How should I start from ground zero with exercise at home?
October 3, 2013 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm in decent shape, but I don't exercise at all, and I have no clue where to start. I'm 40, 5'10" and 140 pounds.. I'm neither looking to lose or gain weight. I'm not trying to get ripped abs or anything like that. I just want to be healthy and fit, and if I could gain some strength along that way that'd be a nice bonus.

I thought about starting with sit ups and push ups, but I've read that sit ups aren't good for your back, and I'd really like to make sure I'm taking care of my back. I guess you could say that's a priority. Due to the kind of work I do, I often sit with really bad posture, so I'd like to exercise to keep my back healthy and help get my body in better shape.

Where do I start? What would a daily exercise routine be (say, 5X a week)? I have no interest in joining a gym. Maybe someday, but right now, I'm looking for a plan to begin at home.
posted by Mr Ected to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
The key in any exercise program, in my opinion, is *picking an exercise you enjoy* otherwise you will stop doing it.

I ride my bike.I try to go every day at lunchtime if I can, and the route I do most commonly is 19 miles. Sometimes I'll go surfing instead. I've been doing this pretty regularly since about 2005. If I had tried to do this with situps or jumping jacks or weightlifting, I would have given up after a month.

Pick something you can actually stick with because you don't hate doing it.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:35 PM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's a 7-minute high-intensity interval training workout from the NYT that's doable without equipment. I was SORE the next day!
posted by quiet coyote at 1:41 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you want to help your back, good pushups are a decent choice. Pilates has helped a couple of guys at work with back injuries, you might look into online or local courses.

I agree that one of the keys is to enjoy whatever it is you do. And mix it up - that's why I'm a fan of crossfit, we do many different things. You can also get free crossfit workouts online and modify them to the equipment you have / are willing to buy.
posted by ldthomps at 1:43 PM on October 3, 2013

Response by poster: tylerkaraszewski: "The key in any exercise program, in my opinion, is *picking an exercise you enjoy* otherwise you will stop doing it."

I'm not worried about that. I don't enjoy making my bed and I hate doing my dishes, but I do these things every day because I feel better when my home looks good. For me, it's about creating a habit. My plan is to set aside 15 minutes (at least, at first) in the morning before I take a shower. I'm just trying to figure out what exercises to do. I've never exercised in my life, so I'm clueless about what to pick. That's why I asked my question and gave the details I did.
posted by Mr Ected at 1:44 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find motivation in team sports. Most team sports have co-ed rec level divisions for beginners or rusty players. I've played soccer, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and softball at a variety of levels. I'm 50 and i still get out at least 3 times a week.
The camaraderie of a team, and the subtle pressure to show up as part of the team is added motivation. At the beginning you will get a sense of your relative fitness, and if you let fitness be the goal of playing rather than ultra-competitiveness you will enjoy it more.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:44 PM on October 3, 2013

I do calisthenics. I think the progressive program set forth in Convict Conditioning is good. (you can ignore all the mumbo jumbo about life in the "big house") I hear good things about You Are Your Own Gym but I have no experience with it. Push-up, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, and leg lifts would be the core of a good program.

If you can strength, you are necessarily going to gain muscle, which would be a good thing in my view. FWIW, I would feel quite frail at your height/weight.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:47 PM on October 3, 2013

It seems like you might be right for You Are Your Own Gym.

The books are linked from Mark Lauren's page, and there are Android and iOS apps for cheap.

The Android app allows you to pick from canned workout programs, or create your own, and there are videos available to show you how to do some of the weird exercises with the towels and the doorknobs and such.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I second the 7-Minute Workout, and there are a lot of smart phone apps for it. If you want my recommendation on one for iPhone, MeMail me.
posted by Dansaman at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2013

I'm not worried about that. I don't enjoy making my bed and I hate doing my dishes, but I do these things every day because I feel better when my home looks good.

No offense, but you've felt fine thus far for 40 years without bothering to do whichever exercise you might choose after this thread, and not-so about your dishes, so maybe they're not in the same category. This is true for plenty of people, which is a big part of why so many people have trouble sticking to workout programs. Just keep it in mind if a month from now you realize you haven't done your chosen workout in two weeks.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:52 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have one of these TRX thingys, (which I use sporadically because I am lazy) but it's kinda fun and the exercises are pretty varied, which is good if you're the sort of person who gets bored easily. You will need about 8 feet of space in front of a door that closes pretty solidly, but it's nice in that when not in use it can be easily stored in a drawer. Good for beginners because you can vary the difficulty of the workout and ease into it
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:56 PM on October 3, 2013

Response by poster: "No offense, but..."

No worries. I'm wired differently than most people. If I want something to become part of my routine, I schedule it on my calendar app. When the reminder alarm pops up, I do what I reminded myself to do. I'm very schedule and pattern oriented, which is why I'm looking for an exercise pattern.
posted by Mr Ected at 2:03 PM on October 3, 2013

Push-ups and sit-ups/crunches will only hurt your back if done improperly. Of course, on your own, both unobserved and as a complete beginner, it'll be difficult to know whether you're doing them properly or not.

