We all know how important it is to stay physically fit. If we can’t touch our toes or maintain our lung capacity, we are headed for disease and disaster! But, if our goal isn’t to run a marathon or have rock-hard abs, then the thought of going to a fitness center and working with personal trainers who make us look and feel like idiots, is just not that tantalizing of an idea. We came up with more than 10 ways that will work with your endurance, cardio, strength and flexibility. All in or around your own home! Just think—no monthly fees, no trying to figure out what to wear, no searching your daily schedule to find time, no feeling uneasy about sweating in front of strangers! Just look around you and you will see:
- Pulling Weeds — even if you live in the desert, chances are you can walk around your yard and find those dark green plants that produce nothing but frustration for you. As you bend down to grab that little devil, you are not only doing your squats (which are a big thing in the fitness centers), but you can also bend at the waist and work on touching your toes. Think how efficient you are in doing three things at once! If you have no yard, think “Keep America Beautiful” and as you take your daily walk, bend down and help someone else keep their lawn weed-free.
- Gardening — Whether it is container gardening, raised bed, or ground gardening, there is always bending, stretching and sometimes even rototilling. Even if you don’t like vegetables, the act of planting and maintaining a garden may be just as good for you as actually eating the vegetables! (probably not, though).
- Your Grandchildren — As infants, they only weigh under 10 pounds, but you can gently raise them and lower them (even while they are sleeping) and give your upper arms an excellent workout. Other ways to enjoy them and get your exercise is to sit in a chair and raise one leg and cross it over the other. You should create a V shape where that baby can fit snugly. She will cuddle right into that nook while you are stretching your leg and giving yourself great exercise. Feel free to change legs. She will not mind. As they age, you can be the “horsey” and you can feel yourself strengthen as their weight gradually increases. Another great exercise is to sit on a chair and place them on your ankles. Hold their hands and lift them up with your legs. Their squeals of delight will fully cover the thigh exercises. You’ll know you did some exercise later. Enjoy the children and allow them to help you maintain your strength!
- Landscaping — Recently, we decided to remove all of the large bushes and shrubbery from both our front and back lawn. Although we used our big truck and a chain to remove them from the ground, we had to drag and carry the large limbs and overgrown brush long distances to their final destination, which was a great exercise in strength but also in maintaining balance.
- Housecleaning — Whether it is vacuuming, washing floors or even cleaning windows, there is great benefit for you in strength training, bending, stretching, flexibility and even balance. Cleaning the house is an example of moderate intensity activity the kind the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) and health experts recommend you perform daily to maximize your health and fitness. Why spend money on a cleaning service and then turn around and spend more money at the gym?
- Home Improvement Projects — Recently, we took on a project that was one of the most strenuous yet! Re-building a deck. Those large wooden planks were not only heavy, but difficult to navigate. Of course the bending over to place the nails was a different form of exercise, and at the end, while we nursed our overused muscles, we basked in the knowledge that we accomplished a great feat. Other great home improvement projects that we recently tackled were painting a different deck that created all sorts of places where the muscles told us they hadn’t been used in a very long time, and moving furniture, which not only helped our balance but our upper arm strength as well.
- Laughter — A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart. Have you ever fell to the ground as if you were punched in the gut after you laughed real hard? When you laugh your abdominal muscles retract. Not only does this cause your body to collapse inward, it happens without warning. Since you are not aware of the exact time you will burst out laughing, it is natural for your body to react to this change by readjusting back to its original position. Your body reacting to laughing combined with abdominal muscle contraction causes a high frequency abdominal workout, similar to performing sit-ups.
In addition to the workout you are getting on your abs, as you force air out while laughing, it becomes necessary to breathe in during a short amount of time. This causes your abs to tighten up even more, leading to the sensation of pain and enjoyment at the same time. Laughing requires great effort from your abdominal region, burning a considerable amount of calories. It is hard to repeat what laughing does to your body voluntarily.
In addition to causing your abdominal muscles to hit the ground running, laughing has an effect on other parts of your body, such as your respiratory system and back muscles, causing your body to burn extra calories.
- Putting together a puzzle — Solve puzzles.You need to exercise your brain as well as your body. Different parts of the brain will be exercised depending on what kind of puzzle you choose. Crossword puzzles challenge the language and memory areas while jigsaw puzzles provide exercise for the parietal lobes. When you get proficient, do the crossword puzzles in your mind without writing anything down and do the jigsaw puzzles with the picture side turned over so that you’re working with shape and form alone. In research conducted by J. Meinze, he found evidence to suggest that a high level of experience with crosswords in older subjects does seem to partially mitigate the negative effects of age on memory and perceptual speed tasks (Psychology of Aging, Volume 15 , 2000, pp. 297-312).
- Washing Your Car — An excellent workout that will work your calves, your abs, your legs and your arms is when you wash your car. Even the bucket filled with water is a great weight as you lift it up again and again. This exercise will also provide you with fresh air and sunshine as you burn those calories.
- Searching For and Chopping Firewood — As the summer turns to cooler evenings, and you can’t wait to get in front of that roaring fire, instead of buying the precut logs, go search for them through the woods and bring them back and cut and stack them yourself. Even if you resort to a motorized saw instead of the actual chopping, you will still have to lift them and stack them. Fresh air and firm muscles all while preparing to enjoy that fragrant fire.
- Firm and Tone With the Dishes — When unloading the dishwasher, instead of just bending over from the waist to reach for dishes and putting them in the cupboard, do squats. To do these, hold the dishes close to your body, keep your back straight and lower yourself slowly to a sitting position. Wait for a second or two and then slowly stand up and put the dishes away.
Do this 20 to 40 times and you'll give your bottom and legs a good workout.
- Groceries — Make a weightlifting session out of bringing in the groceries and putting them away. Paper bags of groceries are often good to use for exercise because most range in weight from eight to 10 pounds.