6 Must-Have Home Fitness Tools

Simple Ways to Burn Major Calories

You don’t need an expensive gym membership to get fit. Choosing the right at-home workout equipment will maximize your exercise routine so you get the weight loss, strength training, and fat burning results you want.

Here are 6 simple tools to get you started, recommended by Prevention fitness expert Chris Freytag – choose the ones that appeal to you. “Resist the temptation to pick up a few random items on sale,” Freytag says. “If the item is poorly constructed or doesn’t really interest you, it’s not a bargain.” Stick with these basics and you’ll have a home workout routine that gives you real results.

1. Resistance Bands

Exercise bands are useful for beginners and advanced exercisers alike. They come in different resistance levels, which are usually represented by different colors, so you can choose what you need depending on your ability and what type of moves you’re doing. Rubberized resistance helps you build muscle just like hand weights, and these bands are easy to store and handy for traveling.

To start, choose a medium-strength resistance band. Increase the resistance by folding it lengthwise or shortening the band by holding it closer to the anchor. Make it easier by attaching one end to an anchor point instead of folding it, and hold the other end in your hand. (An anchor point is a sturdy place that holds the center or one end of the band.) For a high anchor, simply put a tight knot in the band and close it securely in a door. For a low anchor, slide it under a heavy piece of furniture, like a couch. Be sure the band is taut when you begin a move.

Control is key to maximizing toning and avoiding injury. Don’t let the band snap back once you’ve reached the top of the move; pause, then release slowly, resisting against the band’s pull.

2. Balance Ball

Exercise balls can be used alone for ab workouts and stretches, or used in conjunction with hand weights as a balance-challenging weight bench. When you sit on or lie across a stability ball, you engage all the muscles in your core to keep yourself supported.

A proper fit will help you work your way to a toned body with better posture, more-defined abs, and a healthy spine with less back pain. Here’s a guide:

Your Height/Proper Sizing

Under 4′ 6″ / 30-cm (12″) ball
5′ 1″ to 5’7″ / 55-cm (22″) ball
5′ 8″ to 6′ 2″ / 65-cm (26″) ball
Over 6′ 2″ / 75-cm (30″) ball

3. Yoga Mat

This is a home workout must. An exercise mat (they’re not just for yoga!) will cushion you from a hard floor and give more support than a carpet when doing ab workouts, floor exercises, and warmup stretches. Plus these rubbery, non-slip mats make it easier, safer, and more comfortable to do yoga or Pilates. Mats come in many colors and designs, so just pick one you’ll enjoy. Another use for a rolled-up yoga mat is as a lumbar support to lie over on the floor after a stressful day.

4. Dumbbells

Dumbbells, or hand weights, are great for building muscle and sculpting your body. One pair each of 3-pound and -5 pound weights will be enough to get you going on a beginning strength-training regimen. As your strength improves, add 8-pound and 10-pound weights.

5. Heart Rate Monitor

Monitoring your exertion level and keeping track of calorie burn helps you chart your fitness progress and feel in charge of your workouts. Exercising too hard can lead to injury, exhaustion or burn out. Not working hard enough can be ineffective and leave you seeing little to no results. Using a heart rate monitor with your at-home workouts will allow you to see exactly where you are at all times. You will learn which of your workouts are high intensity, and which workouts are focused on building strength and stamina for harder moves.

To keep your fat-burning fires stoked, you’ll want to maintain a heart rate between 80 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 200. Calculating 80 percent and 85 percent of this number provides you with your target heart-rate zone.


Get Flat Abs Fast (at Any Fitness Level)

Workout by Jessica Smith, creator of the 10 Minute Solution: Quick Tummy Toners DVD
Scissors pull-back
Want to rid yourself of belly flab and get bikini-ready abs once and for all? Try these abs exercises and get the sexy stomach you’ve been dreaming about, no matter what your fitness level.

Beginner: V-Sit Pull-Back

What you’ll need: A mat

Tip: Keep your neck relaxed while you crunch. Need help? Simply place your tongue on the roof of your mouth!

Targets: Abs and obliques

Beginner: Plank-Up

Targets: Abs, back, hips, and glutes


Beginner: Wipe-Away

Targets: Abs, obliques, and hips

Intermediate: Kneeling Heel Twist

Targets: Abs and obliques

  • Kneel on mat with hips above knees, abs engaged.
  • Place hands behind head, elbows out.
  • Keeping hips centered, rotate torso to right and reach right hand toward right ankle.
  • Return to start; repeat to left side.
  • Do 12 reps total, alternating sides.


Plank swipe

Intermediate: Plank Swipe

Targets: Abs, obliques, back, hips, and glutes

  • Get into plank position and stack left foot on top of right heel.
  • Keeping back and legs straight and abs engaged, lift left foot slightly, then kick left leg out to side.
  • Return to stacked position. Do 6 reps.
  • Switch legs; repeat.

