Help me introduce some variety into my at-home cardio
September 18, 2009 4:45 AM   Subscribe

I’m looking for some more simple cardio exercises, like burpees and stepping, that will raise my heart rate but can be done in a small space, with minimal impact on my knees.

Limitations: knees messed up, so can't do jumping jacks, skipping or anything high impact. Very little space and no DVD player or games console means no exercise videos or fitness games. Limited cash means no fancy equipment.

Currently: Have a staircase and I've been i) walking up and down as many times as I can, as fast as I can ii) doing step-ups a-la Step Aerobics. So say, 10 steps on left leg, swap to right leg, ten steps, swap back. With lots of 80s-style arm pumping, natch. In the teeny space I've cleared for exercise in my wee room, I can just pull off a burpee. I've started doing those too. Tonight!

Some background: I do also go outside to exercise, and have lots of variety in things I can do outdoors, so that's not a problem. As well, I do bodyweight exercises and some simple yoga indoors. Again, there's loads of of different bodyweight stuff to do, and I add new yoga poses after weekly classes, so that's fine. But I'm stumped and kind of bored with my at-home cardio given the limitations I have.

My fitness level is: unfit. I can't run for the bus without getting out of breath. I've had a checkup and I'm fine to exercise though, there's no underlying issue. Just lack of exercise.

AskMe, what else can I do inside, with little space and dodgy knees, to up my heart rate?*

Aside from the obvious, most fun answer, that is.
posted by t0astie to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Buy a cheap chin-up bar, then do sets of chin-ups for time (don't worry if you can't actually do a single chin-up at present; just start by doing negatives and work your way up from there).

Bicycle Crunches.
posted by saladin at 5:07 AM on September 18, 2009

I'd strongly recommend you get a couple of kettlebells. You can get a really good cardio workout swinging a couple of kettlebells, without impact, and with the added bonus of building strength too.

I don't need a huge amount of space for my KB workouts - if you have the space to swing a teddy bear by his legs, that'll be more than enough room for a KB.
posted by essexjan at 5:08 AM on September 18, 2009

Response by poster: Cannot buy equipment. No cash! But will add these to list of possibilities for more affluent times. Also, no room to swing. Seriously, think prison cell.
posted by t0astie at 5:18 AM on September 18, 2009

Metal dumbells would be around $5 at any fitness store. A milk container or laundry soap container filled with water or sand is free.

I suggest either the crossfit scaled-down workouts here or something like the workout plan here. I think you need to register for that second link content.

Also squats help strengthen and protect the knees, not hurt them. If you can do them without pain, you should.
posted by anti social order at 5:34 AM on September 18, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not going to thread sit (this will be my last comment) but could I just stress, I'm absolutely not looking for more strength exercises. Not because they're not important, but because I have that covered already. Only looking for cardio exercises, with the limitations stated above.
posted by t0astie at 5:51 AM on September 18, 2009

Best answer: Marching in place bringing the knees up high while moving your arms with purpose is an excellent cardio exercise that is low impact. For optimtum cardio start by walking in place for about 1 minute then do the high knee marching with strong arm swinging for 5-10 minutes then walk in place for 1 minute then high knee marching with arm over head raises (like for jumping jacks) for 10 minutes then walk in place for 1 minute and back to marching for 10 minutes. Of course modify the intervals based on your own fitness level. I recommend lively music!
posted by Pineapplicious at 6:23 AM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am 80, and though i walk, with weights when the weather is nice, I got a rebounder (smallish trampoline) as a birthday gift recently. It is fun. It is very very easy on the joints, and you can do this while watching tv (or a film on screen)...a decent one is not very expensive and takes up very little room (and can be tucked away if desired).
posted by Postroad at 6:35 AM on September 18, 2009

Best answer: One of the cardio moves Jillian Michaels does on her 30-Day Shred DVD is boxing punches. Start with legs a big farther than hip-width apart, squat down so you feel tension in your thighs, arms in a boxing pose then punch across the body. She says its great way to get your heart rate up if you have lower body injuries.
posted by socrateaser at 7:26 AM on September 18, 2009

Not an exercise but a pattern to mix in maybe once a week/month... Tabata ... 8 x (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest)

Absolutely brutal. Four rounds of all-out tabata is as hard as anything I can think of. Count the reps each 20 second period and try not to drop.

Exercises that might work with this ... burpees, push-ups, sit-ups, dips off a chair, maybe modified handstand push-ups (knees on bed/chair/table; careful!). With good form maybe squats are ok for your knees?
posted by samsm at 7:51 AM on September 18, 2009

Whew, yeah, this is tough. Tabata is great, I can echo that too. You can do it with whatever. Also, regarding crossfit, here is a great set of workouts that are bodyweight only, many of which can be done in a small space I believe: Bodyweight Workout Resource v. 2.0.

Can you do jump-rope, or is the space too confined for that? I love jump-rope, it gives you a great workout and you can vary it endlessly as you get better.
posted by dubitable at 8:05 AM on September 18, 2009

Pick a point on the wall about 6 inches higher than the highest point you can reach up and touch. Now jump up and slap that point, over and over again until you feel like your heart is going to explode. Repeat.
posted by saladin at 8:23 AM on September 18, 2009

Best answer: Sit in your chair and "conduct" music like an orchestra leader. There have been several studies and even books stating that music conductors, though often overweight, have excellent cardio fitness because the arm movements they routinely do provides a very good workout for the heart and lungs.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:49 AM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Burpees are not really easy on the knees, fwiw. I am surprised that someone that cannot do jumping jacks for fear of hurting the knees can do burpees, unless perhaps your stamina is limited by your upper body strength and you're only doing a couple of them. If you can do them comfortably though, try adding squat thrusts, which don't include the pushup portion of the move and will probably let you get your heart rate up longer.

I'm also a bit surprised that you have enough room to do burpees but not swings, but I will leave with this general suggestion: almost anything that you think of as a "weight training" exercise can be made into cardio by using a lighter (or no) weight and doing it fast/for time. So even if you don't have enough space to do weighted swings, try things like hang power cleans or snatches with a milk jug full of water, the aforementioned tabata pushups etc. Hell, look for a yoga sun salutation and do that reasonably fast and for several rounds. Punches and directing and such are fine, but you get your heart rate up by moving major muscle groups and if you aren't really involving (or using your arms to full support) your lower body much at all that is really, really hard to do.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:01 PM on September 18, 2009

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