The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 65 receive 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic (cardiovascular) physical activity five days per week or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise three days per week. Moderate-intensity activities include brisk walks, light bicycling, mowing the lawn, or heavy cleaning (washing windows, vacuuming, mopping). Vigorous-intensity exercise includes activities, such as jogging or running, competitive sports, or swimming.
The ACSM also recommends that adults perform muscle building and endurance exercises for a minimum of two days per week. Muscle building and endurance exercises may include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, bodyweight exercises (e.g., push-ups and sit-ups), or heavy gardening (e.g., digging and shoveling).
You don’t need to visit the gym to reach the recommended amounts of physical activity. Everyday household items can help you improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.
At-Home Aerobic Fitness
These simple at-home activities will help you meet the ACSM’s recommended guidelines for aerobic exercise.
1. Walking or Running
The only supply you need for this is a pair of good shoes. If you’re new to walking or running, start slow. The Cleveland Clinic recommends starting with one minute of running, followed by two minutes of walking for a total of 20 to 30 minutes. Then increase running by 30 seconds each week until you can run for 10 minutes straight. Be sure to stretch after your run – NOT before. Stretching before your run decreases power, speed, and stability. It is beneficial, however, to warm-up with dynamic activity such as a brisk walk or jumping.
2. Stair Training
Walk up and down the stairs at a steady pace for 15-20 minutes. In addition to increasing your cardiovascular health, stair climbing improves muscular tone in your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Increase your speed for more vigorous activity.
Step-ups are another great way to boost your cardiovascular fitness. To do this exercise, stand at the base of the stairs, step up one step with your right foot, followed by your left. Step your right foot back to the ground, followed by your left. Do this as fast as you can for 30 to 60-second intervals three times. If you find that too easy, you can increase the duration of your intervals or increase the number of stairs you use.
3. Jumping Rope
If you hate running, jumping rope is just as effective for improving cardiovascular fitness. In fact, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), if a 170-pound individual jumped rope at a fast pace for 30 minutes, he or she would burn roughly 462 calories. If that same person ran an 8.5-minute mile for 30 minutes, he or she would only burn 443 calories.
If you don’t already have a jump rope, you can buy one for around $6 from your local retail store. Or you can skip the jump rope altogether by placing a line of tape on the floor and jump across it for 20 minutes.
Everyday Items for Building Muscle
Use these everyday items to build muscle strength and endurance.
A Gallon of Water, Milk, or Laundry Detergent
Handles on water or milk jugs make them an excellent replacement for dumbbells or kettlebells. You can perform these common exercises just as you would with regular dumbbells or kettlebells:
- Bicep curls: Hold your jug by your side with palms facing forward. Bending at the elbows, lift the jugs toward your shoulders then lower them back to the starting position. Repeat eight to 12 times without swinging your water or milk jugs.
- Bent-over row: The bent-over row works your shoulders, forearms, biceps, lats, and spinal muscles. Start by bending at the waist so that your chest is at a 45-degree angle with the ground. Keep your core tight and your back straight as you lift your jugs toward your chest. Lower and repeat 8 to 12 times.
If you don’t drink milk or buy gallons of water, laundry detergent bottles are another great alternative to dumbbells or kettlebells.
A Heavy Backpack
Fill your backpack with cans or heavy books and walk around to build back and core strength. Be sure you aren’t slouching as you walk!
You can also increase the difficulty of lunges, squats, and push-ups by wearing a heavy backpack.
Grab a hand-towel and perform these exercises for a rock-hard core:
- Rollout: Start in a modified push-up position with your knees on the ground and a towel underneath both hands. Slide the towel out in front of you until your back is flat. Return to the starting position and repeat 8 to twelve times.
- Towel pike: Start in the push-up position with a towel underneath your feet. Slide the towel toward your hands while keeping your knees straight until your body looks like a V. Return to the starting position and repeat ten times.
You can search through ACE’s vast database and library of exercises for more strength-building ideas.
Final Thoughts from USHEALTH Group
You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get a good workout. Grab a good pair of shoes and hit the trail or repurpose everyday items to help you build muscular strength and endurance.
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