By Peggy Reisser Winburne • Photography by Adam Brimer
Ask exercise physiologist Phyllis Richey how to get fit at home instead of going to a gym, and she won’t list specific types of exercise like biking, running, walking or yoga. That’s the easy part, she’ll say. Just pick ones you like and will do. The hard part must be addressed first, and it requires mental activity, not physical.
“Fitness at home begins with the conscious decision to achieve wellness and make healthy lifestyle choices,” says Richey, an associate professor in the Departments of Preventive Medicine, Physical Therapy, and Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. This is true of all fitness efforts, but perhaps it’s even more crucial when you work out at home without the support of a personal trainer, coach or gym buddies. She suggests these steps to help you get started and stay on the path to fitness:
Identify your healthy lifestyle goal.
Do you want to lose weight, get off medication, improve sports performance or have more energy for the grandchildren? With a goal in mind, you are better able to identify the things you should do to get there.
Determine the barriers to achieving your goal.
Does your busy schedule leave little time for exercise? Figure out how to carve out time, even in short segments throughout the day. Are family members inadvertently sabotaging your workout plans? Ask for support and invite them to exercise with you.
Set specific actions to achieve your goal.
Basic components for fitness include cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and healthy body composition (fat-to-lean ratio). In general, adults with no health restrictions should aim for at least 150 to 200 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. The total can be achieved in 10-minute bursts or longer sessions spread over most days of the week. Cardio workouts do not require a gym, and moderate-level strength training can be done at home with hand weights, resistance bands and weight-bearing exercises such as push-ups and triceps dips.
Monitor, support and reward behavior.
Make changes if necessary. Technology, including wearable fitness trackers and apps, can make monitoring your exercise easy by keeping track of distance, duration, frequency and exertion levels. Pick something that works for you, and use it. Ask for the support you need from family, friends, neighbors and community members. Reward yourself as you move toward your goal with positive feedback, a new outfit or a fun activity. And be willing to alter any behavior that is interfering with your success.