You don't need to go to a gym or buy fancy equipment to get exercise. You can do a full fitness routine right at home.
A Complete Workout
To get a complete workout, your routine should include 3 parts:
- Aerobic exercise. This is any kind of exercise that uses the large muscles in your body and gets your heart beating faster.
- Stretching exercises. These exercises stretch your muscles for better flexibility and range of motion in your joints.
- Strength training. These exercises work your muscles to make them stronger and help build stronger bones.
No matter what type of home workout you choose, try to make sure it includes exercises in each of these 3 groups.
If you have been inactive for a while or have a health condition, you should see your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
Circuit training is one type of routine you can do easily at home. It involves doing short bursts of strength training exercises using light weights. You switch from one muscle group to the next with no breaks in between. This is an aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate up.
Here is a sample circuit training routine you can do at home. For exercises with weights, start with 2 to 5 pound (lb), or 1 to 2.25 kg, hand weights and add more weight as you get stronger. If you do not have hand weights, you can make your own by filling gallon (liter) milk jugs with water.
- Warm up. Get your blood flowing by walking in place. Add a dynamic stretch by bringing your knee high up to your chest as you walk. Warming up and stretching your muscles can help prevent some injuries. You should continue with your warm up until your body feels warm and you are just starting to sweat.
- 15 leg squats. Keeping your legs hip-width apart and your back flat, slowly bend your hips and knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to starting position.
- 15 shoulder raises. Stand straight with your feet about hip-width apart. Hold the weights in your hands by your sides. Exhale and lift your arms out to your sides to about the level of your shoulders. Do not bend your wrists. Lower slowly.
- 15 lunges. From a standing position, step forward onto one foot. Bend your front knee and lower your hips until your front thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Your back knee, ankle, and foot will also bend. Try to keep your back straight. Using your front leg, push back into the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
- 15 bicep curls. Stand with a weight in one hand. Keep your back straight. Slowly bend your elbow and bring your hand with the weight up toward your shoulder with your palms facing up. Keep your elbows at your sides. Release and repeat on the other side. You can also do both arms at the same time.
- 12 to 15 bent-knee pushups. Start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be right under your shoulders with your fingertips pointing forward. Keeping your body straight, slowly bend your elbows so your chest moves toward the floor. Do not let your back sag. Press into your arms to push yourself back up. If it is too hard to do from the floor, you can stand up and do pushups off the wall or kitchen counter until you gain enough strength to move to the floor.
- 15 crunches. Lie on your back with your feet flat and your knees bent. Your heels should be about a foot away from your butt. Cross your hands in front of your chest. Exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles, and slowly curl up so your head, shoulders, and upper back are off the mat. Keep your chin tucked close to your neck and your lower back on the floor. Hold for a moment and then release.
Start by doing 1 round of this workout. As you get stronger, repeat this full cycle 2 or 3 times. To add an extra challenge, do 30 seconds of jumping jacks or running in place between each exercise.
You can do circuit training with any exercises you choose. Just be sure to hit all major muscle groups. If you do not have weights, choose exercises that use your own body weight, such as squats and pushups. You can also use resistance bands. The idea is to keep moving and to work muscles from different areas.
How Often to Exercise
Aim to do this workout 2 or 3 times a week. Make sure you have 1 full day of rest in between the days you work out. This gives your muscles time to recover. For the best results, you should be exercising at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week.
For More Information
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has a number of exercise routines listed on the site -- www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/exercise-library.
There are also many books on exercises you can do at home. You can also get fitness videos or DVDs. Choose books or videos created by people with fitness credentials, such as being certified by ACE or the American College of Sports Medicine.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms during exercise:
- Pressure or pain in your chest, shoulder, arm, or neck
- Feeling sick to your stomach
- Severe pain
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath even when you stop exercise
Fitness - indoors; Exercise - indoors
American Council on Exercise website. Fit facts: circuit training basics. www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-fact-article/3304/circuit-training-basics. Accessed September 16, 2022.
American Council on Exercise website. Fit facts: three things every exercise program should have. www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/6663/three-things-every-exercise-program-should-have/. Updated January 28, 2009. Accessed September 16, 2022.
Buchner DM, Kraus WE. Physical activity. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 13.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Physical activity basics. www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics. Updated March 17, 2022. Accessed September 16, 2022.
Review Date 5/12/2022
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.