Exercises to Keep Fit

The American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association jointly recommend that in order to keep fit, healthy adults under the age of 65 should combine either 30 minutes of moderate cardio, five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous cardio, three days a week, with strength training. While gyms certainly make getting your exercise in easier, there are also several exercises you can do at home, if need be, with a minimum of equipment to help keep yourself healthy.

Squats

Squats are a fantastic exercise to strengthen your legs in any environment. If you’re in the gym you can add extra resistance with dumbbells or barbells. If you’re at home and don’t have access to your own barbells or dumbbells, fill a couple of dry milk jugs or small pails up with sand and use these as weights.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and, if you’re using a barbell, rest the bar on the trapezius muscle at the very top of your shoulders. If you’re using dumbbells or improvised weights you can either hold one large weight in both hands, positioned just in front of your hips, or hold a smaller weight in each hand on either side of your body.

Squeeze your abdominal muscles to help keep your torso straight as you squat down, pretending to sit down in a chair placed well behind you. Your shoulders should slide straight down over your heels, as if they were moving along an imaginary vertical rail, and your hips will push out behind you to make room for your shoulders. Make sure both your knees and toes point in the same direction, and stop when your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your hips forward beneath you as you stand up.

Push-Ups and Pull-Ups

Push-ups strengthen your chest and triceps muscles, while pull-ups work your back and biceps muscles, offering you a complete upper body workout with a minimum of time and equipment.

If you’re not able to do full push-ups, try doing knee push-ups–with your body in a straight line from knees to shoulders, instead of heels to shoulders–or wall push-ups. For wall push-ups, lean your hands against a wall at shoulder height and walk your feet back away from the wall, squeezing your core muscles to keep your body in a straight line. The further away from the wall you place your feet, the more challenging the exercise will be. Adjust your hands lower, if necessary, to keep them at shoulder height as you lean toward the wall. Now bend your arms until you’re as close to the wall as possible without hitting it with your head; your bent elbows should be about even with your shoulders. Then straighten your arms and chest muscles to squeeze yourself away from the wall.

If you don’t have access to a pull-up bar for pull-ups, consider doing them on a convenient tree limb or jungle gym outdoors–anything that is horizontal, at the right height and sturdy enough to support your weight without falling, will do. If you can’t manage a full set of unassisted pull-ups, find something to pull on that’s at your standing shoulder height, then squat below it and pull with your arms and back, using your legs, as necessary to assist yourself through the range of motion.

Cardio

Almost any type of cardiovascular exercise–something that gets the large muscles of your body moving rhythmically and elevates your heart rate–will help keep you fit; the key is to choose something that you like doing so that you’re more likely to make it a regular part of your life. Try cycling, swimming, rollerblading, hiking, dancing, jumping rope, running, as well as organized exercise classes like step or dance aerobics until you find something that’s a good fit.

About this Author

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics at the University of Alaska Anchorage and contributes regularly to various online publications. Print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.