Not having time in your day to hit the gym shouldn't be a barrier to doing exercises that can help improve your health and keep your muscles and bones strong. A strength-training routine is crucial for all adults, but especially for women, who tend to lose bone mass quickly as they age. Your strength-training routine should include all the major parts of the body, including the core muscles of your midsection.
Gather some basic equipment. At the very least, invest in an exercise ball that is rated for your size and weight. If you have a little more to invest, buy a yoga mat and install a pull-up bar in a doorway of your home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends doing strength-training exercises two days a week, working all major muscle groups -- and so, add to your equipment with a pair of dumbbells and do arm, back and leg-strengthening exercises at home as well.
Pick two days or nights a week that you can spend a minimum of 20 minutes doing strength-training exercises. If you have a third day, that's even better -- just make sure those days are non-consecutive, since your muscles will need time to recover between sessions.
Warm up by walking or jogging around your house or yard for about five minutes. If you have a flight of stairs, you could also run up and down them. Also, consider using a jump rope or any other type of cardio equipment, helping get your heart beating faster and delivering more oxygen to the muscles that are about to have more load placed on them.
Lie on the floor or yoga mat. Extend your legs and place your hands behind your ears. Then bend and lift the right knee as you move the left elbow toward it. Lower both back to the starting position, but don't allow your right leg to touch the floor. As you're moving those limbs back to the starting position, bend and lift the left knee and move the right elbow toward it. This "bicycle" maneuver is among the most effective abdominal exercises for both the obliques at the sides your abdomen and the rectus abdominis or "six pack" in the center, according to the American Council on Exercise. Continue the motion, raising each leg a total of 20 times.
Flip over to rest your abdomen on the floor, and then press up to a pushup position. Tighten your abdominals and work at creating a long straight line between your legs and shoulders. Stay in this plank position for 30 seconds, helping to strengthen not just your abdomen, but your entire midsection, including your back and shoulders. You can also rest your weight on the forearms, or flip to the side and rest your body on one elbow, with forearm pointed forward, to work your obliques, arms, chest, butt and back in a different way. Hold each position for 30 seconds, take a break and then do another 30-second round.
Sit on the exercise ball with your knees at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. Lean backwards, allowing your spine to curl around the curve of the ball. Place your hands behind your ears and inhale deeply. As you exhale, press your torso upward, executing a "crunch" move on the exercise ball. Move back to the starting position, and then repeat the crunch movement a total of 20 times. According to ACE, crunches on an exercise ball are among the top exercises to do to strengthen the rectus abdominis. After the first set, take a short break and then do a second set.
Stand in front of the pull-up bar and place your hands in an overhand position. Underhand is slightly easier, so do that if you need to. Tighten your abdominals and pull your body upward, working to raise yourself up high enough to get your chin just above the bar. If you can't do a full pull-up just yet, lower the height of the bar and keep your feet on the floor to do a set of 10 pull-ups. Pull-ups will help strengthen your shoulders, back, arms and chest.
- Gaiam Life: Why Women Need Weight Training
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- American Council on Exercise: American Council on Exercise (ACE)-sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises
- ExRx.net: Front Plank
- ExRx.net: Side Plank
- ExRx.net: Pull-Up