For many people, going to the gym means a change in mindset. Once they walk through the doors, they’re ready to sweat. But it doesn’t take a pricey gym membership to have a good workout, fitness gurus say.
The keys are to stay consistent, try a variety of exercises to avoid boredom, and – above all else – remember what motivated you to start in the first place.
“A long journey starts with a single step. Think about why you’re doing it. To relax? To lose weight? To stay busy?” said Dr. Richard Josephson, director of the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center at University Hospitals in Cleveland. He also is a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Ultimately, the best exercise is going to be what someone will actually do on a regular basis.”
That, of course, depends on the person. Certain things have proven to be helpful. Having a workout buddy for long walks or even just remote check-ins, for example, helps people stay accountable.
“Almost everyone has periods of more enthusiasm and less enthusiasm for exercise. You can help each other through days or weeks of less motivation,” Josephson said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination, each week. It’s also recommended that children and adolescents be active for at least 60 minutes every day.
For those walking or running, it’s important to incorporate strength training at least two days a week, Josephson said. While people “don’t need to become power lifters,” he recommends keeping a set of dumbbells and stretch bands around, both of which are low-cost options.
Steven Zinder, associate professor of athletic training at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said it's easy to find a way to work out at home. Online exercise videos are available and going outside can provide a place to walk, jog and bicycle.
"The only limiting factor in working out at home is creativity," he said. "And these days, you don't even have to be creative. You just have to have an internet connection. There are so many videos and so many programs that you can download."
There also are ways to exercise and move more around the house without being tethered to the internet.
- Running in place for 30 seconds at a time
- Short, solo dance parties
- 30 seconds of squats
- Wall sits while reading
- Holding planks for 30 seconds
Steve Collett, an Atlanta-area exercise physiologist and health coach, said it’s even possible to keep in touch regularly with a trainer from afar.
"If we don’t see clients physically, at least they can touch base by phone or by text so that we know that they're still there,” he said. “We're still going to help them, and they're still accountable."
Josephson recommends switching up workouts, which can be good both for the body and the mind, he said. This can be done by rotating through various fitness videos online, getting new recommendations from a friend, or checking out virtual programs from fitness clubs.
“It’s good to do a variety of things. It exercises different muscle groups, prevents fatigue and injury, and, for most people, it helps maintain interest and motivation,” Josephson said.