Your Essential Guide to How to Workout Without Going to the Gym

A woman training at home with an ab roller wheel.

In 2016, over 55 million adults in the U.S. were members of the nation’s 36000 health clubs, making North America the region with the largest membership for fitness centers worldwide. This doesn’t even take into account the people who are using work-provided gymnasiums or students at college with gym facilities.

Going to the gym isn’t cheap with average monthly membership fees of $58, but it’s estimated that $39 of that cost goes to waste from under utilization of the facilities. Roughly 67 percent of people who have a gym membership never even step foot in the place.

There are many ways you can avoid becoming one of those statistics by working out in your home or using the great outdoors provided in abundance by nature for free. The world’s leading fitness trend, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) doesn’t need a trip to the gym or any of the specialized equipment associated with fitness centers.

Gym Statistics

Every new year how many of us make a resolution to get fitter and lose some of those pounds we may have gained through the overindulgences of the holiday season? Big turkey dinners at Thanksgiving, countless festive office parties and social gatherings all take their toll on your waistline. Some people can panic and join a gymnasium, swearing they’ll go at least four times a week to make the cost worthwhile.

Unfortunately the majority of people who join a gym in January will lose their motivation pretty quickly. Staggering figures from 2012 showed that 11 percent of U.S. adults who sign to a gym January will quit before the year is out with as many as 80 percent of those not even lasting five months, and 4 percent and 14 percent quitting in January and February respectively.

Save Money, Save Time, Get Fit…but Not at the Gym!

Going to the gym isn’t the only way to keep fit. As well as costing you more money, going to the gym can cost you valuable time. There’s only 24 hours in a day and making time to fit exercise into your busy schedule can be hard enough without having to factor in the commute time to and from the gym. Or maybe you just don’t like the idea of being surrounded by the body beautiful or pumped up bodybuilders that frequent your local center.

We all have to start somewhere and the good news is that you can still have an effective fitness program without even leaving the home in some cases or going anywhere near a gym. There’s even a hat which the makers claim can melt fat and help you lose weight, but more on that later, let’s look at ways you can get more active and workout without going to the gym.

Many of the activities and classes you perform at a gym can be done just as easily at home. Bodyweight training, yoga, running, jogging or even a full cardio workout don’t require anymore outlay other than a decent pair of sneakers. There are even fitness apps that you can get for your smartphone which many people describe as being like having a trainer in your pocket.

Working out at Home

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the holiday season falls slap bang in the middle of the colder, winter months. Sometimes just going out of the front door can be uninviting let alone making a trip to the gym. Who fancies a jog around the park in sub-zero temperatures?

Fortunately many of the top fitness programs don’t even require you to leave your front room with yoga, bodyweight exercises, aerobic workouts and high-intensity interval training needing very little or no specialized equipment. Sometimes a small investment in equipment like dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells or a push up bar can help add to your routine to work all the major muscle groups. If you have the space or extra finances you could even invest some home gym equipment like a stationary bike, a treadmill (many now come with space-saving folding designs), an elliptical trainer or even a home multi-gym.

According to sports fitness trainers there are five main principles which make an effective workout routine. These are:

  • A warm up;
  • Cardiovascular or aerobic activity;
  • Resistance (strength-building) exercises;
  • Flexibility moves or poses;
  • A cooldown period.

Some gyms like 24-Hour Fitness surprisingly encourage people to workout at home as it helps them incorporate and get used to physical fitness exercises on a daily basis.

Woman stretching with her hands on the bottom of her feet

Practice Yoga at Home

Yoga can be a great way of meeting the warm up, cardio, resistance, flexibility and cool down factors for a healthy workout. And the best thing is you need only your body and a mat to do it. As well as being a workout for your body, yoga can help get rid of the stresses and anxieties in life too.

There are many books, online resources, instructional videos and even apps that can help you perfect your yoga practice without the need for further classes at a gym or yoga center. Yoga may not build the biggest of muscles, it’s not about bulking up, but can promote a leaner body and offer significant improvements in the flexibility of your body which can be of benefit with more traditional forms of exercise.

Circuits Can Offer a Full Body Workout at Home

Waiting in line at the gym for a cardio machine when you don’t really want to be there is often enough to persuade you to give up and go home. But with bodyweight exercises at home there’s no waiting for equipment as you’re just using what God naturally gave you; your body. (Although He may not have given you the extra weight, too many turkey dinners probably did that!)

