How do I exercise at home?
November 22, 2005 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Exercising at home, in a small apartment? Suggestions/tips?

Short version of the story: I put on 15-20 lbs. over the last six months because I don't have time to go to my gym.

I previously went approximately 3x a week for 1.5 hours apiece. Currently, I'm working a 60 hour workweek and dealing with family issues that take up what remains of my free time.

There's no room for a fitness machine, exercise bike or any of the traditional options in my (NYC-sized) apartment. Jogging or biking outside aren't options due to aforementioned lack of free time -- I need something that can be broken up into 10/15 minute increments to fit in whenever.

Any suggestions?
posted by huskerdont to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
up and down the stairs of the apartment building?
posted by gaspode at 10:43 AM on November 22, 2005

Do you have a PS2? Dance Dance Revolution games act a bit like an aerobics video, except fun, and the game pad can be folded up and tucked away when not in use.
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:44 AM on November 22, 2005

DDR is a great idea and is also available for Xbox if your tastes lean that way. Pilates and yoga are excellent for flexibility and strength training and require only enough room for you to lay down on the ground. I just got The Pilates Body and it's been pretty good so far. The exercises are designed so that you can spend 15-30 minutes if that's what time you have.
posted by rhiannon at 10:51 AM on November 22, 2005

Go for an actual workout video. I lost 50 pounds last year doing that, all within my own apartment. It's always available when you want it.

Get a program that includes strength training and aerobics, buy some resistance bands or dumbbells, and voila-- you've got a gym at home.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2005

Do pushups, situps, crunches, pull-ups, yoga...

10-15 minutes is not long enough to get a decent aerobic workout.

Maybe obvious: Cut back on caloric intake.
posted by LordSludge at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2005

I once lost nearly 50 lbs. while living in a nyc apartment, with no equipment and no gym membership. The secret? Walk absolutely everywhere whenever you can. But when you're home, just remember to keep moving: stand in the doorway and do leg kicks while dinner's cooking, or stretch and do crunches/leg lifts/handweights in reps during commercials on tv. Buy some dance music and shake your ass to shakira for ten minutes every morning.
posted by mochapickle at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2005

I lived in a small single dorm room in college. I did crunches, leg lifts, and had one of those foam rubber step things - I played ten to fifteen minutes of good music and just rocked out before leaving for class in the morning. That, combined with watching what I ate, made me feel better and helped me shed a few pounds.
posted by ArsncHeart at 11:04 AM on November 22, 2005

Get one of those inflatable excercise balls - they're pretty good. I also got a chin-up bar but screwed it onto the bottom of a door frame so I could do situps. Also, as others have said, do out and exercise. Buy a pair of trainers and use them for training! Walk/jog/run - it's all good.

I started jogging for the first time last November and the weight fell off, although the better you get, the more you'll have to do to get the same effect - I'm up to 12 miles now and don't lose more than about a pound.
posted by TheDonF at 11:11 AM on November 22, 2005

Elastics can be effective if you find yourself just sitting on your couch watching TV a lot.

Chinup bars are dope, as are a couple of sturdy chairs facing each other for dips.

Books like this usually contain a lot of exercises that don't require any/minimal equipment.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2005

Even though you say you can't, I'd recommend running outside for 30 minutes. It will help both your mind and your body. Because I'm not sure you can deal with family issues while doing DDR or a work-out video, anyway.
posted by timnyc at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2005

Are you in NYC? Have you thought about buying DVD's and doing at home workouts? I am not sure what kind of person you are but Yamuna Body Rolling is a small ball workout and offers various videos and books. It's all about strengthening, lengthening and educating the body to be the best it can be.
posted by YaelNYC at 11:26 AM on November 22, 2005

they do burpees in prison.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 11:28 AM on November 22, 2005

10-15 minutes is not long enough to get a decent aerobic workout.

LordSludge, he didn't say he wanted to exercise only 10-15 minutes a day, he said he wanted to break a LONGER exercise routine down into multiple 10-15 increments. In theory, this will work, because it take x number of calories to do y amount of work, and x is the same no matter how many increments you break y into (as long as the total amount of work is the same).

