The Pure 21 Wellness Challenge may call for more exercise than you are used to doing in your daily life. If you have never stepped foot in a gym, or haven’t exercised in a while and are worried about getting back into it, we’ve got you covered. Below, we will go over the best (and easiest) exercises for you to do without having to buy the impossible-to-cancel gym membership.
Aerobic exercise can be a great way to increase your heart rate, burn some calories, and see some sights along the way. Taking a walk or going for a jog around your neighborhood will get you out of the house, off of technology, and into the fresh air. Plus, these exercises benefit the joints and muscles in your legs and feet, improve balance, and improve cardiovascular function.
Let’s face it, hiking is basically advanced walking. If you have successfully tackled the undulating cement surrounding your house and are ready for more of a challenge, find a nearby hiking trail and get moving! Many hiking trails (even those without difficult elevation) have beautiful views that make your exercise even more worthwhile. Plus, sometimes it can be difficult to appreciate the beauty of nature if you go for a walk around your neighborhood, so getting out there and hearing birds chip and leaves rustle against each other can be a grounding experience. If you’re not sure where the nearest hiking trails are, check out AllTrails. They have a crowdsourced catalog of all the hiking spots near you, plus other hikers have already tracked the paths they took, so you won’t even need a map.
Swimming is a particularly effective exercise because it forces you to use every group of muscles in your body. You need your legs to kick, your core to stabilize, and your arms and back to stroke. On top of that, the water is a built-in resistance training mechanism, meaning your muscles are not only working to power you, but they will get stronger as they adjust to this resistance. As a result of the increased energy you must exert to swim, it also burns calories faster than hiking and running.
Body Weight Exercises
There are plenty of strength-building exercises you can do at home without any equipment. You can even do these exercises during commercial breaks of your favorite show. Below you will find a list of the best body weight exercises to build muscle from the comfort of your home, categorized by muscle group.
- Push-ups (to modify, place your knees on the ground from the plank position)
- Muscles targeted: shoulders, chest, triceps, core
- Directions: Start in a plank position, with your hands on the ground under your shoulders. Keeping your core tight, bend your arms to 90°, bringing your chest to the floor. Extend your arms to complete the rep.
- Note: To modify, put your knees on the ground from the plank position and complete the exercise from there.
- Tricep dips
- Muscles targeted: triceps
- Directions: This is easily done on any raised surface. You can use the edge of your couch, coffee table, or dining room chair. With your back to the surface, place your hands on the edge of the surface with your fingers facing toward you and your legs straight in front of you. Keeping your core tight, bend your arms to 90°. Extend your arms to complete the rep.
- Y, W, Ts
- Muscles targeted: back and shoulders
- Directions: Lie face-first on the floor. Extend your arms over your head and raise them a couple inches off the floor. Pull your elbows down toward your shoulders so that your arms are at 90°, then extend your arms out to to your sides, making them perpendicular to your body. Do the reverse movement back to the top to complete the rep.
- Body weight squats
- Muscles targeted: Glutes, thighs, core
- Directions: Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward. Keeping your core tight, perform a “sitting” motion, shifting your weight to your heels and pushing your butt back like you’re sitting in a chair, until your knees get to 90°. Extend your knees until you get back to a standing position, squeezing your glutes together at the top by pushing your hips forward for further glute activation.
- Note: Squatting can be a tricky exercise to get the hang of. Some common mistakes for beginners can be avoided with the following cues: force your knees “out” during the squat to prevent your knees from collapsing inward and engaging your hips; if shifting your weight to your heels is difficult at first, consider putting something under each of your heels so you can better feel that weight shift; if you’re having trouble doing a full repetition, but a chair behind you, squat until your butt hits the chair (but don’t put your weight down!), and come back up
- Muscles targeted: thighs, calves, glutes
- Directions: Start standing with your feet together. Take a step forward with whichever foot you want. Bend your front knee to 90°, bringing your back knee nearly to the floor. Extend your front knee and bring your front foot back together with your back foot to complete the rep. Continue alternating which foot is front and back.
- Note: Lunges can be done “walking” or stationary. To do the “walking” variation, after bending your front knee to 90°, extend your front knee and bring your back foot together with the front one, then take a step forward with your back foot, making it your front foot for the next rep.
- Glute bridges
- Muscles targeted: glutes and core
- Directions: Lie on your back. Bend your knees, bringing your feet toward your butt. With your feet planted on the ground, tighten your core and push your hips forward to activate your glutes. Raise your hips until only your feet and upper back are in contact with the ground. Hold at the top, squeezing your glutes, for 3 seconds. Return to the ground to complete the rep.
- Muscles targeted: upper abdominal
- Directions: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Put your hands behind your head or cross your arms over your chest so that your hands are touching opposite shoulders. Using your core muscles, lift your upper back until your shoulder blades are no longer touching the ground, slowly return to the floor.
- Note: It can be easy to disengage your core during this exercise if you lie back down without keeping your core tight. Remember to squeeze your core throughout the entire exercise for the best results.
- Note: Once you get stronger, you may find that this exercise is too easy. If you’re looking to make it more challenging, raise your feet off the floor with your legs at 90° before starting the exercise.
- Leg raises
- Muscles targeted: lower abdominal
- Directions: Lie on your back with your legs fully extended. Raise your feet several inches off the floor. From this position, move your legs up toward your head until your body creates a 90 degree angle. Return your feet to several inches off the floor to complete the rep.
- Russian twists
- Muscles targeted: oblique abdominals
- Directions: Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Lift your feet off the floor, so only your glutes are in contact with the ground. In this position, bring both hands to the ground beside one of your hips. Rotate to the other side and touch the ground next to your other hip to complete the rep.
- Note: This movement may be very difficult based on your core strength. To modify, sit with your legs stretched in front of you and complete the exercise from that position.
These are only a few of the many exercises you can do from your own home. In addition to these, there are a plethora of resources on the web to help you come up with creative exercise ideas. If you’re having trouble creating your own workouts with the exercises we’ve suggested, check Youtube for some great videos laying out body weight workout routines. Further, you can always invest in a workout video program like P90X, Insanity, Les Mills, and many more if you like that style better.