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Small Space Fitness

Beth Fitzjarrald · Aug 27, 2015

apartment fitness

As days get shorter and temperatures start to drop, our fitness routines often start to lag. Sad to cut short those long afternoon hikes, weekend bike rides, or outdoor runs? Don’t let cooler weather, or a small space, stop you from staying fit, even without a gym membership. Here are a few great small space fitness tips!

Always remember to talk with your doctor before starting any new workout routines. These suggestions focus on altering existing activities to fit into small spaces. If you’re new to working out, good for you! Just be sure to talk to a professional first to help you stay safe and healthy!

WEIGHT TRAINING

Use what you have! No need to clutter up your small space with lots of expensive equipment. With a combination of bodyweight-only exercises and a few household items, you can get a gym-quality workout at home.

My favorite hand-weight is simply a full water bottle in each hand. Ready for more? 1 gallon milk jugs are great and endlessly reusable. (I recommend drinking the milk first, then just filling with water so you don’t spoil your milk!) If you want to invest a little, a door-frame pull-up bar is a fun and super small tool to add variety to your in-home upper-body workout.

Exercise recommendations:

  • Milk-jug squats: do a typical squat routine (start with 20 squats) while holding a full milk jug in each hand. Add core strength and balance work by repeating squats while standing on only one leg. Be sure to switch and do the other side!
  • Milk-jug lunges: same concept as the squats. Standing with milk jugs in your hands, step forward and bend your knee into a deep lunge. Gently step back to standing. Do 10 repetitions, then switch legs and repeat.
    • Lunges can be done forward, backward, straight out to each side, and back at about a 45-degree angle to engage all the hip-rotation muscles.
  • Milk-jug/water bottle arms: try your favorite free-weight exercises. T-lifts to the side, tricept lifts behind your head, bicep curls, even forearm rotations. Just pick a different bottle size to match your strength with each muscle group.
  • Push-ups are the ultimate in cheap, basic upper-body training. Start with wall push-ups if you need, then build up through knee push-ups to full standard push ups.

AEROBIC / CARDIO

Jogging in place and jumping jacks are great workouts, but may not make you popular with your downstairs neighbors. Try some of these to raise your heartrate without being too loud or needing big spaces.

Exercise recommendations:

  • “Mountain climbers” – Be sure to do these in bare feet to keep them quiet! Think about making each foot landing soft to stay quiet and gentle on your bones.
  • Use the stairs! Common space stairs in your apartment building, or at the office, are great free stair-steppers! Start with walking, but build up your speed. Add challenge by trying to skip a step.
  • Kickboxing is a great gentle-landing aerobic workout. Smaller jumping exercises like boxer shuffles, front leg kicks, and standing side crunches work on full body strength and cardio fitness. There are plenty of free kickboxing workout videos online to get you started.

CORE STRENGTH

Your core muscles – around your abs and back – help control everything from posture to digestion to carrying stress. Here are a few small space core exercises I do at my desk during the day, during TV commercials, or even while brushing my teeth!

Exercise Recommendations:

  • Planks: great for all-around core strength. Remember to keep your back and butt as low and level as you can. Start by holding for one minute and build up over time. A little shaking is a good sign!
    • Switch up your planks by balancing on forearms or hands. Add a challenge by gently alternating lifting one foot then the other.
  • Balance: Just pick one foot to stand on and lift the other. Hold for at least one minute. Add some brain involvement by lifting your arms up above your head. Switch to balance on the other leg.
  • “Dead bug”: Lay on your back with your arms and legs hovering gently above you. Slowly lower your right leg and left arm down until they almost touch the ground. Raise back above your body. Switch to slowly lower the left leg/right arm. Do 20 repetitions on each side. Take a breath and repeat those 20 reps 3 times.

FLEXIBILITY / STRESS MANAGEMENT

This is probably the easiest one in a small space! I’m a big fan of stretching anywhere. You usually only need enough space for your body to stand, sit, or lay down, and shouldn’t need to make any noise at all, beyond the occasional gentle crackles and pops of rusty joints.

You can find tons of great stretches online. When working to improve flexibility, remember a few hints:

  • Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds to move past old tightness and into improvements.
  • Hold stretches gently and firmly – don’t bounce.
  • Move through your whole body / all muscle groups to keep things well balanced and avoid ending up feeling lopsided!

Here are a couple of my favorite Exercise Recommendations:

  • Neck circles: slow and gentle. Be sure to rotate both directions.
  • Chest opener: this one is great after sitting at a desk. Clasp your hands together low behind your back. Pull your hands away from your body and look up. Feel your chest stretching and opening.
  • Round down: keeping knees very gently bent, bend at the waist getting your head as close to your knees as is comfortable. Grab your left elbow in your right hand and right elbow in left hand. Hang there. Gravity is doing all the work and you can just enjoy. After 20-30 seconds, let go of your elbows and slowly roll your back upward until you’re standing tall.

Give these a try, and share some of your favorite small-space exercises below!

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