Intermediate: Air Circle

Targets: Abs, obliques, and hips

  • Lie faceup with legs together, arms extended straight up, abs engaged.
  • Keeping upper body on mat, lift legs straight over hips.
  • Draw a big circle on ceiling with legs.
  • Change directions; repeat.
  • Do 12 reps total, alternating directions.

Advanced: Scissors Pull-Back

Targets: Abs, obliques, and legs

  • Start in V-sit, feet lifted, shins parallel to floor.
  • Extend left leg as you rotate to right; tap elbow to mat.
  • Return to start. Switch sides; repeat.
  • Do 16 reps total, alternating sides.

Advanced: Plank Walk-Up

Targets: Arms, abs, back, and glutes

  • Get into plank position.
  • Keeping back straight, abs engaged, and legs together, “walk” hands into full push-up position (hands directly under shoulders, elbows slightly bent).
  • Gently walk hands back down to plank.
  • Do 5 reps without lowering to floor.
Side scissors crunch

Advanced: Side Scissors Crunch

Targets: Abs, hips, and legs

  • Lie faceup with legs together, arms overhead.
  • Engage abs and lift legs straight over hips.
  • Crunch up as you lower legs out to sides and reach hands through legs.
  • Lower upper body and bring legs back together.
  • Do 15 reps.




From: Fitness Magazine

Beef Stroganoff

6 servings

1lb boneless top round steak

1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup low fat sour cream

1/4 cup 2% milk

1/2 teaspoon paprika

3 cups cooked egg noodles


1.  Slice beef across grain into strips.

2.  Cook beef until browned; set aside.

3.  Cook onions until soft.

4.  Add soup, paprika and milk.

5.  Add beef; mix together (add a little more milk if too thick), heat      through.

6.  Add sour cream, stir to mix.

7.  Serve over 1/2 cup hot egg noodles.

Calories 317
Carbs 27g
Sodium 376mg
Fat 10g
Protein 29g



The ultimate beginner’s running program

Ready to tie up your runners and hit the pavement? Become a bona fide runner in four months with this ultimate beginner’s running program

By Celia Milne

The ultimate beginner

This tried and tested four-month running schedule was developed by Jeremy Deere, past Canadian champion in the 5,000 metres and 10K distances, and owner of Strides Running Store in Calgary. It will help a non-runner gradually work up to running for 30 minutes straight. Plan to walk/run three times a week for up 
to 45 minutes, with days off in between.

What pace is good for you? To burn fat and reap heart benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you run at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Running plan: Month 1

• Week 1: Run one minute; walk two minutes. Repeat 10 times. Gradually increase the time of your runs by one minute.

• By week 4: Run three minutes; walk one minute. Repeat 10 times.

Running plan: Month 2

• Week 5: Run three minutes; walk one minute. Repeat 10 times. Again, gradually increase running times.

• By week 8:
Run seven minutes; walk one minute. Repeat four times.

Running plan: Month 3

• Week 9: Run seven minutes; walk one minute. Repeat four times. Gradually increase running times.

• By week 12:
Run 11 minutes; walk one minute. Repeat three times.

Running plan: Month 4

• Week 13: Run 11 minutes; walk one minute. Repeat three times.

• By week 16:
Run 20 minutes; walk two minutes. Repeat twice.

Congratulations! You are now ready to run for half an hour without stopping!


Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Serves 8 (1 cup serving)

3 quarts water

1 (12-ounce) package broccoli florets

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dash of nutmeg

1 cup fat-free mayonnaise

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Bring water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, and cook 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer broccoli to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Add chicken to boiling water; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until done. Transfer chicken to a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, and add chicken to bowl with broccoli.

Combine evaporated milk, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a saucepan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add mayonnaise, next 4 ingredients (through soup), and 1/2 cup cheese, stirring until well combined. Add mayonnaise mixture to broccoli mixture; stir gently until combined.

Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 50 minutes or until mixture bubbles at the edges and cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven; let cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.

Calories 276
Carbs 18.9g
Sodium 696mg
Fat 7.8g
Protein 31.1g


7 Essential Changes You Need to Make Right Now

It is easy to go with the flow. Doing what comes naturally is ingrained in everyone’s DNA. However, in the realm of health and fitness this can have disastrous consequences on our lives. Simply following the course of life that many are on this very second will honestly lead them to an early grave. Not that I mean to scare anyone just for the sake of it, but living a healthy, fit life is not something that comes natural to anyone. If you are currently on the path of least resistance then you may need to consider applying the following 7 essential changes to your life immediately.

