A gym membership is not a prerequisite to get in shape. Perform effective exercises at home to tone your whole body, with little to no equipment. Even if you are exercising at home, warm up before your workout session for five to 10 minutes. Check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program.
Work your upper body with just your body weight. Perform a superset of push-ups by doing 10 regular push-ups, 10 incline push-ups with your hands on a coffee table and 10 decline push-ups with your feet on the couch and hands on the floor in immediate succession. Rest one minute and repeat. If a regular push-up is too challenging, place your knees on the floor and work your way up to the 30 push-up series. Work the triceps at the backs of the upper arms with dips, which involve planting your feet on the floor and placing your hands on a coffee table or hard chair and bending the elbows as you lower and lift your entire body. Do three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions with 30 seconds between sets. To work your back, find a full container of laundry detergent with a handle and perform single arm rows. Do 10 to 12 repetitions on each side, three times, with 30 seconds between sets.
Squats and lunges are classic exercises that may be performed at home. Find a wall to do the "phantom chair" -- sit with your back braced against a wall and your legs and hips bent at 90-degree angles. Reach your arms in front of you, parallel to the floor, and hold for 20 seconds -- work your way up to one minute. Go into a set of walking lunges down your hallway or across your living room. For more challenge, hold the jug of laundry detergent against your chest. Train your balance with a single-legged squat with rotation. Balance on your left leg with your right knee bent. Squat with your left leg and reach your right hand down and across your body to touch the outside of the left ankle. Return to a stand. Do eight to 10 repetitions on the left, then switch to the right. Repeat two to three times.
Jumping rope is an at-home exercise that builds cardiovascular health and burns about 12 calories per minute for a 160-lb. person. Jump for a minute or two at a time, working your way up to five or more minutes straight. A cardio circuit is another effective way to train your heart and burn calories. Do 30 seconds each of jumping jacks, jogging in place, speed skaters, single-legged hops, high knees and marching for a three-minute segment. Repeat seven to 10 times to fit in 20 to 30 minutes of cardio.
Some of the most effective abdominal exercises do not require any equipment. In a 2001 study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, researchers from the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University found the bicycle maneuver to be the abdominal exercise that stimulates the most muscle activity. To do this move, lie on the floor and press your lower back into the ground. With your hands gently touching the sides of your head, draw your knees to a 45-degree angle and pedal the legs as you bring your left elbow to the right knee and right knee to the left elbow. Another effective, equipment-less ab exercise named in this study is the vertical leg crunch. Position yourself flat on the floor and support your head with your hands. With the legs extended to the ceiling, engage your abs and lift your upper body toward your knees. Bend the knees slightly to ease stress on the low back and avoid tugging on your neck. Perform two sets of 15 to 20 repetitions of each exercise. Rest about 30 seconds between sets.