Bootcamp-style workouts can be fun and challenging at the same time. You can create your own program by combining strength and cardio exercises at home, or in those summer months even venture out into the park. Circuits can include jumping jacks, lunges, high knees, push ups, sit ups and tricep dips off the edge of a suitable surface like a solid table or bench. Steps in the house can provide an excellent alternative to the step machine and a small investment in a push up door bar or weights like kettlebells or dumbbells can make your workout even more efficient.

Compound exercises, those that work multiple muscles at the same time can be a great way to step up the pace of strength training workouts. Squats for example work the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves all at the same time. A push up will involve your pectoral muscles at the same time as the deltoids, biceps and triceps even working the abdominals and upper back muscles in the same movement.

A 10-Minute Workout Before Breakfast Prepares You for the Day

Many fitness trainers recommend exercising first thing in the morning to stay motivated and avoid distractions. Without the ritual of going to a gym you may be easily distracted the more the day goes on by other tasks like household chores, kids, watching TV or preparing the evening meal. If you work all day the last thing you’ll feel like when coming home is starting a grueling workout.

An example that combines both strength and cardio elements to work those muscles, is this 10-minute workout which can elevate your mood and provide more energy throughout the day. You don’t need any equipment and the real beauty is you could even do it while still in your pajamas, how easy is that?

  1. Start with one minute of dynamic stretches (to get the joints and muscles moving before launching into a short circuit of upper body, core and lower body exercises).
  2. Then one minute of push ups.
  3. Followed by one minute of plank hold for the core.
  4. Then one minute of squats.
  5. Repeat this mini circuit three times.

Other exercises that work the same muscle groups can be used in this workout, just remember the formula upper-core-lower. Tricep dips could be an alternative upper body exercise with bicycle crunches for the core and jump squats for the lower body. The idea of this workout is minimal rest, try pushing as hard as you can for 10 minutes and maybe get up a little earlier the next day to try and squeeze a couple more circuits in.

Stair Climbing

Stair climbing is such a simple exercise that you can perform almost anywhere, as long as there’s a set of stairs. Many trainers recommend their students should skip the elevator at work and take the stairs as a way of maintaining their fitness levels. But climbing up stairs can also be a great exercise when performed at a higher intensity, who doesn’t remember Rocky running up those steps in Philadelphia where tourists now stop and take photos or even perform the run themselves?

Start by finding out your capacity for steps by running up and down the staircase as many times as you can before tiring out. When you can simply do no more, normally before reaching the top again (if you make it to the top, chances are you have another set in you), stop and divide the total climbs in half. Next time run up and down the stairs the halved number of times before resting for 60 to 90 seconds and then repeating. Keep going until you can’t push your body any further.

No Time to Exercise? Try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

All too often people may say they simply don’t have the time to fit exercise into their busy lives, this may be the reason they have no time for those trips to the gym. But high-intensity interval training can help you achieve the same benefits of a 45-minute cardio session in about a quarter of the time. High-intensity interval training uses short bursts of high-intensity activity interspersed with bouts of low-intensity recovery to get the maximum benefits from your workout time.

Your typical high-intensity interval training session will last between 10 to 30 minutes in duration and can use many of the exercises you’re already doing, just at a higher intensity. Squat, lunges, planks, push ups and resistance exercises can all be incorporated into an interval training exercise program. If you’re feeling more adventurous, sprinting, swimming or cycling can be used for high-intensity interval training.

You could even use a stationary bike for high-intensity interval training by cycling for 30 seconds as fast as possible against high resistance and following it with several minutes of slower, easy cycling on a low resistance setting. Not only can you stay at home rather than go the gym but you can also not have to tear yourself away from the latest Netflix series while keeping fit.

Low-Intensity Interval Training

There can be potential risks to high-intensity training, especially when following a self-training program and inexperienced or for some people with certain health conditions. The younger brother of HIIT, low-intensity interval training (LIIT), focuses mostly on aerobic exercise rather than working on the anaerobic system. Sessions tend to be longer, averaging about 40 to 45 minutes with exercises performed at a much lower intensity that targets the fat burning zone rather than building body strength.

A fitness tracker or running watch can be useful when performing low-intensity interval training ensuring you’re working out at the right intensity. Wrist-based pulse trackers often struggle to give accurate readings at too high a level of intensity but are usually fine with the lower intensity of LIIT.

Invest in Home Fitness Machines

Many of the machines that you see in the local gym are now available as domestic models too. Just looking at online retailers or even in the fitness section of your local mall you’ll see many treadmills, elliptical trainers, rowing machines or stationary bikes available for the home at reasonable prices. You can even get a fairly decent home multi-gym which can be multi-functional for less than the price of an annual gym membership.

