The human body is a magnificent machine. More flexible and articulated than any manmade tool, it comes with an animal brain of immense sophistication which allows us to be aware of ourselves and manipulate the world around us. We care for our own health and the wellbeing of others in very advanced ways. But we also make things very difficult for ourselves. We quit the fields and plains to live in cities, driving from place to place and sitting in front of computers all day. We process foods and add all kinds of flavors and preservatives to make them tasty, convenient – and unhealthy. And then we take all the clever exercise machines we made and lock them up in expensive gyms.
But you don’t need a health club membership to stay healthy. That magnificent machine of yours is a natural wonder. You can prepare all sorts of fruits and vegetables to keep it pure and functioning. And as for those clever exercise machines – the cleverest yet is the one you carry around with you. Your bones, muscles and tendons are designed to work, to develop, to move. There are any number of ways you can keep fit without the need for any extra equipment, save a T-shirt and sweat pants. Maybe you’re a spinner, maybe you’re a runner – or maybe you’re looking for something a might more thorough. Let’s talk about some exercises you can do to work out your cardio, core and more.
Cardio (aerobic exercise) is important. By definition, it is good for your cardiovascular system – which is crucial if you want to reach, and enjoy, old age. It also means your body is better equipped to deal with the other workout stuff you’re going to subject it to.
Further, aerobic exercise can help you to shift weight, but many of us don’t have the time, the weather or the confidence for running, swimming or cycling. That’s ok. If you have a firm floor or a convenient yard at your home, there are some great ways to get your heart pumping on the spot. Jumping Jacks, for example – you probably remember them from school. Stand on the spot, head held high, belly held tight, and then jump your feet apart as you raise your arms over your head and clap. Jump back to your starting position. And repeat. Do it as quickly as you can, and keep going for thirty seconds – then take a 15 second break, and do it all again. If you can do three of these in a row, you’re welcome to call it a workout – and if you keep that core tightened, you’ll strengthen your tummy muscles as well as your heart.
Your core can also get some attention of its own. If you don’t have time for a full yoga workout, try spending a couple of minutes doing planks and side-planks when you can. These are very straightforward exercises, but they need a little determination if you’re to endure the burn! The basic plank requires you to take a push-up position, but then rest on your elbows and forearms. Again, hold your core tight, and use your core strength to rebound from the ground. Hold it tight for thirty seconds without moving – the pro and the con of this position is that you can really feel your abs working. Three thirty-second planks in a row can be considered a job well done.
If you feel like all this indoor work is neglecting your lower body, fear not: there are options for a leg workout, too. Working on your lower body can improve the look and strength of your legs, providing better stability for all the rest. It’s also great for stimulating your metabolism, to keep your body ticking along at a fair pace and burning off calories. If you spend a lot of time sitting down, it really is essential that you give your lower body a bit of a shake-up each day, and this can be done with simple on-the-spot exercises such as squats, lunges, and bridges. Lunges are great when that core is already engaged. Put your hands on your hips and stand up very straight, then lunge forward with one leg, lowering your hips so that both knees are bent at 90 degrees. Take a moment, then push yourself back up and do it with the other leg. Do around sixty of these at a time, divided by thirty-second breaks to keep it comfortable. Now you’ve really exercised your whole body without needing to leave the house!
These exercises have been grouped together by personal trainer Alistair Mills for a new infographic from CashNetUSA. It’s a great resource to keep handy and refer to each time you find you’ve got ten or fifteen minutes to kill and some energy to burn. So don’t forget to warm up, warm down, and remind yourself – your body is amazing!