Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to go to the Gym, save money and do something very useful...

Forget the gym! If you’re spending at least some time cleaning and tidying up every day, there’s plenty of opportunity to get a sufficient workout without even leaving home.

Housework is a wonderful way to burn calories. But as is the case with any workout, the more effort you put in, the greater the benefit. In particular, polishing, dusting, mopping and sweeping are great for keeping arms shapely. Bending and stretching, for example, are good for toning thighs and improving flexibility. And constantly running up and down the stairs is a good aerobic workout.

You have to do housework anyway, right? So why not get your body in shape at the same time? Below are some energetic exercises you can do while cleaning the house.

1. Shovel lift.

Lifting something that’s not only uncomfortable but also heavy on only one side is about as real-life as it gets. You could do it with a barbell or using weight plates on one side, but why not use an actual shovel.

Do-it-yourself exercise: Put a small sandbag (or anything weighty) on the business end of a shovel. Bend over as you would for the sandbag lift described below, and grasp the shovel’s handle with one hand on top, one hand underneath (the hand nearer the blade goes underneath). Stand and lift the shovel to thigh height. As with real shoveling, the closer your hand is to the blade, the easier it is to lift. Do one set of three repetitions on each side.

2. Sandbag lift.

If you’re always lifting the same weights in the same way, you’re always working the same muscles. But if you lift something that’s oddly shaped, you’ll use different muscles to hold it and keep your body balanced.

Do-it-yourself exercise: Stand over a sandbag with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down and suck in your gut. Keep your heels on the ground and your head up. Grab the object however you can, then stand and pull it to your chest. Now bend your knees slightly, then straighten them and use your shoulders and arms to push the sandbag overhead. Do one to three sets of three to five repetitions.

3. Laundry toss.

It’s all in the spin — of your hips — and it will turn the mundane task of laundry into exercise for your abdominal, low back and hip muscles.

Do-it-yourself exercise: Stand about 10 to 15 feet away from the washing machine. Hold the dirty laundry basket at about waist height on your left side with the washing machine on your right. Pick up pieces of the dirty, dry laundry and, while turning at the hips, pitch the laundry into the open washer. After you’ve mastered this, move on to pitching wet laundry — which is heavier — from the washer into the dryer. If your washer and dryer sit side by side, move 10 to 15 feet to pitch the wet clothes into the dryer.

4. Grip strengthener.

Usually people can get away with weak hands in the gym, but not in real life. There’s no way you can use your upper-body strength if your lower arms aren’t strong.

Do-it-yourself exercise: Take a hunk of slate and hold it between your thumb and fingers. (Any slick, flat object will work just as well. Two objects such as books or weight plates work even better because you have to hold them at arm’s length). Now bend at the elbow and lift the slate, as if you were doing a biceps curl to about waist level. Slowly lower it and repeat. Do 10 repetitions on each side.

5. Unload and lift.

Daily dishes are a great opportunity to stretch side and back muscles.

Do-it-yourself exercise: As you take dishes out of the dishwasher, turn your body from side to side, allowing your hips to turn so that your torso twists while you reach to put the clean dishes away on high and low shelves. To make the most of this stretching exercise, put the dishes and silverware away one at a time. And remember, the further the distance between your dishwasher and cupboards and drawers, the more exercise you will get.

6. Rake and twist.

Do-it-yourself exercise: This movement works whether you’re raking leaves or sweeping the floor. The key is to take long, steady strokes, while turning at your hips and raking or sweeping toward your body. Done this way, your arms don’t have to do all the work. Make sure you do this exercise sweeping both from left to right and from right to left.

7. Car push.

Unless you rely exclusively on public transport, you own the greatest piece of strength-training equipment ever invented. According to experts nothing builds total body power like pushing your car down the road.

Do-it-yourself exercise: First, don’t try this with your Escalade — use the Mini. Second, be sure to push the car up a very slight gradient — that way the car won’t roll away. Get someone behind the wheel who can steer and still watch you closely enough to hit the brakes if you slip.

You should also turn on the car’s ignition so your driver can work the wheels and brakes. But don’t turn on the engine; you don’t want to inhale exhaust fumes. And keep your elbows and shoulders slightly flexed rather than locked as you push. Keep your head up and eyes looking forwards. Do two to three pushes the length of your street or local car park.

8. Standing side stretch.

If you want to make the most of stretching exercises, add a little weight. Every household contains common objects, i.e., a carton of milk, a bag of garbage or a briefcase, that can serve as weights.

Do-it-yourself exercise: Hold a weighted object in either hand while standing up straight with your feet slightly more than shoulder’s width apart. Slowly bend at the waist using your side, or oblique, abdominal muscles as you lower the hand with the weight down your side as far as it will go. Hold it there and count to 15 or 20, then slowly return to the upright starting position. Then put the object in the opposite hand and repeat the stretch on the other side. As you get more limber, increase the weight of the object you choose and stand with your feet closer together, which will increase the stretch.

So, start turning your chore into a real-life workout with this simple, yet effective exercises.

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