Personally, I would find the multiple 10-15 minute thing hard to keep up in practice. I would probably do it once in the morning, mean to do it again later, but things would get busy and I wouldn't get around to it. But if you can really stick to such a routine, it WILL work.

Knowing this won't work for me, I work out an hour each morning. In order to fit this into my busy life, I have to get up at about 5:45am. When I first started, I didn't think I'd be able to do this, but working out gives you more energy -- so I find I AM able to do it and still feel rested if I go to bed at around 11pm. (I'm 40 years old.)

If I had a tiny apartment, I'd do anything I could to squeeze a small exercise bike into it (I'd shop for the smallest one I could find -- or one that folds up). This is because I like to watch Netflix movies while I exercise. I don't look forward to getting up in the morning and working out -- but I do look forward to movie time.

I've seen tons of people screw up their weightloss plan by exercising without a good diet. You really have to count calories. I resisted this for years, thinking I could magically define the number of calories in something by looking at it (that cookie is so small! it can't be too many calories! WRONG!)

The eyeopener for came when I calculated the calories for the salad I ate for lunch each day. I ate it without salad dressing -- just grilled chicken and vegetables (and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese). I thought it was super light. Turns out it was 600 calories. Not horrible, but much more caloric than my guess.

I bring this up, because eating right is generally MUCH more important than exercising when trying to lose weight. Exercising does burn calories, of course, and it's hugely beneficial for your health, but if you want to lose weight, watch the calorie intake!

I highly recommend "The Hacker's Diet" as a (free) resource. (In addition to calorie math, it also contains workouts you can do without equipment.)
posted by grumblebee at 11:36 AM on November 22, 2005

If you do have an X-box or PS2, you can get a workout "game" called "Yourself Fitness". I think they actually have one for PC, too, but it seems like that would be more of a pain to use.

It lets you work out for 15, 30, 45, or one hour at a time, and you can either work out as a guest or complete a profile that will tailor the workouts toward your goals. You can choose to focus on upper body, lower body, core, weight loss, etc for each workout, and the workouts can incorporate a balance ball, step, or hand weights if you have them. It also has a yoga section.

I liked it better than a video because it's different every time, you could always see a tutorial for each of the exercises, and you can change the difficulty of the workout just by pressing up or down on the directional pad.

It also has a menu builder and recipes, but I don't use any of that stuff.

There's more info here.
posted by amarynth at 11:39 AM on November 22, 2005

To echo what Mochapickle said, one simple way to build in an exercise routine into your daily life is to walk everywhere, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and constantly keep moving. There was a study done by a researcher at the Mayo clinic that was published in Science earlier this year (March?) where doing simple things, like standing instead of sitting, during the course of the day can increase the number of calories you burn by a good amount, netting almost 15 pounds over a year.

I'm sure if you combine that with some weights and a healthy diet, you could see some decent results.
posted by scalespace at 12:10 PM on November 22, 2005

If you have a decent computer, download StepMania (free) and buy an Xbox dance pad ($20) and Xbox-USB adapter ($5) on eBay. It's way cheaper than getting DDR and a pad and a game system.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:18 PM on November 22, 2005

An exercise bike + TV/Netflix is really the way to go. Throw out your couch if you don't have room, your health should come first.
posted by exhilaration at 12:55 PM on November 22, 2005

Similar recent question
posted by Sharcho at 1:13 PM on November 22, 2005

What about bike commuting?

You live in Brooklyn; do you work at home, or take the train? My train ride from Bushwick to the Upper West Side takes about 40 minutes; riding my bike the same distance takes 55 minutes, but more importantly it clears my head -- so I don't have work on my mind once I get back to my "family issues", and don't have family issues on my mind when I get to work. For me it's an objective 10-15 minutes difference twice a day, but it adds up to nearly two hours of cycling a day, 4-5 days a week (2-4 days in winter, realistically). And I'm still a little more paunchy than I'd like, but at least I'm healthy.

I recognize that winter is not the best time to start commuting if you haven't done it before, but all you really need that you might not already have is thinsulate fingerless-glove-mittens, a balaclava, and footwear that keeps your toes warm without cutting off your circulation. (See for some further tips on the details I'm glossing over). Well, and a bike; and a helmet helps hold in the heat. And lights, since it will be dark when you go home.

