Staying Fit: Easy-to-use equipment does not have to be costly

3/4/2012

     Sometimes people don’t exercise as much as needed, or don’t even start because they think they have to go to a gym and use a bunch of equipment.  And sometimes all those exercise machines are intimidating—we don’t want to break them or look foolish trying to use them, perhaps incorrectly.  The good news is that you can work out at home pretty easily, with just a few key pieces of equipment that are not too expensive.
          To start, you should know that the best piece of fitness equipment is your own body.  You can walk or jog or run anywhere, and that costs you nothing.  Moving your body in squats, lunges, pushups, sit-ups, stretching, dips, and other similar exercises will work your muscles, elevate your heart rate, and provide the fitness you need—all for free.
          Besides using your own body weight for exercise, a couple pairs of dumbbells provides you with enough weight resistance for building muscle, burning fat, and increasing your metabolism.  For example, you might have a lighter weight set (five pounds) and a heavier set (10 pounds).  Or perhaps 15 and 25 pound dumbbells.  You can start with the light set and when that weight is no longer giving results, bump up to the heavier set. 
       With the light weights you would do more repetitions of an exercise, and with the heavy set, you do fewer repetitions.  Both are effective.  With dumbbells, you can do a huge variety of exercises for your whole body, including shoulder presses, chest press, shoulder fly, bicep curl, tricep curl, back rows, dead lifts, squats, lunges, and more.
          If dumbbells are not your thing, or perhaps too much for your joints, then an elastic band is handy to use.  Some are, quite literally, just a long section of elasticized rubber that can be gripped and pulled and so forth.     
        The best ones are rubber tubing, with handles, which allow for more variety of exercises.  Because of the elastic, it works your muscle on the up movement and the down movement, without being as jerky as using a dumbbell might be.  They can be wrapped around door handles for rowing exercises, pulling, pushing, or pressing exercises.  By stepping on sections and doing a bicep curl, for instance, you control the tension, thus giving a wider range of work over time.
          If yoga is what suits you, then a good yoga mat is a must.  It gives just enough cushion, as well as grip for your feet, as you go through the different yoga poses.
          For a quick, intense, and very effective aerobic workout, a good jump rope is a great choice.  You can do several seconds of rope work in between strength training for a maximized workout.
          If I were you, I’d stay away from any kind of “abs” machine.  They don’t really work as well as they should and can often lead to injury if misused.  Plus, there’s other ways to strengthen your core.  Sit-ups are actually not a great way to work your stomach and core muscles.
          So while there are a huge  number of choices out there for workout equipment, the simple choices above can get you going for not a lot of money (even free!) and provide you with an effective, transforming fitness experience.  And you can do it all in the privacy of your home!
If you read this column, could you email me and let me know?  Also, let me know if these columns are helpful or not.  Thank you!
Coming next month:  The three best exercises.
 


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