For the past year-plus, I made a commitment to get in shape. Thanks to the help of friends who went on the exercise and fitness journey with me, I have kept with it. And I have also done it exclusively from home. Working out at home is actually simpler than most people realize. It does, however, take some investing in great health and fitness gear to kickstart the journey and make working out at home an enjoyable experience versus one you loathe.
The first thing you need is a dedicated space. I don’t have a big home nor an extra room to create my own home gym. That’s often what dissuades people, but all you really need is a small space, with some gear in a dedicated corner along with a small yoga mat. I turned our small basement theatre room into a theatre/workout room. Once you have that, you’ll need a good fitness program to follow. Many smartwatches and fitness trackers come with access to fitness programs, or you can opt for a third-party one. There are tons from which to choose, including both free and subscription-based programs, or even YouTube workout videos. Ideally, if you have another person or group of people who are willing to exercise with you, it will make the process much more fun, even if you aren’t doing the workouts in the same room, or even at the same time.
Don’t forget fashionable workout gear (it’s fun to build a collection as you grab a tank top here and a pair of workout tights there), because looking good helps you feel good, too.
Then, it’s time to focus on other useful gear that will make working out from home a fun, new part of your daily or weekly schedule.
Monitoring workouts and health
The best part of how technology works with fitness is that you can get a holistic picture of your health and wellness, vitals, and progress over time as well as in the moment. You can feel like you’re working out with others even if you’re at home alone, and even if it’s just a virtual group of other like-minded people or a community in an app. There are several products you can use to accomplish this.
1. Fitness tracker or smartwatch
Whether you’re doing cardio workouts that don’t require any equipment, interval workouts with some gear, lifting weights, or a mix, you’ll want to be able to track your progress. You can accomplish this with a wearable device like a fitness tracker or smartwatch. Most, like models from brands like Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, and a multitude of WearOS devices, have built-in programs so you can track specific exercises, like weights, treadmill, cardio, or even a simple walk or run. Track each workout and the app keeps tabs on crucial data, like duration of workout, active minutes, heart rate, and more from trackers like the Fitbit Charge 5 we reviewed in late 2021. A fun thing my friends and I like to do is take “sweaty selfies” after each workout along with a screenshot of the workout summary on our respective smartwatch or tracker to share in a group chat as motivation. It also helps with accountability.
2. Fitness app
As noted, you’ll want to follow a fitness program of some kind, whether it’s one-off workouts a few days a week or a commitment to a program that runs 3, 6, or 10 weeks, or even longer. Having a program to follow makes things simple and they are designed to ensure you get results, work the right muscles and parts of the body, and don’t overexert or conversely fail to challenge yourself. Most programs include a rest day or a stretch, mobility, and stability day that helps you recover as well. And they all have a modified option for those who are just starting out, don’t have the same flexibility, or can’t do high-impact things like jump.
3. Streaming stick, player, or smart TV
The benefit of doing my workouts in the theatre room is that we have a stunning 75-inch smart TV where I can cast them from my smartphone to the big screen. If you don’t have the luxury of working out by a TV, you can still use your laptop, smartphone, or some smartwatches even have on-screen workouts you can follow right from your wrist. If you’re working out in a room with a smart TV, you might be able to call up the workouts through the smart TV interface, or a feature like built-in Chromecast or Apple AirPlay.
If you’re working out in a room with an old non-smart TV, grab an affordable streaming stick or media player that you can plug into the HDMI port to cast your workouts from the app or website to the TV. You may want to use one even if you do own a smart TV for a better interface and more seamless, intuitive experience.
4. Heart and blood pressure monitors
It’s important to keep on top of vital stats, including heart health and blood pressure. Many premium smartwatches and fitness trackers report 24/7 heart rate data to advise when you reach certain heart rate zones. Some will even advise if an unusually low or high heart rate is detected without any discernible reason. If you’re new to working out, you’ll especially want to keep an eye on this data.
You can go the extra mile with a separate heart rate monitor and/or blood pressure monitor so you know how your body responds to workouts and can track changes. I have found, for example, that after working out for more than a year, my resting heart rate has dropped at least four beats-per-minute. I reviewed a blood pressure monitor and pulse oximeter from Beurer early last year and found both great for keeping track of your heart health at home.
