The best way to get -- and stay -- in shape is to enjoy your workout experience. No matter your fitness level or preferred form of exercise, the key to success is sticking with it. And we all know that having a gym membership doesn't automatically mean that we'll use it.
If getting yourself to the gym is, itself, a workout, or you don't have money for a membership, take heart! Here are 5 exercises you can do on your own to firm your muscles and tone your body that don't require a gym:
Five Free Exercises That Only Need Gravity and Your Own Body
Who needs the dreaded StairMaster when there are actual stairs to conquer? If you are looking for a great cardio workout that also doubles as strength training for your lower body, go find your nearest staircase - whether in a building, a stadium or even at home. Running up a set of stairs for 30 minutes is a high-intensity workout that not only targets every muscle in your lower body, including hips, calves, glutes and quads, but also burns a lot of calories.
But don't worry if you are not yet ready for a high-intensity step workout. It's okay to start slow! Take the stairs instead of the elevator. When it comes to physical activity, every single step counts. The more active you are, the more energy you will feel.
If you are looking for a low-impact workout to do without leaving your home, squats are an excellent option. They can be done anywhere since they only require your own body weight. Not only do squats help tone your thighs and buttocks, they can also improve your posture, circulation and even digestion.
So, how do you do squats? Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your side. Lower your body as if into a sitting position, with your body weight resting in your heels. As you lower into the squat position, raise your arms straight out in front of you for balance. Once you are in the squat, imagine a seat behind you forcing you to keep your back straight. Pause for about 10-30 seconds, depending upon how you feel, then return to the starting position.
Repeat as many times as you can while holding each squat for 30 seconds. If this is too hard, try staying in the squat position for 10 seconds. As you progress, you can slowly increase to 15-20 seconds and then gradually build up to 30 seconds. Eventually, try holding each squat for a minute. You can also try variations, including squatting deeper or with a weight in each hand.
If you want to focus on strengthening your core, shoulders, triceps, glutes and forearms, planks are for you. All you need is yourself and a ground surface, whether an inside floor, or outdoors at the beach or on grass.
Begin as if you are about to do a push-up. Then, rest the weight of your upper body on your forearms, which need to be shoulder-width apart. Keep your stomach and glutes tight and your entire body straight. Keep your buttocks from sticking up in the air. Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute, then rest for 30 seconds between each set. Again, as with the squats, if 30 seconds is too challenging, try holding the position for 5-10 seconds at first. The aim is to feel empowered, not intimidated. So feel free to build up your endurance slowly. For variety, you can also go from your forearms to a regular push-up position, with your arms extended, every 5-10 seconds.
4. Pull-Ups and/or Chin-Ups
Remember recess during elementary school, when everyone gathered on the monkey bars? Now's your chance to revisit your youth and gain strength in the process. Pull-ups and chin-ups are great exercises for strengthening and toning your shoulders, back, chest and biceps. You can use either an overhand or underhand grip. All you need is a park or even a bar in a doorway at home.
For those of you who never liked the monkey bars or find pull-ups and chin-ups too hard, you can build or tone your upper body by doing push-ups against a wall. Stand with your left side about 1-2 feet from the wall. Wrap your left arm around your body so that your left hand will hug your right side. Then, reach your right arm across your chest, placing your palm on the wall.
Touch the wall with your left shoulder, then push off the wall with your right hand, moving your body away from the wall. Lean back into the wall immediately, and push off again with your right hand. Continue these reps for 30 seconds. Then switch sides.
No matter your current level of fitness, running, jogging or walking are great, affordable ways to improve your overall health. Plus you can do it anywhere! You strengthen your heart and legs, tone your body's muscles and burn calories. Whether you engage in casual walking, high-intensity sprints, running hills or jogging around the neighborhood, the important thing is to get your body moving on a regular basis. So take the dog for a jog, join a running group, or simply park the car father away from your destination than you need to for increased walking. Just get in those extra steps regularly, no matter the pace.
Find What Works For You
There are many ways to achieve your fitness goals that don't include a gym membership. Take the time to find out how you can incorporate exercise into your daily life. The results are worth it! And no matter your preferred workout, keep in mind that good nutrition and spiritual balance is also part of healthy living.
What are your favorite forms of exercise to do outside of a gym? We want to know, so share with us!