How to Exercise in an Apartment
You know you're supposed to do regular cardiovascular workouts and strength-train twice a week, but you live in a small apartment. If you're lucky enough to have a membership to a nearby gym, or if there's a fitness center in your apartment complex, meeting exercise recommendations is a snap. But even if you don't have access to those workout options, you can still get your workout in by mixing creativity with a little consideration for your neighbors.
Purchase two pairs of dumbbells. The actual weight you purchase depends on how fit you already are. A 5- to 8-lb. set is a good place to start for working your arms, and a 10- to 20- lb. set is a starting point for working your legs and larger muscle groups.
Work both your large and small muscle groups at the same time. Not only does this keep your workout challenging and force you to work on your balance, it also helps target more muscles in a shorter amount of time. For example, do lunges and biceps curls together to work your lower body and biceps. Take a big step forward and bend both knees, sinking down as you curl small weights up toward your shoulders. Stand up and lower the weights to complete the repetition.
Hold small weights near your shoulders, arms bent and elbows pointing down as you squat. Stand up from the squat and press the weights straight overhead, careful not to hyperextend your lower back. Bring the weights back down to your shoulders to prepare for another squat. This is another exercise that works your large and small muscle groups together, specifically your quads, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders and triceps.
Do standard upper-body strength training exercises like dumbbell presses and dumbbell rows. To do dumbbell presses for your chest, triceps and shoulders, lie faceup on the bed or floor and press the weights straight up over your chest, then lower them down and slightly outward to prepare for another repetition. To do rows, place one knee and one hand on a chair or the edge of the bed to support you as you bend forward from the hips, keeping your back flat. Hold a weight in the other hand and pull it up, close alongside your body. Then lower the weight to complete the repetition.
Use bodyweight strength-training exercises, like side lunges, pushups and pullups to add variety to your workout -- altering your workout plan every few weeks keeps the workouts from getting boring, and also helps keep your body from hitting a plateau.
Add yoga to your strength-training routine. Not only can doing yoga help you relax as you build muscular strength and endurance in a small space, it also encourages flexibility, an often-neglected element of any well-rounded exercise routine.
Weigh the pros and cons of purchasing a home exercise machine. If you live in an upstairs apartment, running on a treadmill could produce enough noise to annoy your downstairs neighbors. However magnetic-resistance exercise bikes, stair steppers and elliptical trainers are all relatively quiet machines, and if you have the money to purchase an exercise machine and the space to put it in, they make doing your cardiovascular workouts quick and convenient. Air-resistance exercise bikes and air-resistance rowers produce some noise, but if your apartment is soundproofed this may not be an issue.
Do calisthenics to get your heart rate going. Jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, ski jumps and jogging in place for half an hour might get boring, but you can do your calisthenics workouts in 10-minute bursts or mix them in as short cardio intervals between strength-training exercises. Depending on soundproofing, this might create some noise for your downstairs neighbor. A little consideration, however, like working out when a neighbor is not home or not exercising over the room where they watch television or sleep, goes a long way.
Use workout DVDs to add variety to your apartment exercise routine. Your cardio DVD options range from martial arts to numerous types of dance, Zumba, and regular step or floor aerobics. You can also stream or download workout videos from many online providers.
Aim for a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity workouts. That works out to 30 minutes of moderate exercise, or 15 minutes of vigorous exercise, five days a week.
Check your lease before you buy an exercise machine; some landlords specifically prohibit having exercise machines, or at least large machines like treadmills, in your apartment.
Check with your doctor prior to beginning a new exercise program.
Lisa Maloney is a travel and outdoors writer based in Anchorage, Alaska. She's written four outdoors and travel guidebooks, including the award-winning "Moon Alaska," and regularly contributes to local and national publications. She also has a background in personal training, with more than 6,000 hours of hands-on experience.