However, if poor posture is a concern (and it should be), it is imperative to strengthen your core. Both push-ups and sit-ups/crunches do that. Other core-strengtheners with a lower risk of back-messing-up would be planks (I'd strongly recommend planks - make sure you don't let your hips/butt sag) and lying leg raises. Bodyweight squats are probably also a good idea.

If cardiovascular fitness is a concern, you might want to look into programs like Couch to 5k.

A stretching/mobility regime would be worth pursuing, as well.

If you want to get a bit fancier, you could invest in one of those door-frame pull-up bars and make use of that. Pull-ups are an excellent exercise (plus you can do other things, like hanging leg raises, from such a bar).
posted by erlking at 2:09 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nothing has been better for my posture than hot yoga! I do it 4-5x a week alongside weight training and boxing and I have really noticed how the yoga is improving the other stuff.
posted by nvly at 2:12 PM on October 3, 2013

I like Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred
posted by JenThePro at 2:18 PM on October 3, 2013

Couch to 5k really is a great way to start. All you need are a good pair of shoes and the ability to listen to podcasts. It starts with walking, and gradually introduces jogging. It's free. The prescribed workouts are easy to follow and it's a very logical place to start.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:27 PM on October 3, 2013

I really like the Beachbody stuff. I did 3 months of P90 (not P90X!!!) when I was in zero shape. You only need resistance bands and a place to work out. They have a wide selection of other routines/dvd's you can buy and do. I personally will not work out and give it my all unless there is someone on the tv telling me to do it.
posted by ashtabula to opelika at 2:28 PM on October 3, 2013

You can find a beginner routine and lots of useful info in the FAQ for the bodyweightfitness subreddit.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:36 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The more I read about the 7 Minute Workout, the more I'm inclined to go that direction.
posted by Mr Ected at 2:42 PM on October 3, 2013

It seems like you might be right for You Are Your Own Gym.

I use this but be advised it should really be called You (plus some very special furniture and space) Are Your Own Gym. I am not sure how many people have furniture that they can lie under and use to lift themselves up with. I certainly don't so it knocks out one out of four exercises in the beginners program right off the bat. I am also leery of how well my door and doorknob will hold up to the repeated stress of pulling on them with a towel rapped around them.

I'll probably still use the app just for the workout styles like laddering and such but set up a dumbbell program mixed with body weight exercises with it.
posted by srboisvert at 2:49 PM on October 3, 2013

I have also used the 100 pushup program and it was quite effective and while you think it all arms and shoulders you will be surprised at how it affects your core. It turns out holding yourself plank flat against gravity is also work in addition to the effort of pushing about 60-70% of your body weight up and down.
posted by srboisvert at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2013

When I stared fitness, from pretty much nothing, Couch to 5K was absolutely brilliant. That gave me enough fitness to do other things, and got me used to the regularity that training requires. For me, making exercise a routine thing (its Monday 0630, its gym time etc) is completely vital, otherwise I can always find excuses. Nowadays I Crossfit, which may not be what you're looking for, but for me was the best fitness decision I've ever made. Good luck!
posted by prentiz at 3:26 PM on October 3, 2013

something that has helped me a LOT with getting in shape (and I am still overweight but working on it). Is to get a walking desk at home and I walk at lunch and at least once every midmorning and midafternoon to break up my sitting time at work (if you can switch to a walking or standing desk at work it has huge dividends).
posted by bartonlong at 4:18 PM on October 3, 2013

yoga is great!! you can start with some instructional videos online.
posted by bearette at 5:02 PM on October 3, 2013

Lift weights. Seriously, nothing has helped me more than lifting weights. Cardio is great for cardio health but lifting weights has changed my life.

My goals are different than yours but since I started in February I've lost 70lbs, gained muscle and improved my life.

Get a good adjustable bench, buy something like these, and then do this. Add two or three days of cardio work when you aren't lifting. Done.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:12 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd also recommend giving the 7-minute workout a try. No equipment to buy, no having to go to a gym, and very easy to incorporate into a daily routine. And it's perfectly fine to through it twice - giving you a 14-minute workout.
posted by zombiedance at 9:47 PM on October 3, 2013 is a fantastic resource for finding information about fitness without having to deal with all of the meatheadedness and bad attitudes you can find at other sites. Definitely do a little reading there, you'll find all sorts of things you can fit into your schedule and do at home.
posted by markblasco at 11:15 PM on October 3, 2013

Another recommendation for the 7 minute workout. Here's the original paper that the NYT article is based on.
I'd just warn you that it is surprisingly intense and if you don't have much experience exercising it is quite easy to injure yourself doing it, especially if you're doing it first thing in the morning. I'd work up to it gradually.
posted by chrispy at 6:28 AM on October 4, 2013

Here's a MeFi link to the 5BX program, which was developed for the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 50's. 10 minutes a day, works all body parts, no special equipment. There are a few caveats you should look at, since knowledge about bodies has changed since the 1950's.
posted by CathyG at 8:18 AM on October 4, 2013

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