No gym? No worries. It doesn’t have to stop you exercising. It’s important to stay fit and healthy – both physically and mentally – and you can do that in the comfort of your own home.
Jasmine, CBHS Wellness Consultant, lives on the mid north coast of New South Wales and she normally works in Sydney. She used to find it hard to get to the gym after a long commute, until the day she decided to bring the ‘gym’ home.
‘I bought an exercise mat, a resistance band and some free weights and I downloaded an exercise app. All up, it cost me less than a hundred dollars. Now I schedule a work out each night in a corner of my living room and I have a lovely view through the window. It’s cheaper than going to the gym and a lot nicer too!’
A strong body has big health benefits
Regular exercise to build a strong body has multiple benefits for your physical and mental health.
You might have less space at home than you would in a gym, so it makes sense to focus on building strength and power.
Strength training may not burn as many calories as cardiovascular training in the short term, but the good thing about strength exercises is that they help retain strong muscle mass. Muscle needs energy so you burn more when at rest. That means you burn more calories (energy) when you’re simply sitting at your desk, or even when you’re asleep!
- Stronger bones can reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Improved posture brings better balance
- Stronger muscles can support your joints and ease pain
- Strength training can reduce your risk of getting type two diabetes
- Endorphins and serotonin released can reduce stress levels
- Increased muscle mass helps with weight management
- Exercise can improve your sleep and help you think more clearly
How to create a home gym
Allocate a space to workout
This could be a dedicated room or just a corner of your living room. A designated space reduces set-up time and will be a visual reminder to exercise. Shift furniture if necessary, make sure there are no ornaments in the way and give yourself plenty of space to move around.
Choose your equipment
The basics to build a home gym cost less than $100. You can spend more if you want to, or less. If budget’s a problem, there are some ‘free’ alternatives you can find at home.
*A non-slip exercise mat is important, especially if you’re lifting weights
- use canned goods or bottles full of water in place of weights
- step up and down on the bottom step of a flight of stairs
- do push ups against a wall or benchtop
Exercise with no equipment
Check out our earlier blog post on the three top exercises you can do at home without any equipment.
Create a plan and set a time
Decide what type of exercise you want to do. Resistance training? Free weights? Do you want to create a routine yourself or follow a class online?
If you were attending a class at the gym, you’d have to turn up on time. So, schedule a time to use your home gym, set a reminder on your phone and don’t be late!
Follow an app
There’s an app for everything these days, and exercise is no exception. Our top picks are below but you can literally find thousands of apps for exercise.
- access to hundreds of online workouts. Includes strength building, yoga and high intensity interval training.
30 Day Fitness
- a series of short training sessions you can do at home. Watch out though, they get progressively harder!
- workouts that require no equipment, so you can train anywhere.
Rise and Recharge
- designed to stop you spending too long at your desk.
The Australian government also lists these free apps and VicHealth has rated a selection of healthy living apps that include physical activity apps.
Check out YouTube
We like this ‘no running’ cardio video from the Queensland Government. It’s simple, straightforward and super easy to follow at home.
Warm up and warm down
Always prepare your muscles before doing strength exercises by warming up. Marching on the spot, swinging your arms or even performing your routine without weights for five to ten minutes can all help.
At the end of your routine, cool down by slowing down. Forget the weights and focus on gentle movement to let your heart rate return to normal. Stretching exercises can also help.
How heavy should the weights be?
First, make sure you understand how to perform your chosen exercise. Check your posture and perform the moves before you add any weight. Then choose a weight or resistance band that allows you to do the recommended number of repetitions, but not too easily! The last couple should feel difficult.
Give your muscles 48 hours to recover between exercise sessions. As your muscle strength increases, you can gradually add more weight or more resistance.
Try this resistance band workout at home
To increase your heart rate and prevent injury, start with 5-10 minutes of light exercise.
You could include dynamic stretches (leg swings, arm circles, star jumps), walking or a light jog.
Main muscles : Hamstrings
Band positions : Looped above ankles of both legs
Standing straight with chest up, head facing forward and legs together, use hips, a wall or chair for support.
Slowly bring one foot up, until leg is 90-degrees at the knee.
Return to starting position and repeat with other leg and complete 3 sets of 12.
Main muscles : Back, shoulders, biceps
Band positions : Looped around front foot*
Ensure front knee doesn’t pass toes, assume a lunge position (rest back knee on ground).
Pull band back using hand opposing front foot, making sure to keep elbow close to side.
Lower the band back in a controlled manner by slowly extending arm to original position.
Complete 3 sets of 12 repetitions on both arms.
* This exercise can also be performed while standing. Using one arm, lean forward against a bench or counter until back is parallel with ground and loop band through hand resting on bench.
Main muscles : Hip flexors and core
Band positions : Around arches of feet
Facing a wall, extend arms forward so that elbows are straight and hands provide support.
Standing tall with a straight back, lean slightly forward to create an angle between yourself and the wall.
Ensuring core muscles are engaged, slowly drive knee forward by lifting one leg up, until thigh is parallel with ground.
Bring leg back to starting position and repeat on other side until 3 sets of 12 are completed. Ensure back doesn’t arch or round throughout.
Main muscles : Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings
Band positions : Around low to mid thighs
Stand with feet just beyond shoulder width apart and make sure hips are over knees and knees over ankles.
Keep back straight and chest up (stand proud) and maintain this position throughout movement.
Pushing weight through heels, drop hips back as if preparing to sit on chair, until thighs are parallel with the ground.
Continue driving weight through heels and slowly return to upright standing position.
3 sets of 12 reps, taking ~30 seconds of rest between sets.
Main muscles : Chest, triceps, shoulders and back
Band positions : Loop band around wrists
Maintaining a straight back, move into a plank position by leaning against a sturdy chair or counter.
Apply tension to band by separating wrists
Pressing into counter, lower chest until elbows move behind body.
Slowly return to starting position by pressing up and straightening arms.
3 sets of 12 repetitions, taking ~30 seconds between sets.
* The greater the incline, the easier the push up. Make this less challenging by using a wall or more challenging by moving to the floor. Simpler variations are better for those with wrist pain or weakness.
Ten tips for strength training at home
- 1. Start small and work up. The longest journey starts with the smallest step.
- 2. Plan your schedule, print it out and pin it to your fridge.
- 3. Download apps for inspiration and celebrate success to keep motivated.
- 4. Dress in fitness gear and wear trainers.
- 5. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your routine.
- 6. Try exercising in front of a mirror so you can check your posture.
- 7. Don’t hold your breath or lock your joints when lifting weights.
- 8. Add occasional HIIT interval training to boost the cardio benefits. Try star jumps.
- 9. Work out if you’re a morning or evening person and schedule accordingly.
- 10. Make some positive changes in your fridge to boost the benefits.
Diet and exercise go hand in hand. Eating well and exercising regularly can both help to keep you feeling healthy and mentally strong.
Should you consult your doctor?
If you’re new to strength training, or if you have underlying health issues, it’s worth checking with your doctor before you start any new exercise routine.
Stop exercising immediately if you feel faint or experience any sign of chest pain, shortness of breath that won’t go away or pain in your joints. In an emergency, dial triple zero.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.