Resolutions for 2016 have many of us dusting off the ol’ running shoes to get going on our fitness goals and the whole “new year, new me” thing. But since the weather outside is frightful in many areas of the country (thanks, El Niño), outdoor activity isn’t a possibility for a lot of people.
Luckily, you don’t have to hit the gym — or even leave the house — to exercise during winter. In fact, using your own body weight and some items around the house can help you work up a sweat at home, despite freezing temps outside. (And, of course, always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program).
Here are a few ways to get moving.
1. First things first: stretch
Even if hitting the gym isn’t your thing, it’s still a good idea to incorporate basic stretching exercises into your daily routine. Not only does it feel good, but it also helps prevent injury as you go about your day (you don’t want to throw your back out while bending down to tie your shoelaces, for example).
It can also help increase your flexibility — which reduces your risk of injury even further. But it’s important to keep in mind that you can stretch too hard and strain or tear muscles, so don’t push yourself beyond what’s comfortable.
There are 2 types of stretching and it’s important to know when to do each type:
This type of stretching involves repetitively moving one or more joints or muscles, with control, in their full range of motion. Dynamic stretch exercises increase neural stimulation, prepping both your mind and body for your upcoming workout — which means you should do these types of stretches before you get active. Some examples of dynamic stretches include:
Arm circles. Extend your arms out to your sides so that your hands are in line with your shoulders. Then, slowly rotate your arms in small circles, moving up to bigger circles as you feel your joints and muscles start to warm up. Rotate your arms in both directions — both forward and backward. It’s also a good idea to rotate your wrists and ankles a few times in both directions.
Standing torso rotation. Turn your torso left and right while swinging your arms in the same direction you’re turning.
Here’s the type of stretching you do after a workout since it reduces neural stimulation and helps your body relax and cool down after intense activity. Static stretch exercises involve stretching one muscle or joint and holding it for a duration of time — typically 30 seconds. Two static stretches you can do include:
Toe touch (or at least attempted toe touch). This one’s pretty self-explanatory. With your legs shoulder-width apart, slowly bend down with your arms extended toward your toes. If you can actually touch your toes, great! If you can’t, don’t push it. You’ll typically feel the stretch in the back of your legs and your lower back.
Kneeling hip flexor stretch. Start by kneeling on your right leg, placing your left leg in front of you, bent at 90 degrees. Shift your weight forward as far as you comfortably can and hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Then switch legs. You’ll feel this stretch in your hip flexors.
If you’re not planning on squeezing a workout in between your dynamic and static stretches, that’s fine too. Just do the stretches in the same order mentioned above, since one type is meant to warm up your body and the other is meant to relax it.
2. Do some cardio
After all those holiday-season calories, it’s tempting to get outside for a run or hike to work up a sweat and drop those casserole-induced pounds. But when bad weather makes outdoor recreation a near impossibility, you don’t have to leave your house to get a decent cardio workout. In fact, even if you don’t own a treadmill or elliptical, you can still get your heart pumping in no time.
Jumping rope. Grab a jump rope (or something you can safely use as a makeshift one) and get to hopping. It helps to turn on your favorite TV show, put on a good playlist, or have a workout partner to keep you motivated. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 times per week.
Dance! Speaking of a good playlist, curate some tracks that make you feel like getting your groove on.
Jumping jacks. Doing enough of these almost becomes meditative, like running, after a while ( … almost). Regardless, you can certainly work up a sweat doing jumping jacks — whether you go hard and fast for a high-intensity workout or slower and longer for a low-intensity session.
Stair-climbing. Simply going up and down the stairs, if possible, is a great way to get your heart pumping.
Running in place. Maybe not the most exciting, but you can spruce up a quick jaunt on the treadmill by putting on some tunes or your favorite TV show.
3. Practice resistance
Many people think of weight racks or complicated-looking machines when it comes to resistance training, but there are plenty of alternatives for giving your muscles a great workout using your body weight alone. Here are a few examples:
Push-ups. This good, old-fashioned exercise works out your chest, shoulders, and arms — and even helps strengthen your abs.
Planks. On top of increasing flexibility and improving your posture, planks work out core muscle groups like your abs and back. Try doing side-planks to focus more on your obliques.
Squats. Though this exercise is often paired with weights, you can definitely feel the burn just by using your body weight alone if you do more repetitions. Squats primarily work your leg muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
Leg lifts. Lying flat on your back on the ground, make sure your body is in a straight line. Tighten your abs, point your toes, and lift your legs into the air so that your body forms a 90-degree angle. Try doing 2 sets of 10 leg lifts — you’ll definitely be feeling it in your (often-neglected) lower abs the next day.
And when it comes to resistance exercises, good form is of utmost importance to avoid serious injury. Be sure to check with a reputable source, like a certified personal trainer, to learn proper form for resistance exercises or lifting weights.
Of course, no health regimen is complete without good health insurance. Some insurers even offer incentives for exercising regularly, so it’s a good idea to incorporate some physical activity into your everyday routine. Not only could it save you some cash, but you’ll feel better for it.