When you're trying to get in shape and increase your level of physical fitness, hitting the weight room is far from the only way to do it. While it's true that strength training should be part of the physical fitness routine for people of all ages, you don't have to use weights to do that. In fact, getting stronger and improving your cardiovascular and muscular health can require very little -- if any -- equipment at all.
Exercise Routine Recommendations
When it comes to good health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has some pretty specific recommendations for what adults should be doing. First, HHS recommends all adults do about 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or about 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. On top of that, adults need to do muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week, using all major muscle groups. The aerobic exercise will help you improve your cardiovascular fitness -- or how efficiently your body is able to use oxygen -- while the muscle-strengthening exercises will help you stay strong, prevent falls and do the activities of daily living more effectively. That said though, if you're currently sedentary, you may need to work up to the recommended amount of exercise.
Strength Training without Weights
To focus on the muscle-strengthening component of getting in shape, try doing bodyweight exercises, which you can even do in your living room. To target the upper body, including the arms, chest, abs and back, start with two sets of 10 pushups, one minute holding a plank position and as many pullups as you can do. If you can't do any pullups, start with five "negatives," in which you lower yourself down from the "up" portion of the pullup. Add two sets of 10 crunches and dips using the edge of a sofa. For your legs, do two sets of 10 lunges on each leg and two sets of 10 bodyweight squats. Do these exercises two days a week, giving yourself at least one full day of rest in between. Aim for two or three upper-body and two or three lower-body exercises each session.
To get into better cardiovascular condition, choose activities that you enjoy that get your heart beating faster, which will increase your heart's efficiency over time. Walking is an inexpensive, simple choice, but you could also try swimming, cycling or attending a beginner dance or aerobics class at a local gym. Aim for 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days a week. After a few weeks, add five minutes to your time, and keep adding five minutes each week until you're up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Getting in Even Better Shape
As you continue with your calisthenics and cardiovascular exercise routines, your body is going to adapt quickly to the demands you put on it. You'll tend to reach one level of being "in shape" after even just one month -- but to keep getting in better and better shape, you have to keep pushing yourself and making your workouts more challenging. That's called progression. With calisthenics, add two more repetitions to each set every week, and add an additional set every two weeks. With cardio, keep adding a minute or two more time to your routine every two weeks, and look for ways to make the routines more intense. For example, find hills or run or walk faster. This method of progression will help you keep getting in better and better physical condition.