Imagine a piece of exercise equipment that measures a couple thousand square feet in size, is available 24 hours a day, and comes complete with a comfortable couch and a refrigerator full of healthy snacks. If that sounds a lot like your home, it's because it is. By modifying the things you already do, you can turn your home into a fat-burning machine without eating up much of your increasingly rare spare time. And these techniques don't cost anything to implement. Here are six ways to get started.
What it works: Stomach muscles
What to do: As you watch TV, sit on the edge of the couch or armchair, brace yourself with your hands, and lift your legs straight out in front of you. Hold for a count of 10. Do as many as you can. Don't worry if at first you can only lift your legs a few inches off the ground. As this becomes easier, slowly move your extended legs to the left and right. This helps work the muscles on the sides of your abdomen as well.
If these exercises are too difficult, try this: Slowly exhale as you lift your feet off the floor and bring your knees into your chest. Then extend your feet outward just a little bit. Repeat.
What it works: Legs, buttocks
What to do: Few things are as suited to shaping your legs and derriere as your home's staircase. Each time you head upstairs, do it in slow motion until the muscles in your legs start to feel fatigued. When this begins to get easier, take the stairs two at a time if you can, or stay with single stairs but go even more slowly.
What it works: Shoulders, biceps
What to do: As you're bringing in groceries, do some shoulder shrugs and bicep curls. Get two bags of roughly equal weight and hold one in each hand. As you make the trip from the car to the kitchen, slowly shrug your shoulders as many times as you can. On the next trip, do bicep curls. (Shown here.)
What it works: Heart, lungs
What to do: Turn nonstrenuous tasks into an aerobic workout simply by adding speed. Bustle through chores as quickly as you can, moving immediately from cleaning glass and dusting to sweeping and vacuuming without taking a break. You'll finish tedious chores in record time, and you'll be amazed at the cardio workout you'll get.
What it works: Calves
What to do: While you're cleaning vegetables or scouring away at scorched pots, make the most of your time by doing some heel raises. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push up so that you're standing on your toes. Hold the position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your feet to the flat position. Repeat until you feel your calf muscles burning slightly.
What it works: Lower back, larger leg muscles
What to do: Squats work almost every muscle in your lower body, says Lou Schuler, author of The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Place wet, heavy laundry in a basket to transfer to the dryer, but before you get there, do about 10 squats. Hold the basket in front of you, close to your body to reduce strain on your lower back. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, toes angled slightly outward. Keep weight on your heels and slowly descend into the squat by pushing your hips back as if you were easing into a chair. Keep feet flat on the floor. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor. Slowly stand back up straight.