Maybe this is starry-eyed idealism, in light of your 60-hour work week, but your needs constitute about 1/3 of the reason why I am a bike commuter.
posted by xueexueg at 1:46 PM on November 22, 2005

Response by poster: Xue - I live in Park Slope and work on the Upper East Side. For me, a bike commute when I tried it was a healthy 1.5 hours each way... Which thrown in with 11 hour days was undoable. Thanks for the suggestion though.
posted by huskerdont at 2:00 PM on November 22, 2005

I jog on a mini trampoline, whose footprint is no larger than that of a mid-size coffee table. (Might not be practical in an upstairs apartment or one with low ceilings.)
posted by gigawhat? at 2:06 PM on November 22, 2005

If you already have a bicylce, you could get a trainer (basically, it's a stand/variable resistance) so you can use it indoors like an exercise bike. The trainer itself is quite compact, and the setup time isn't long at all.

A quick google searched turned up this guide on how to buy a trainer. I can't attest to the quality of their advice, but if you ask at a good LBS (local bike shop), they ought to be able to help.
posted by JMOZ at 2:26 PM on November 22, 2005
posted by notsnot at 4:29 PM on November 22, 2005

First of all, I would ignore the previous question that sharcho linked to (no offense sharcho). Your goals and that guy's are not all that compatible. Building muscle and losing weight are VERY difficult to do at the same time. In order to build a lot of muscle you have to focus on heavy weight training and keep your body well-fed, which makes it impossible to much fat.

I won't get into the specifics of different exercises and home equipment, since there are many kinds of each and a lot of them have already been brought up. I just want to give you a principle: High-Intensity Cardio. I think it's what you need in order to get productive workouts without much time. The main form of HIC is cardio mixed with light resistance. All the studies show that lower-intensity cardio punctuated with high-intensity bursts along the way burns the most calories. Here's an example: Pick 3 easy resistance exercises, like push-ups, chin-ups, and bodyweight squats. Then pick a cardio exercise, like jumping jacks. Do jumping jacks for two minutes, then do 15 reps of one of your resistance exercises. Then repeat as many times as you can, but rotating which resistance exercise you do. There are lots of variations on this concept. Another example is taking some milk or water jugs down to a track somewhere and placing two sets of them halfway apart from each other. Then you jog 200m, do a set of a light resistance exercise, and repeat.

HIC is a great way to get a decent workout when you lack time and fancy equipment. You'll break a sweat in no time and you'll be more tired after 10 minutes than you ever thought you could be. The key is to keep up the intensity for that whole brief workout though. If you're going slowly you're defeating the purpose.

Honestly, in order to make big progress you have to make a big time commitment to exercise and diet. It's unfortunate, but 15 minutes, even every day a week, is not much, despite how effective I think HIC given those constraints. So the next biggest piece of advice I can give you without trying to be tangential and talk a lot about diet is to be mindful of what you eat. Gaining muscle is mostly about exercise plan, but losing fat is mostly about diet plan. I'd say 75% of your success is purely your eating choices. So just be mindful of what you eat.

You don't have to be strict with yourself or have some elaborate diet plan, but everytime you're going to eat or drink something, at least recognize how many calories you're getting from it. If you make a habit of that, you'll quickly realize how many calories you could eliminate from your diet without being that unhappy about it. Every time you eat any kind of junk food you're making a tradeoff, so when you're craving a candy bar, go ahead and eat one, but if you can go without it, don't just eat it because you normally eat a candy bar with lunch. Just cutting out soda, chocolate, or even mayonnaise can make a surprising difference. And it's the start of a commitment that you can hopefully build on.
posted by TunnelArmr at 4:38 PM on November 22, 2005

identify every "escalator" (literally and metaphorically) in your life. take the "stairs" instead. if exercise is something that you do separately from your daily routine, there is someting wrong with your daily routine. of course, not everyone can do anything about that, at least not all the time. i'm just saying.
posted by poweredbybeard at 5:31 PM on November 22, 2005

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