No place like home for working out

Working out at home is easier than ever, thanks to the wealth of online instruction and a new generation of multi-tasking, space-saving fitness tools.

Fitness experts say all that is needed is some space, a mat and a few favourite things.

"Most important is that you have at least a 1.5 by 1.5-meter space, so that you're not worried about doing a movement full range, and a mat, so you've got a soft surface for work on the floor," said Lisa Wheeler, programme director of, an online workout site.

"Then just add what you like to do," she said. "If you don't like dumbbells, don't buy them."

Wheeler's personal preference runs to resistance tubes.

"I think they are a great piece of equipment because you can use them for several different exercises and you can travel with them," she said.

For people who would rather not buy any equipment, Wheeler suggests using what is at hand.

"You can use things you find around the house," she said. "I often encourage moms to pick up a soccer ball or basketball to use as a medicine ball."

Jessica Matthews, of the American Council on Exercise, said if space is small and money is tight, look for strength-training equipment that is affordable and storable.

Home workout is the norm

"I like medicine balls for rotational work and sand bells are among my new favourites," she said, referring to the soft, neoprene-filled bags of varying weights. "You can slam them on a hardwood floor and they won't roll away from you."

Home workouts are the norm for many people. Only 16% of Americans belong to a health club, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

Matthews said some gyms are beginning to stream live videos of their fitness classes into people's homes via the internet.

"Streaming classes are great to find ways to move your body. You can still be at home but have the guidance of an instructor," she said. "The downside is they can't see you."

Colleen Logan of ICON, an exercise equipment manufacturer, said treadmills account for 58% of all home gym equipment purchases.

"The treadmill has huge benefits," she said, "But any exercise expert will tell you fitness includes strength, flexibility and balance training. And to think you're going to get all your strength training needs solved by a treadmill is limited."

Some of the latest strength training products also focus on improving balance, Logan said, such as Rip60, a body suspension/weight training seatbelt-like strap that can be secured over a door or looped around a tree trunk.

There's also a disk filled with sand for practicing unstable planks, push-ups and crunches. Its handles allow kettle bell-like moves as well.

Even some kettle bells are going soft.

"Instead of a chunk of metal, the soft kettle bell is adjustable, like a stack of donuts," Logan said. "It can range from four to 9kg. The weighted disks can function separately as hand weights."

Nicole Nichols of fitness website suggests downloading the many free exercise sessions on YouTube and workout DVDs at your local library.

"Realistically, you can set up your own gym at home for less than R383," she said. "A simple tool like a pedometer will help you realise how much you're moving."

(Dorene Internicola, Reuters Health, February 2012) 

Read more:

Fitness: getting started

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