I just recently returned from a five day motorcycle trip to eastern Oregon. Needless to say, five days on the road separated me from the trusted confines of my local gym and so I had to find alternative places to exercise. For the most part, my workouts are primarily body weight based and so was not a big stretch to work out in the park. I walked for about 45 minutes and came about the main city park where I used the sitting bench, monkey bars and rails to perform my exercises, then walked the last 15 minutes home. I am a morning person, so was able to do this all before my travel mates were even up and moving.
For those of you use to going to the gym and planting yourself on the machines or lifting dumbbells and barbells, the thought of exercising without equipment may become a bit more of a challenge. This can be compounded by the inability of some to handle the full weight of their body in the various exercises-pull-ups come quickly to mind, but even those can be modified to suit anyone’s abilities.
So then the question becomes what exercises are best to maximize time and effort? Here are my top five.
A great developer of the chest, triceps and shoulders, the push up also requires maintaining a good neutral spine and promotes core development If you have difficulty performing a proper push up or executing a number of repetitions, try elevating the surface you are pressing from, like a bench or railing. Avoid doing the push up from the knees. To increase the intensity elevate the feet, but try and find a surface that allows maintenance of good form
Great overall body developer focusing on glutes, hamstrings, quads and core muscles. Start with feet hip width apart, toes pointed forward and the sensation that the feet are being corkscrewed into the ground (much like the hands in the push up). Squeeze the butt and tighten the core like you are about to be punched in the belly. From here push the butt back, bend the knees and lower the body until the hips fall below the knees. Don’t sacrifice form. If you cannot maintain the position try starting by holding a bench or post and sit further back. You can increase the intensity by going to a lunge, one legged squat or jumping squats.
Focuses on the development of back, shoulders and arms. Any apparatus that you can hang from can become a pull-up bar. Playground equipment or swing sets work great. You can change the intensity by alternating grips and width of hands, adding an L-sit and or alternating the pull more to one side. If you can’t perform a pull up you can switch to an inverted row. This exercise is essentially a reverse bench press, as you grab a bar like you were getting ready to bench press it, but instead of lifting the weight down towards you, you’re pulling your body up towards the bar.
Pike Push-up/Inverted jackknife pushup:
Great for shoulders chest, triceps and back. If you have seen the yoga position downward dog then you know what this exercise is. Simply assume the position with feet on the ground and hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Lower the forehead towards the ground and push back up. To increase the intensity place your feet on a bench or other elevated object or go completely inverted in the handstand position. To decrease the intensity place the hands on an elevated surface like a bench.
One of the better core developers this exercise best simulates the stable spine position required to maximize performance in every aspect of our lives. In all activities our core should remain fixed and movement occur in the joints of the extremities-in particular the hips and shoulders. Intensity levels can be changed by putting the weight on the hands with straight arms or elbows with the arms bent. , and from placing the weight on the knees in contact with the ground or on the toes with the feet contacting the ground.
These exercises can be done in a circuit, alternated with a jog, sprint, stairs, step ups, burpees or jumps. By no means are these the only exercises available to perform anywhere you are. They do, though, provide a complete body workout hitting all the main areas required for all-around body conditioning. The key is finding a place and time and committing to your routine. Movement is the key and staying consistent with your exercise program will reap the greatest benefit.
I highly recommend taking the exercises outdoors for various reasons. A European study polled nearly 2,000 active participants in the 2008 Scottish Health Survey finding that working out in nature had a 50% greater positive effect on mental health than going to the gym. Researchers found that walking, running, and other activities through green space lowered stress. Though the results were not necessarily surprising, the difference was decidedly significant in the effect on mental health.
These results are not isolated. A 2009 study from the University of Rochester found that just 20 minutes outside can “rev you up as much as a cup of coffee.” A 2010 study found that even just five minutes of exercise in a green space can improve mood and self-esteem and another 2011 study found that outdoor exercise was associated with greater decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression when compared to indoor activity.
There are other benefits to exercising outdoors that should make you consider adopting more outdoor training even at home. Recent studies have highlighted the fact that there are high levels of carcinogens in the air of the average fitness center, as well as harmful bacteria on the surfaces of fitness equipment such as treadmills and weight machines. Recent data suggests that the indoor air quality in some gyms may be just as harmful to health as the air pollutants in urban areas.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) can also become an issue. A waste product of breathing is CO2 and the levels increase when many of people are working out hard in a room, especially if that room is poorly ventilated. So, the more folks you cram into an indoor space running on treadmills, rowing, riding bikes, lifting weights, and jumping around, the worse the quality of air in that space.
The closer to nature we can come in every aspect of life, the better the effect on our body. If you have any questions about starting an exercise program or what program would be appropriate for you please contact The Art of Chiropractic to set up an appointment for an evaluation.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Doug Davies has been practicing the art of chiropractic for over 10 years and brings his skills to the downtown Gresham, OR area focusing on achieving and maintaining the innate lifestyle...