From: Fit Hacks

Diet: You can’t always eat junk. If I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted I could probably single handedly finance an entire chain of bacon and cheese french fry establishments. But when I decided to take my health seriously, I knew that my diet was the first thing I had to change. We are literally killing ourselves by what we eat. While it takes some will power to decide to eat right, knowing what to eat shouldn’t be that difficult. Focus on lean protein (grilled chicken, fish), plenty of fruits and veggies, and whole grain carbs.

Schedule: Make room for exercise, rest, family. This is important for your physical well being as well as your mental well being. We cannot live our lives fully devoted to work, food and sleep. There have to be times when we just let ourselves go for a walk, read a book or just sit outside in the sunlight. Spending time with family is extra important, not only for your sake, but for theirs as well. No one is an island but no one is a robot either. As for exercise…

Physical activity: Your body NEEDS it. If you’re like me and work a normal desk job, then the temptation is to come home and sit around on your couch after work watching TV or playing video games. This isn’t going to cut it. People weren’t made for such sedentary lifestyles. We were meant to hunt, to roam, to run and play. I’d say that getting regular exercise is THE most essential change we all need in our lives. It helps our bodies and our minds.

Goals: Making ambiguous targets won’t take you anywhere. Do you have a goal? Specify it. If you want to lose weight, change it to losing X lbs. If you want to be more active, sign up for a race and commit to it. By nature, people just don’t make very good goals. We have to be specific. Otherwise, not only will we never know when we reach our goal, but we’ll likely never really start pursuing it either.

Initiative: Someday will never be today. Stop telling yourself that you’ll get around to exercising and eating right “someday”. We all know that will never happen. Take the reigns of your life and initiate the change you want to see today. When I first started running I really didn’t want to do it all that much. I just new it was something that I should be doing. So one day after enough postponing and procrastination, I took the first step. I laced up and walked out the door. It wasn’t the smoothest transition but it was a start. Everything needs a starting point.

Support: Include others in your goals. I’m a very introverted person. I don’t really like to share too much of myself with others. I decided to keep my fitness attempts quiet until people started noticing. However, I believe that this was a mistake. If I had other people to hold me accountable to the things I was committing to who knows what could have happened. Maybe you are already doing this in your life now, but this is definitely a change I need to learn to make in my own life even today.

Challenge your fears: Don’t resist something just because it scares you. This is huge! So huge, in fact, it is almost a life principle for me now. I tend to be a very conservative person that likes to shy away from things outside my comfort zone. This doesn’t tend to leave much room for personal growth. A few years ago I began forcing myself through those uncomfortable scary things and found the amazing rewards on the other side. Training for a intimidating event or putting yourself in a new place of responsibility can indeed be scary. However, I’m trying to learn from the things that scare me. When I get the sense that something intimidates me, it is usually a sign that is the right thing for me to do.

(photo by GioPhotos)

Workout & Exercise Log

Workout & Exercise Log

Date (Day/Month/Year): ____________________________

Start Time: ___________________

End Time: ___________________


Scale Weight:
Body Fat %:
Fitness Goal: Strength/Muscle Building/Fat Loss/Endurance/Other:
Sleep (HRS):


Name of Workout: _______________________________________________________


Body Parts Trained (Circle all that apply):

Whole Body | Chest | Back | Shoulders | Legs | Calves | Biceps | Triceps | Abs | Other: _________________________________________________















Copyright © 2008 by Answer Fitness®  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This exercise log may be distributed freely for non-commercial use provided you give credit and a link back to:  http://www.answerfitness.com

Fitness Motivation Quotes


1. Strive for progress, not perfection. -Unknown
2. You want me to do something… tell me I can’t do it. -Maya Angelou
3. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. -Wayne Gretzky
4. If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t really trying. -Unknown
5. You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted. -Ruth E. Renkl
6. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. -Mahatma Gandhi
7. Motivation will almost always beat mere talent. -Norman R. Augustine
8. I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate. -George Burns
9. Energy and persistence conquer all things. -Benjamin Franklin
10. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
11. No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. -Aesop
12. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein
13. Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. -Lou Holtz
14. Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. -Jim Ryan
15. I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. -Michael Jordan
16. Fear is what stops you… courages is what keeps you going. -Unknown
17. The finish line is just the beginning of a whole new race. -Unknown
18. The difference between a goal and a dream is a deadline. -Steve Smith
19. Just do it.™ -Nike
20. In seeking happiness for others, you find it for yourself. -Anonymous
21. The secret of getting ahead is getting started. -Mark Twain
22. It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. -Anonymous
23. Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. -Oprah Winfrey
24. It’s never too late to become what you might have been. -George Elliot
25. Clear your mind of can’t. -Samuel Johnson
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