Physical activity is full of benefits for our health and well-being. But you can break a sweat and stay fit at home while looking after the well-being of our planet, too.
How, exactly, can squats and sustainability go hand-in-hand?
When you focus on eco-friendly exercises that utilize household items you already have, you can build a home workout plan that’s both creative and eco-conscious. By aiming for progress over perfection, you can start to pull your fitness goals closer within reach and reduce your carbon footprint by making small changes to your daily routine.
Eco-Friendly Strength Exercises
When it comes to eco-friendly at-home workouts, it’s best to start with what you have, namely: your body. The following exercises eschew excess equipment and can often be done from just about anywhere. So, when you’re worried about how to stay motivated to workout at home, it helps to have a readymade routine like this:1
The basic squat is one of the best exercises you can do for your lower body as it targets multiple muscles including:2
To perform a basic bodyweight squat, follow these steps:3
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Reach your hands out in front of you with your palms down or crossed, so long as they are not bracing on your legs.
- Bend your knees and lower your body while pushing your sit muscles back. This should feel as if you’re about to rest your bottom on an imaginary chair.
- Keep squatting until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Once you’ve reached this position, raise back up. That’s one repetition.
You can start with sets of ten repetitions, although your ideal starting point may vary based on your current level of fitness. Once you’ve gotten the hang of this, you can add weight using dumbbells or a barbell if you have it. You can also try different variations, such as one-legged squats or a sumo squat (a wide-based with your feet pointed out).
The best part? You’ll likely only need gear you already have—yourself! Remember to keep a reusable water bottle by your side to stay hydrated and skip the single-use plastic to reduce your carbon footprint.
If you’re looking for a full-body exercise that you can do anywhere, look no further than the plank. Even doing quick, 15-second planks can be a calorie-burning place to start your at-home workout routine. As for the muscles worked by a plank—which ones doesn’t it target? A plank helps to strengthen the:4
- Core – The main focus of a plank is your core muscles. Planks work your rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis muscles.
- Upper body – While your core gets much of the benefits from a plank by stabilizing you, you’ll also feel this exercise in your upper body. Trapezius, rhomboid, latissimus dorsi, pectorals, serratus anterior, deltoids, biceps, and triceps, will all receive some feel-good perks from planks.
- Lower body – Why stop there? Your lower body will get in on the action too with your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings all being utilized in order to maintain stability.
Performing the basic plank is simple:5
- Lie facedown on the floor. While you can do a plank on any surface, it will put stress on your elbows and forearms. Using a yoga mat or soft surface can help you feel more comfortable as you hold the position.
- Keep your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms facing forward. Lift your body off the floor, so only your toes and forearms are making contact. Keep your head relaxed and looking down at the floor.
- Engage your abs while keeping your torso straight. Do not arch your back. Be sure your shoulders stay relaxed and don’t start to shift up toward your ears. Hold this position.
While your initial planks may only last for 10 or 15 seconds, you can work your way up to be able to sustain it over a longer period of time.
You may also consider trying different variations. An incline plank is an ideal option for beginners whereas a plan with a leg lift will be a sweat-inducing challenge for more advanced practices.
Now that you’re equipped with both lower body and full-body exercises, it’s time to focus our attention on a classic upper body exercise: the pushup. With proper form, a pushup works many upper body muscles including:6
- Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapeze muscles
- Serratus anterior
While a pushup works, primarily, to target your chest, back, shoulders, and arms, it can also have secondary benefits for your abs and lower body. To do a proper pushup, follow these steps:7
- Start facedown on all fours. Keep your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Straighten your arms and legs, so only your toes and palms touch the floor.
- Lower yourself until your chest is nearly at the floor.
- Push yourself back up. This counts as one pushup.
Again, how many pushups you can do will vary based on your fitness level. You may also need to start with a variation, such as keeping your knees in contact with the ground, while you build strength.
Pro tip: Performing push ups on an exercise mat can help take off some of the tension in your wrists. No mat? No problem. Use what you already have by folding up a bath or beach towel—a perfect eco-friendly swap, if you’re in a pinch.
Eco-Friendly Cardio Exercises
With a few strength-training activities out of the way, it’s time to switch gears to a more aerobic workout. These quick cardio exercises will benefit your stamina and your heart health if you work them into your at-home workout.
#1 Jumping Jacks
The jumping jack, where you jump off the ground while extending your arms and legs, is an effective way to get the heart pumping. Plus, it can be done anywhere at home (so long as your ceilings are high enough and your downstairs neighbors don’t mind a bit of rattling from above). As an added benefit, jumping jacks serve as an ideal warm-up before more high-intensity workouts.
