You’ve been sedentary for some time now. Whether it’s due to injury, pandemic, or a lifetime of habit, it is time to face your lack of exercise and see what you can do. Why? Because exercise is an actual silver bullet — the number one way to get to good health. Whether you want to lower your blood pressure, avoid diabetes, reduce your risk for cancer, or improve your mood and mind, experts will point to exercise as your first step. It’s the closest thing humans have to a cure-all.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to jump into your most hardcore Crossfit workouts, which are a good way to get injured or burn you out. This is why the majority of people fail to stick with it after the first three weeks, according to research by activity tracking company Strava. Moreover, as you get older, your body takes longer to adapt to increases in physical activity. You’ve got to ease your way into things or you risk pulling a muscle and winding up back on the very couch you’ve been trying to extricate yourself from.
What you need is an at-home workout for beginners. And in this, we’ve got you covered. These 10 easy moves will help you ramp up your fitness game until you’re back at full throttle.
At-Home Workout Moves for Beginners
Start by running through these moves for a total of about 20 minutes. The idea here is to go through the motions and start to build up endurance, strength, and agility. It will take time. Let it. The goal here is to start on the path of a lifelong habit, not to cruise on the highway to weight loss and beach bodies (that comes later, if at all).
Beginner Workout Move #1: The Pinwheel
Hunching over your computer all day creates tension in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Over time, it leads to loss of mobility. The pinwheel helps release some of that tension. Start out slow and let your arms circle faster as things loosen up.
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your arms straight, raise both of them slowly in front of your body, then overhead, then back behind your body. Lower them to the ground to make a complete circle. Repeat 10 times, then reverse the circles for 10. Next, “divide” your arms and have one side circle forward while the other circles backward, 10 times in each direction. This move wakes up your peripheral nervous system, which research shows primes your brain and body to work together for maximum exercise benefits.
Beginner Workout Move #2: The Crawl
In functional fitness, everyday moves like crawling or carrying jugs are incorporated into intense workouts. The method is being used by everyone from military training camps to rehab centers for elderly patients, because research shows it provides major fitness bang-for-buck without incurring injury.
How to: Get down on all fours. Drop to your elbows while lifting your knees off the floor and putting your weight on your toes. Begin shifting your weight from side to side as you crawl, military-style, from one side of the room to another (you’ll want a padded or carpeted floor for this. Crawl 20 seconds, then rest. Work your way up to 60 seconds.
Beginner Workout Move #3: Walk/Run
This is the basic cardio building block for any workout, but you need to remember the DIF: That stands for duration, intensity, and frequency of your workout. Those three variables are everything when you start up a new fitness regimen. You only want to mess with one variable each week to avoid overwhelming your body and risking injury.
How to: Week 1: On Monday, take a 20-minute brisk walk. On Wednesday, go again, for 30 minutes. On Friday, hit 40 minutes. Keep increasing the duration until you reach one hour. Week 2: Move on to intensity. Your first workout should be a brisk walk; next time, up it to speed walk. By your third session, try one minute of jogging, followed by four minutes of walking, and repeat. Once that’s comfortable, increase the jogging part, and decrease the walking. Week 3: Up your frequency, adding in a fourth day of exercise this week, and a fifth the next.
Beginner Workout Move #4: The Plank
Few exercises build strength in your entire body the way the plank does. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, start with just a few seconds and work your way up. Remember, form is far more important than how long you can hold the pose. If you hike your hips or let your back arch, you’re not really getting the full benefits of the move.
How to: Start on all fours. Drop down to your elbows, forearms flat on the floor. Extend your legs behind your so that legs are straight and you’re balancing on your toes. Keep one straight line from your head to your feet, hold for 15 seconds. Do this move daily, each time adding a few more seconds each time as you build strength.
Beginner Workout Move #5: Stair Climbing
To raise your heart rate while coddling your joints, climbing stairs is the perfect solution. What’s more, new research presented last month at the European Society for Cardiology annual meeting found that people who can climb four flights of stairs (60 steps) in under a minute cut their risk of heart disease nearly in half, compared to those who take 90 seconds or more.
How to: If you’re re-starting a fitness regime after a layoff, climbing 60 steps in less than a second per step is a tall order. Start by finding yourself a staircase with at least 15 stairs. Climb it as rapidly as you can, then jog back down to the bottom. Repeat four times. Once this starts to feel easier, look for a stairwell with multiple flights. Do 30 steps (two flights) at a time, resting in-between. Work your way up to the full 60.
Beginner Workout Move #6: Wall Sit
When you haven’t been working out for a while, you want to limit exercises that require a ton of jumping or jarring movements — that’s code for throwing your back out or straining a ligament. The wall sit’s beauty is in its simplicity, while also strengthening those butt and quad muscles that have been wasting away as you sit on your couch all day.
How to: Stand with your back to a wall, about a foot away. Lean back until your back touches the wall. Bend knees and slide down the wall until your knees are over your toes and thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold 15 seconds, then slide back up to the start. Do this three times in a row, then each subsequent session, add a few more seconds per hold.
Beginner Workout Move #7: Pushups
It’s so basic, but so good for getting your whole body — especially your arms and shoulders — in shape. It’s also good for your heart: Harvard Medical School researchers found that men who can complete 40 pushups in quick succession have significantly lower risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues than those who can only do 10 or fewer.
How to: Start in an elevated plank position, hands directly below shoulders, your body creating one long line from head to feet. As you bend your elbows, make sure you don’t hike your hips or arch your back. Keep elbows tucked closely at your sides and lower until your chest is about two inches from the ground. Try the 40-in-40 method: On day one, do one. Day two, try two. And so on, repeating a day when the load is too great to hit the next number in chronological order.