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A photo of a man doing a body weight exercise
Body weight training

Winter in Vermont is on its way! The cold season provides many opportunities for activity including skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking. However, for many people in the north country winter is

the most difficult season to stay fit. Colder temperatures, freezing rain and ice often force people to stay inside resulting in missed trips to the gym, fewer walks with the dog and more time on the couch.

Decreased levels of activity can result in loss of muscle, which makes the body more susceptible to injuries, aches and pains. But never fear – even if it is difficult to leave the house, there are still many simple exercises you can perform in your home with no extra equipment or space required. Bodyweight exercises are used to strengthen the body using only the force of gravity and your own weight to provide resistance. Don’t be fooled by the lack of weights – the following exercises are challenging and quite effective!

Bridges: The best spot for this exercise is lying on a carpeted floor or yoga mat, but any flat surface will do. Lie facing the ceiling with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Slowly raise your pelvis off the floor putting weight through your heels until your shoulders, hips and knees are all in a line. Slowly lower your pelvis to the floor again. For an added challenge, try with one leg raised in the air. This is a great exercise for glutes.

Goal: Work up to 3 sets of 15

Squats: This is an excellent exercise for glutes and quads. Bending the knees can be problematic for people with knee pain, but even a mini squat can be effective for strengthening. Bend at the hips on the descent and put the weight through your heels. Keep your knees behind your toes to avoid excessive knee bending.

Goal: Work of up to 3 sets of 15

Planks: Crunches are a popular abdominal exercise, but planks are much easier on your back and arguably much more effective for improving strength and endurance. On the floor or a yoga mat, rest your weight on your forearms and toes. Make sure your shoulders, hips and ankles are in a straight line – and try holding that position for a minute! If this is too challenging, try putting your weight through your knees instead of toes.

Goal: Work up to 1 minute hold

Push ups: Don’t underestimate the power of the push up – you will feel this exercise strengthening your pecs and triceps. Similar to the plank, it is very important to keep your shoulders, hips and ankles in a line. The most common push up mistake is bending at the hips and elevating your backside. Remember to keep the plank position, and if this is too hard try doing pushups on your knees.

Goal: Work up to 10 consecutive full pushups

As with any exercise program, if you are at risk for heart disease make sure you check with your doctor before initiating exercises. Exercises may initially cause muscle soreness, but should otherwise be pain free. Any exercise that causes pain should be discontinued.