If you’re looking for a bodyweight exercise that’ll really get your heart rate up, burpees may be just what you’re looking for. They combine some of the explosive jumping movements of a jumping jack with the strengthening qualities of a pushup to really get you going. To do a burpee:8
- Squat down with your hands and feet on the floor. Your knees should be inside where your arms are.
- Jump your feet back into a pushup position. (At this point, you can either do a pushup or move straight to the next step.)
- Jump your feet forward into your starting position.
- Reach your arms over your head as you stand and jump into the air.
- Return to your starting position. That is one burpee.
#3 Walk or Run
We’d be remiss if we mentioned all of these exercises without touting the benefits (for you and the earth) of a run or a walk. In addition to boosting heart rate and burning calories, running or walking can help you, emotionally, by reducing stress, releasing endorphins, and (if you’re not on a treadmill) getting you outside.9
No eco friendly fitness routine would be complete without some form of walking or running. But running can be tough on your feet, especially if your shoes are out of date and you need to recycle your sneakers. That’s why Vionic provides you with more than just a stylish pair of regular exercise shoes. Our collection of active footwear features podiatrist-designed orthotics to keep your feet feeling cushioned and supported as you take to the pavement.
More Tips for an Eco-Conscious Workout
All the exercises we’ve mentioned today are eco-friendly because they can be completed with no equipment whatsoever. However, as you progress on your fitness journey, you may find that you want to add weights, treadmills, and other equipment back into your routine. How can you do that while staying eco-friendly? Here are some tips to keep in mind:10
- Cardio equipment – Not everyone wants to run outside and, especially during the winter months, not everyone can. Treadmills and other cardio equipment can be essential to keeping your workout going. If you’re looking to purchase, some options harness your own exertion and may help you save on your energy bill down the line. There are also attachments for some older machines. Another earth-friendly choice is the look into buying something second-hand.11
- Adjustable-weight dumbbells – You don’t need to fill your house with several dumbbells of different sizes to complete a full regular workout routine. Instead, opt for adjustable-weight dumbbells. In addition to needing fewer materials, most of these dumbbells will be made with steel instead of plastic, so they’ll last longer and have less of a negative impact on the environment.
- Non-toxic yoga mats – When purchasing a yoga mat, look for ones made using recycled materials or cork. Avoid any made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. If you already have a yoga mat with PVC, don’t just throw it out and buy a new one, however. Take care and extend its life as long as possible, so it doesn’t end up sitting in a landfill.
Focus on Wellness and Planet with Vionic
By now, you’re equipped with plenty of tools to motivate yourself to workout at home—ones that not only look after your health but the health of the planet, too. While these are six exciting places to start, there are countless other exercises you can find as you progress so that your exercise routine continues to feel fresh and new.
At Vionic, we believe in support. Sometimes, that means giving you specific exercise ideas. Other times it might mean giving you the basics of exercise in general. We pride ourselves on being involved in more than just the business of supportive shoes (though we definitely have those too!). We’re also in the business of supporting you.
- Kamb, Steve. “The 8 Best At-Home Workout Routines: The Ultimate Guide for Training Without a Gym.” Nerd Fitness. 5 January, 2022. https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-7-best-at-home-workout-routines-the-ultimate-guide-for-training-without-a-gym/
- Chertoff, Jane. “What Muscles Do Squats Work?” Healthline. 23 May, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/what-muscles-do-squats-work
- Andersen, Charlotte. “40 Squat Variations You Need to Know.” Greatist. Updated 2 october, 2019. https://greatist.com/move/squat-variations-you-need-to-know#bodyweight . https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/what-muscles-do-planks-work
- Quinn, Elizabeth. “How to Do a Plank.” verywell Fit. 19 November, 2019. https://www.verywellfit.com/the-plank-exercise-3120068
- Crichton-Stuart, Cathleen. “Which muscles do pushups work?” Medical News Today. 9 November, 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323640
- “How to Do a Push-Up.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/activity/how-to-do-a-pushup .
- Fetters, Aleisha et mazzo Lauren. “How to Do a Burpee (the Right Way).” Shape. 14 june, 2021.https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/how-do-burpee-exercise-benefits
- Fetters, Aleisha et Mahtani, Nikhita. “13 Benefits Of Running That’ll Convince You To Lace Up Your Sneakers, Stat.” Women’s Health. 31 August, 2020. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/g33655800/benefits-of-running/
- “10 Tips To Design Your Home Gym For Wellness.” Mache. 22 June, 2021. https://heymache.com/blogs/sustainable-wellness-design/10-tips-to-design-your-home-gym-for-wellness
- “Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Gym Equipment.” Green Business Bureau. 26 February, 2021. https://greenbusinessbureau.com/blog/sustainable-and-eco-friendly-gym-equipment/