In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have stepped out of the gym due to state-wide shutdowns and safety concerns. Gyms in some states remain closed, but staying consistent with your fitness routine has never been more important.
We all know that exercise is essential for our physical and mental health. It boosts immunity, reduces anxiety, and improves our quality of sleep. But health experts say that exercise can also keep us from becoming severely ill from the virus.
If you want to stay fit but don’t feel safe heading back to the gym, it might be time to invest in fitness equipment you can use at home.
Here are a few fitness tools that are actually worth the money:
Any type of cardio can help you lose weight, improve heart health, and lower your risk of chronic illness. But cycling has its own set of surprising benefits. Biking is one of the best workouts for your mental health, and one recent study found that cycling even just once a week can cut your chances of an early death by 23 percent. Cycling is also low-impact, which means it’s easy on the joints.
You can reap the benefits of cycling with a stationary bike, but biking outdoors is going to give you a more dynamic workout and force you to use more muscles. Pressed for time? Invest in a quality road bike or cruiser, and squeeze in a workout during your commute.
If you’re intimidated by steep hills or just want to stay active without exhausting yourself, an electric cruiser bike might be a good option. Electric bikes are just like conventional bikes, except that they have a motor and battery to provide a “pedal assist” or throttle. These features make cycling easier and more enjoyable, especially on difficult terrain.
- Cardio Machines
If you never learned to ride a bike, you might try a treadmill, elliptical, or a rowing machine to get your cardio workout. These machines can be pricey, but they’re something the whole family can use.
Treadmills: Despite their reputation for collecting dust in the spare bedroom, the humble treadmill is still one of the most effective pieces of equipment for burning calories. Treadmills are great because you can adjust the speed and incline as you progress. Want to burn even more calories? Try incorporating high-intensity interval training into your routine.
Ellipticals: One drawback to running on a treadmill is that you have to build up to those intense runs. Many beginners go too hard too soon and end up injuring themselves. If you’re a newbie or have a lot of pounds to shed, an elliptical might be a better choice. You can adjust the resistance for a harder workout without putting a strain on your joints.
Rowing machines: Want to get your burn on but hate running? You might think about a rowing machine to channel your inner Winklevoss. The great thing about a rowing machine is that it’s a total-body workout. If you’re thinking of investing in one, take a class or grab a session with a trainer so you can learn to row with good form.
- Free Weights
If you’re looking to build out your home gym, a small set of weights is a great place to start. Free weights are considered some of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment, and the fact that they force you to engage more muscle groups make them more effective than weight machines.
But before you rush out and buy a giant set of weights off Craigslist, it’s a good idea to have a plan. First, consider your goal: Are you specifically trying to build strength or simply increase the level of difficulty of squats, lunges, and other exercises? Do you want to bulk up or just increase your lean muscle mass? Once you know your goal, choose a plan, and then pick the weights that will work best for those exercises.
The type of workouts you’ll be doing will also inform the style of weights you choose. One study found that dumbbells produce more muscle activity, whereas kettlebells are ideal for dynamic exercises that help you build power. Again, you’ll want to consider your personal goals and what your plan calls for.
- Body-Weight Training Equipment
For the fitness junkie on a budget, equipment that enhances body-weight exercises will give you the best bang for your buck. Grabbing a few of these inexpensive and versatile accessories expands the range of workouts you can do at home. As a bonus, most of these can easily be tucked away in a closet, so they’re perfect for small spaces.
Resistance bands: Buying an inexpensive set of resistance bands automatically gives you a whole new set of exercises to try. Resistance bands allow you to isolate specific muscle groups, which makes them ideal for building strength or exercising while recovering from an injury.
Stability ball: Also known as a Swiss ball or yoga ball, this one tool can add a whole new dimension to old standbys like pushups, situps, planks, bridges, and wall sits. Instead of using a static surface like the ground, a Swiss ball forces you to engage your stabilizer muscles. It also allows you to incorporate twists, which can help you build a killer core.
Yoga mat: Yoga has many astounding benefits, from increased strength and flexibility to less stress and decreased inflammation. Even if you don’t consider yourself a yogi, a high-quality mat can lighten the impact on your joints and give you a grippy surface for your most stability-challenging moves.
Weighted vest: If you’re already a power athlete, a weighted vest can add difficulty to cardio and weight training and help boost your overall level of fitness. By loading the weight on your upper body, a vest forces your respiratory muscles to work harder, which can spike your heart rate.
Speed rope: There’s a reason Rocky liked to jump rope. It’s one of the most effective and time-saving cardio workouts out there. Skipping rope for just 10 minutes is comparable to 30 minutes of jogging, and a speed rope takes up significantly less space than a treadmill. Just make sure you buy the correct length of rope for your height.
Once you begin building out your personal gym, you might find that you enjoy the privacy and flexibility of working out at home. There’s no drive time, no expensive gym membership, and you can work out whenever you want. Best of all, with a home gym, there’s no excuse not to stick to your workouts.