The No-Gym Solution to Weight Loss

If you don't like to go to the gym, you're not alone. A 2004 survey by the American Council on Exercise found that 19 percent of respondents feel like they're too out of shape to work out among the rock-hard bodies at the gym. Over 20 percent of people said they skip the gym because they don't know what equipment to use or how to use it.1

If you're intimidated by going to a health club or gym, it's not an excuse to be a couch potato. Your living room, basement, or back yard can become your own personal gym. With little or no equipment, you can get a full cardio and weight-resistance workout in 30 minutes.

The No-Gym Cardio Work Out

A popular form of exercise outside of the gym is walking. It is one of the simplest exercises and almost anyone can do it. It doesn't require special equipment and you can do it anywhere. Try walking with friends or use the time to listen to an audio book. If you feel adventurous, explore places outside of your home neighborhood and find a park or hiking trail, too. If the weather gets bad, you can always walk inside at a nearby mall.2

If you're willing to spend $10 on a simple piece of equipment, you can burn well over 100 calories in 10 minutes at home. What could be so effective, but so cheap? Jumping rope! It's not just for the school playground anymore. If your ceiling is high enough, you can jump in your living room or basement. If not, head outside to your back yard.

In his book, Jump Rope Training, jump rope expert Buddy Lee says that jumping rope is the ideal exercise for weight loss, cardiovascular conditioning, and improved coordination. It expends significantly more calories that other aerobic activities, so you can see weight loss results faster. You would have to jog for 30 minutes at a moderate pace to get the same results as 10 minutes of low-intensity jump roping.3

If you're new to jump roping, it's best to start with the standard single-rope jump. To add variety while you jump rope, try doing short intervals intermixed with other activities. Try 50 reps of jumping rope followed by a weight-lifting exercise. You can also jump with alternate feet or use a high step to add a degree of intensity. Make sure to do the exercise on a solid surface, like a wood floor or a non-slip exercise mat.

Here are a few more ideas for quick bouts of cardio to add to your strengthening routine:

Jumping jacks
Very simple, and very effective! Like jump roping but a bit less impact.

Line hops
Stretch a jump rope into a line. Jump back and forth on either side of it until you are fatigued.

Mountain climbers
Start in a push up position. Bring your left foot up and under your chest while your right foot remains out and still on the ground. Then, switch your feet — your right foot will be up and under your chest with your left foot on the ground. Use your abs to stabilize your movement. Switch your feet back and forth as quick as you can.

Burpees
Start in a standing position. Squat down to the ground and place your hands in front of you on the ground. Kick your legs backward and go into a push up position. Quickly bring your legs back in to a squat position, then jump as high as you can. Reset and repeat. You can do this in a stationary position (jump upward only) or for a desired distance (jump up and out).

No-Gym Weight Training

Experts know that in order to reshape your body, you need to perform weight training in addition to cardio. Resistance training can help you lose fat and gain lean muscle. Plus, it promotes an increase in metabolism during and after exercise.4

The good news is that you don't need that heavy, and sometimes intimidating, weight lifting equipment you see at gyms. Using your body weight or a few dumbbells can make a meaningful impact on your overall body composition and weight.

Choose 8-10 of these exercises and perform each until you are fatigued. Once you feel comfortable, repeat the exercise rotation two or three times.5

Squats
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your glutes. This is the same action as sitting down in a chair, only you go lower. Make sure to keep your back straight.

Lunges
Standing up, take a long step forward with one foot. Bend your front knee at 90 degrees, making sure your knee and ankle are in line with each other. As you do that, your other knee lowers close to the ground, but not touching. Rise back up into a standing position and repeat, alternating legs.

Crunches
There are several ways to do crunches. One of the best methods is to keep your feet off the floor, with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Keep your hands on your chest and use your abs to bring your head off the ground. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

Side Plank
Lie on your side with your elbow bent directly below your shoulder, holding up your body weight. Use your abs to lift up your body up so it's resting on your arm and your feet. Hold for as long as you can.

Lateral Raise
With a weight in each hand, stand with your arms at your sides. Slowly raise each weight up so that your arms are extended, like a bird. Lower and repeat.

Front Raises
With a weight in each hand, stand with your arms resting on your thighs. Raise up each weight so that your arms are extended out in front of your body at the height of your shoulders. Lower and repeat.

Overhead Press
Hold the weights at your shoulders. Raise into the air as high as you can, doing both arms at once or alternating arms.

Dips
Sitting in a stable chair or bench, move your glutes to the edge and then drop off the chair, but keep holding on with your hands behind you, fingers on the front edge of the chair or bench. Your legs will be extended out in front of your body.
Let your glutes drop and then use your arms to raise your body back up to chair level.

Push Ups
You can perform the standard push up, but if you're just beginning try pushing up against a kitchen counter or other raised surface. Bending your knees and then performing the push up is also a good way to get started.

Bring the Gym Trainer to Your Home

Exercise DVDs can bring some much-needed energy and variety to your home workouts. Although there are many to choose from, be careful to use videos with a legitimate fitness expert, not just a celebrity. Find out which style of exercise motivates you and do some research about the best videos in that area.6 You can start with a low-intensity video on yoga or Pilates. Then, work your way up to a boot camp or kickboxing workout.

Don't forget about the world's most popular video site, Youtube. There are thousands of workout videos posted on that website. Again, be careful of fitness impersonators. Try searching specifically for your favorite trainers or fitness groups, like Jillian Michaels, BodyRock, or Kathy Kaehler.

1. Stenson, J. Excuses, excuses: 'I'm too out of shape' and other couch-potato cop-outs. 16 December 2004. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6391079/ns/health-fitness/t/excuses-excuses/#.T1Yb6vE18XE
2. Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Personal, social, and perceptual barriers. 14 March 2012. http://www.walkinginfo.org/why/barriers_personal.cfm
3. Lee, B. Jump rope training. 2010. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.
4. Kravitz, L. Resistance training: Adaptations and health implications. IDEA Today. 1996; 14(9), 38-46. http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/resistben.html
5. Wind, J. 18 strength exercises runners can do at home. Washington Running Report. November/December 2002. http://www.runwashington.com/news/1092/467/18-Strength-Exercises-Runners-Can-Do-at-Home.htm
6. Sarnataro, B. R. 12 best exercise videos for beginners. November 2007. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/12-best-exercise-videos-beginners
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