If you check your blood pressure and it’s high, you can take a rest day and only workout and push your body when it’s beneficial to you. Of course, always consult with a doctor before starting any workout regimen, particularly if you already have health concerns.
5. Smart scale
I would also recommend investing in a smart scale, particularly one that can sync with your smartwatch or tracker so you can see an ongoing graph of your results not only when it comes to weight, but also body mass index (BMI) and even percentage body fat, as well as how this data relates to your exercise regimen. Being able to see the progression in my fitness tracker app is a game changer, and it’s truly motivating. Otherwise, smart scales that work with their own app can provide a holistic picture of your weight loss and/or muscle gain progress on its own, which is still valuable.
Once you get the hang of working out at home, chances are you’ll start to explore different programs and want to build up a collection of the fitness gear required for them. Since I started working out, there are several items I have found useful and have acquired over the past 12 months.
6. Weights and weight rack
A good set of weights can help create better results with a workout. Start with smaller ones and work your way up. Even as you get stronger and can lift heavier, there are still exercises where a small 3- or 5-lb. hand weight will be best. Before you get multiple pairs, consider a dumbbell rack to neatly store them after each workout. I found that my dumbbell rack was full quicker than I thought it would be as I moved up in weights and got in-between weights as needed. The difference, for example, between a 10- and 15-lb. weight when doing certain movements is enough that you might find adding a set of 12-lb. weights worthwhile to progress slowly without over-exerting your muscles.
7. Different sets of resistance bands
The word resistance band is often used to discuss many different types.
The first type of resistance band worth getting are the thicker, heavier fabric resistance bands, which I find best for wrapping around the legs to add intensity to an exercise move like squats.
Then, there are thinner, latex resistance bands, sometimes called aerobic bands, that are better for arm workouts, when you’re doing lateral pulls behind your head, for example, and need more give. I would recommend getting a set of each so you’re prepared for any type of workout.
Keep in mind that resistance bands are also the name used to describe those long ropes that can be used in place of free weights. Perfect for travel so you don’t have to bring heavy weights along with you, these position under a foot as you pull them over to do things like bicep curls.
When used correctly, with a resistance equivalent to the dumbbell weight, you can keep a workout regimen going, even if you’re in a hotel room or away on vacation. Long rope bands usually come in packs with multiple resistance levels. Make it even more intense by doubling up bands.
8. Cordless jump rope
The latest addition to my home gym/corner-of-the-room gym set-up is a set of cordless jump ropes. I initially didn’t understand the value until I started using them in a workout. A corded jump rope isn’t feasible for me indoors due to the low ceilings and small size of the room. These simulate jumping rope as you spin the balls that hang from small ropes on either handle and jump the same way you would with a cord to get a good cardio workout. There are even smart ones that can track revolutions and calories burned as you go, like the MSAN model we reviewed in late 2020.
9. Nutrition items
Along with exercise and sleep, it’s important to keep on top of good nutrition. This might include healthy smoothies and protein shakes, which you can make using a personal blender.
There are great option that can mix right in the same cup you drink from, including crushing ice and frozen fruits or vegetables for a nutritious snack or meal replacement.
10. Sports earbuds
If you’re like me, you’ll want to supplement workouts with daily runs or even leisurely walks to make sure you reach the all-important recommendation of 10,000 steps per day. A good pair of true wireless earbuds allow you to fully immerse in your outdoors time with a motivating playlist of music, or even an entertaining podcast or audiobook to make the time pass.
If you have the space and want to invest in a cardio machine like a stationary bike, in-ear headphones might be useful as well, especially if you are using a connected machine and following a workout program on screen.
11. Recovery gear
Recovery gear like massagers can come in handy post-workout to sooth aching, sore, and stuff muscles and joints. You can also go the low-tech route with a foam roller. Check out our handy massager buying guide for ideas on the right one for you.
You’re well on your way to starting your fitness journey
Don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed about working out from home. It doesn’t require a lot of space nor a ton of equipment. In many cases, you can work out with nothing more than a screen and a mat, or even a towel on a hard floor. As you decide to commit further, you can expand and start to carve out your own little workout corner. Your biggest challenge is motivation. But with these few steps and some basic fitness gear, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you!
Check out plenty of health and fitness gear at Best Buy Online.