Before gym memberships and weight rooms, staying healthy was simply a means of survival. Jumping, running, lifting and pulling were some of the things people did just to get food in their bellies.
Now we call those kinds of movements body weight exercises, and they’re growing in popularity as a way to work off the food rather than to gather it.
“Body weight exercise has been around since the beginning of time,” says June Kloubec, PhD, a faculty member in the Bastyr University Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science. “We’ve really come full circle.”
Now you can see people using their body weight to work out in parks and fitness studios, and Dr. Kloubec adds that these exercises are just as easy to do in the comfort of your own home.
“I always tell people, you’re only limited by your imagination,” she says.
The resurgence of body weight exercises likely started with Pilates and yoga before expanding more recently into boot camp, CrossFit and P90X, Dr. Kloubec says.
But you don’t have to take a class to reap the benefits of body weight exercises. You could just as easily head to a park and run/walk/jump up and down bleachers, followed by squats and wall push-ups.
To work out at home, you might want to consider buying a few simple pieces of equipment, such as the yoga mat, Swiss ball, hand weights and resistance band that make up Dr. Kloubec’s own fitness toolkit.
“It’s easy to fit body weight exercises into your lifestyle,” she says, adding that you’re also less likely to get hurt than through weightlifting or many other forms of exercise.
“The biggest thing that could go wrong is that you have the wrong form or try to do too much too soon,” she says.
How to Get Started
If body weight exercises are new to you, Dr. Kloubec says home workout DVDs can help you learn proper form and give you ideas for new exercises.
She suggests you keep it fun by being creative: For example, instead of doing 100 crunches, you could spend a whole hour doing different abdominal exercises that will not only work different muscles, but also keep your mind more engaged.
More importantly, Dr. Kloubec says it’s important to visit your health care provider before starting a new exercise regimen to make sure your body is prepared for the extra work and that you’re receiving proper nutrition.
To make an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the Seattle teaching clinic of Bastyr University, call (206) 834-4100.