Having to stay home opens up lots of opportunities that you may not have had before. One of those is making time for an exercise routine, or adapting your existing routine to work in your home. We want to empower you to do this, as physical exercise provides countless benefits to your fitness level and overall wellness. To that end, here is a guide to getting started on an exercise routine at home, from beginner to expert.
Four Main Types of Exercise
Exercise can take many forms, and these forms often mix, but the four most common forms of exercise are aerobic, anaerobic, flexibility and balance.
Aerobic exercise, often referred to as cardio, is usually one of the first things that many people think of when they hear the word “exercise”. The point of aerobic exercise is to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing through your body in order to power your muscles and make efficient use of the oxygen you’re breathing. Aerobic activities can include walking, running, bicycling, swimming, jump-roping, dancing and many others. These exercises teach your body endurance (the ability to keep going) and burn calories.
Anaerobic exercise is exercise that primarily focuses on strength, muscle gain and fat reduction. It relies on turning glucose into energy without using the oxygen that your blood circulates. This often involves high intensity interval training (HIIT), weight-lifting, jumping and sprinting. It trains your body through repetitions of quick but intense muscle movements designed to make your muscles grow stronger. This fitness practice also teaches endurance and burns calories quickly.
Flexibility training teaches your body to move and stretch well, often beyond the points you might have imagined. It also helps your body realign itself and delivers oxygen to your muscles pre- and post-workout. There are a great many flexibility exercises that can be done, such as bending over to reach your toes, stretching your legs into a split and stretching your arms across your chest or behind your back, and many are catered to individual muscle groups. These exercises often involve moving your body into specific positions and holding those positions for a certain period of time.
Balance exercise, as the name suggests, teaches your body how to balance itself in specific positions that require your muscles to fine-tune themselves, such as standing on one foot, doing some form of a handstand or getting into several complex yoga poses. Through this training, you become more aware of your center of gravity, and your body learns to stabilize itself better.
Beginner, Intermediate, Expert
One of the most important parts of exercise is listening to your body and being aware of what it can and cannot do. Most, if not all, fitness professionals will tell you to avoid exercises your body is not prepared for. It’s good to challenge yourself to keep going, but not to the point at which you might injure yourself. Always consult with your doctor or an exercise specialist before beginning a new routine, particularly if you have pre-existing medical conditions.
With that in mind, here are some exercises that you can create a routine with, separated into levels of difficulty.
- Walking/Jogging: One of the simplest and most straightforward aerobic/endurance exercises you can do, walking 20 to 30 minutes at a time will get your blood flowing and improve your overall well-being. If you find that you’re able to do a light jog, you can do that, too, as long as you start slowly and work up. If you’re interested in working up to running, there are all kinds of plans available to help you get started through walking and jogging.
- Yoga: Yoga is an exercise that anyone can do. A flexibility training routine that dabbles in balance, strength training and anaerobic exercise, yoga is all about mindfulness, controlled breathing, and moving the body through the different positions to teach it how to stretch and to encourage the muscles to become stronger. Most yoga instructors will tell a beginner to take what works and leave what doesn’t, trusting the body to know what it can and can’t do.
- Calisthenics: Also commonly known as bodyweight exercises, these fitness routines rely not on weights but on gravity to train your muscles. Through exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, dips and leg raises, you can train your muscles to become stronger simply by doing a certain number of exercises—or repetitions—at a time with the individual parts of your body, like doing five pull-ups or ten push-ups and then repeating it for however long your body will let you.
- Running, Cycling, Swimming: These exercises may be listed as intermediate, but the way to work up to them is to start as a beginner, training with them for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. They increase the amount of blood and oxygen that flow through the heart and cardiovascular system. They empower the muscles to move as you want them to and for longer and/or more intense periods of time. Running and cycling mainly exercise the lower body, while swimming is a whole-body exercise.
- Pilates: A form of bodyweight exercising, Pilates is a method of exercise that balances low-impact flexibility, muscular strength and endurance movements. It emphasizes proper postural alignment, core strength and muscle balance, working through positions in a similar way to yoga. If you really get into Pilates, it can be a decently intense workout, testing the limits of how far you can stretch and how long your muscles can support a particular position.
- Weight Lifting: Weight lifting is an anaerobic exercise designed for those who are ready to take their level of strength, endurance and muscle mass to the next level. It involves lifting weights like dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells in specific forms to target various muscle groups so they can withstand more intense workouts. Weight lifting is a form of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which uses energy efficiently, burns fat and builds muscle through increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions of an exercise you do, such as lifting a dumbbell ten times for two or three repetitions with a short break in between.
- Barre: Barre fitness involves similar training technique to that which ballet dancers undergo. Combining dance movements with yoga and pilates in a full-body, HIIT exercise routine and using a balance bar as a guide, barre teaches flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. It’s a low-impact exercise routine that focuses less on proper dancing technique and more on doing the exercises themselves.
- Long-distance running/sprinting: These two forms of running are the most intense that you can do. Long-distance running requires you to train your muscles to maintain a constant speed over a long period of time, while sprinting is a HIIT practice that trains your muscles to work as hard as possible over a short period of time.
- Pilates, Yoga, Barre and more: All exercises that rely on body weight and balance can be practiced to an extent of extreme fitness, gradually working up until your body has learned how to stretch as it never could before, withstand positions for longer periods of time and hold up more weight. In some cases, like with calisthenics, you can even begin to add weights to give yourself a more intense workout.
- Weight Lifting: Many, though certainly not all, people do weight lifting for the purpose of building muscles, in which case they must use weight machines and individual weights to keep adding on and pushing the limits of how much they can handle. This results in a high level of heart, endurance and muscle/bone strength that teaches your body to withstand a high level of stress.
Start Slow, Work Up
There’s practically no limit to what you can do in an exercise routine as long as you’re paying attention to your body and correctly training your muscle groups in the various forms of the exercise. But it must start small. No one gets to an expert level except through years of training, and some may never become experts at their favorite exercise. The point is to enjoy the process of becoming fit. Start by defining your personal goals, whether they be overall fitness, muscle gain, improved endurance or any others. And with the number of instructors, classes and activities available online today, there’s never been a better time to find an exercise routine that you enjoy. Don’t forget to stretch before and after so your muscles don’t tighten up or become painful!
Again, be mindful of your abilities and how you are able to challenge yourself, and please consult a physician or exercise specialist before you begin a new exercise program. If you have any questions about bodily fitness, contact us today!