An effective fitness program has five components, all of which you can do at home:
- A warmup.
- A cardiovascular (aerobic) workout.
- Resistance (strength-building) exercises.
- Flexibility moves.
- A cooldown
A warm-up could be an easy walk outside or on a treadmill, or a slow pace on a stationary bike. For the cardiovascular portion, walk or pedal faster, do step aerobics with a video, or jump rope -- whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up.
The resistance portion can be as simple as squats, push-ups, and abdominal crunches. Or you could work with small dumbbells, a weight bar, bands or tubing.
Increase your flexibility with floor stretches or yoga poses. And your cooldown should be similar to the warm-up, "cardiovascular work at a low level to bring the heart rate down to a resting state."
You can do strength work in the same workout as your aerobic work, or split them up. Just be sure to warm up and cool down every time you exercise.
If you're short on time one day, increase the intensity of your workout. Instead of your usual 45-minute ride on the stationary bike, choose a harder program for 25 minutes and really push yourself. Choose the hilly walk in your neighborhood, or jog instead of walking.
You can step up the pace of your strength workout by doing compound exercises -- those that work for more than one muscle group at a time.
For example, doing squats (with or without weights) works the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and calves. Push-ups involve the pectorals, deltoids, biceps, triceps -- even the abdominals and the upper back.
If you're not the create-your-own workout type, there are fitness videos galore -- offering everything from kickboxing to belly dancing to Pilates. You can find them at local bookstores and discount stores, or on the Web. Just be sure to choose one that's appropriate for your fitness level.