A small garage or back room can make an ideal home gym where you won’t have to queue for any of the machines or be intimidated by the person next to you who looks a lot more accomplished and doesn’t seem to be making as much effort yet is still going faster! Gym machines in your home may also encourage other family members to workout more. People often find a greater incentive to exercise when they have a gym buddy so why not invite a friend over to join your workouts?

Join a Local Team

Dragging yourself to the gym may be a pain, but you can often miss the social interaction it offers. Signing up for an adult sports league literally turns working out into a game. Plus the fact that other team members are relying on you can be an incentive to workout more frequently.

Team sports like netball, soccer and touch footy can be a great way of getting the heart rate up, burning more calories and you may even have a good time doing it. Even if the season has already started teams will often need extra players so training can be an advantage when there seems no place on the team yet.

Stair climbing workout.

Grab Those Sneakers and Get Running

Running is an incredibly popular form of exercise in the U.S. which has been linked with many health benefits and is one of the best exercises for losing weight. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of running at a moderate pace of 6 miles per hour can burn as many calories as vigorous swimming or martial arts and even uses more calories than a 30-minute game of basketball.

Running can burn more calories than most other types of exercise as it needs many different muscles to work harder together. High-intensity running like hill repeats or interval runs can increase the afterburn effect for up to 48 hours after you finish. Moderate to high aerobic exercises like running have been shown to target belly fat, sometimes without even changing your diet. One study that consisted of 27 middle-aged women found their belly fat was considerably reduced with high-intensity interval runs compared to lower intensity walking or running.

Many towns have a local running club which you could join to go running with other non-gym goers on a weekly basis. Or sometimes the local school or college may allow you to use the track after school hours so you can practice your interval sprints. A run first thing in the morning can leave you feeling energized before going to work, if you leave it until you get home you may feel too tired to go out again for a run.

Walking as a Workout Without Going to the Gym

For people who don’t feel energetic enough or feel their personal fitness isn’t quite up to running, walking can be a less intense workout which still has many cardiovascular and calorie-burning effects. Again there are many walking clubs where you can join similar people to workout with and help motivate you.

Taking a walking tour of a city or nearby site of historical importance can be a fun and informative way of working out. If you live close enough you could try walking to work or maybe go out for a walk during your lunch break. You can give your workout more intensity by increasing your pace and running up and down any steps you may come across. Try to get your heart rate up and then keep it elevated for at least 20 minutes of your walk.

Other simple ways to walk more can involve parking your car further from the entrance to your office or on trips to supermarkets and malls parking further away. Going for a long walk at the weekend can be a good activity for the whole family while also contributing to your workout regime.

Fitness Apps Can Help Your Workout

Many of the activities we’ve looked at are quite solitary affairs. Joining a club or team may involve interaction with other people but working out at home is something normally done alone. In a gym, your workout may benefit from the experience of other gym users or even a dedicated fitness trainer.

In today’s modern age there isn’t much your smartphone can’t do for you. It may not be able to do the workout for you but there are many apps, mostly designed by professional trainers, that can give advice on your workout and record data to analyze later. These apps can save you the time of looking online or purchasing workout manuals for extra time you can benefit from working out more.

Fitness apps can be a great way of tracking your progress and developing plans to help you reach your goals in much the same way a PT trainer would. There’s even an app now available where a trainer is on the other end of the app at all times to assist in your physical fitness routines. Other apps may involve a community where you effectively race against each other and motivate others to do better. It’s like going to a virtual gym but without the hassle of getting there or high monthly membership fees.

And Finally…There’s the Hat That Can Melt Fat!

If all the above ideas sound like too much hard work and you simply want to lose weight, scientists have now developed a headset which the makers claim that some users reported an average eight to 10 percent weight loss, with some even reporting a 16 percent loss.

It may seem far fetched but this headset uses painless electromagnetic waves to stimulate the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which controls your appetite and as result you’ll, according to the makers, feel less hungry and your metabolism will be increased. As this device is new, there’s not enough long-term data to prove whether it works or doesn’t work either, but the makers are initiating a clinical trial and hope to obtain FDA approval as a treatment for obesity by 2019.

Workouts Without Going to the Gym Can Be Easy

Many people may think they lead a healthier lifestyle with regular visits to the gym but there are just as many ways to workout without going to the gym that can be as effective. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends adults should get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week with muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week, but it doesn’t say where or how it should be done.

Working out at home, in the local park, on the way to work or simply while playing with the family can provide as much physical exercise as your body needs. Although the idea of a hat that can help you lose weight sounds good, it’s not really a workout for the body and probably even less fun, all I can see is one big headache waiting to happen.

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