You'll be amazed at how quickly your body will respond to the training and how much healthier you will feel in a short time.
MyFoodDiary is designed to help you set attainable goals and focus on the importance of each day. If you string together one good day after another, you will reach your goals!