If you’re new to the fitness world, starting at a gym can be a little bit intimidating. How do I use the machines? Am I doing this exercise properly? These are probably a couple of questions that come to mind. There’s also the fact that sometimes we just don’t have time to make it to the gym, or it’s a beautiful day out and you don’t want to spend it inside. But working out doesn’t have to be done in a gym, nor does it need any equipment.
Whether you grab a friend of do it solo, a backyard or park workout is a great way to get your body moving and build your confidence. If you aren’t sure of a routine, there are many online programs and apps available that provide various duration and intensity exercise circuits.
Why moving is important
We all know that being stationary for long periods of the time isn’t good for the body and is linked to a number of poor health outcomes and conditions. Whereas a lot of fitness professionals will recommend getting one workout session in per day, the paleo lifestyle advocates for consistent movement. Paleo focuses on free movement and natural exercises as opposed to machine-based workouts. Rather than spending a couple hours in the gym and being sedentary the remaining hours of your day, try constant slower-paced movements throughout the day. This can include walking, lifting, gardening, cleaning — any type of movement that gets you on your feet.
But just because you follow the paleo lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t hit the gym, too. Partaking in vigorous, high-intensity workouts incorporating cardio and strength training is important for the body. HIIT, for example, takes minimal time and produces huge benefits for health.
Here’s why practicing regular high intensity bouts, in addition to constant movement, is important:
- It’s more effective at burning calories than traditional moderate intensity workouts — When compared to low-moderate intensity exercises like cycling, running and resistance training, interval training can burn 25-30% more calories.
- Increases metabolism after exercise has halted — Studies have shown that high intensity training can keep metabolism elevated for as long as 24 hours after exercise has stopped.
- Improves body composition — Similar to performing moderate-intensity exercise, high intensity training has proven effective at reducing body fat. Specifically, one study found that subjects doing 20 minutes of HIIT 3 times per week lost an average of 2 kgs of body fat in just 12 weeks without inducing dietary changes.
- Improves oxygen consumption — Oxygen consumption refers to the ability of muscles to use oxygen efficiently. Traditionally, endurance training has been the go-to for increasing O2 consumption, but HIIT has shown to also be highly effective. A study found that doing HIIT 4 times per week can increase oxygen consumption by up to 9%.
If you’re interested to know more about the paleo lifestyle and activity, check out our article here.
Not sure where to start? Here are some fun and easy ideas for you!
To start, pick a few exercises you’d like to do to make a circuit. If you’re just starting out, start with lower intensity and fewer sets. As your body becomes more accustomed to exercising, slowly start to increase the intensity and number of circuits you do.
Donkey kicks (great for your butt):
Take a starting position on all fours: knees hip-width apart, hands under your shoulders, with the neck and spine in a neutral position. Bracing your core, lift your right leg, knee staying bent, foot staying flat, and hinging at the hip. Use your glute to press your foot directly towards the ceiling and squeeze at the top. Make sure your pelvis and working hip stay pointed toward the ground. Return to starting position and switch legs. If you’re still not sure, check out this video on how to do a donkey kick.
Burpees (great for full body):
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, weight on your heels, and arms at your side. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body into a squat. Place your hands on the floor directly in front of, and just inside, your feet. Shift your weight onto them while jumping your feet back to softly land on the balls of your feet in a plank position. Your body should form a straight line from your head to heels. Be sure to keep your core tight to prevent your hips from sinking. Jump your feet back so that they land just outside of your hands. Reach your arms over head and explosively jump up into the air. Land and immediately lower back into a squat for your next rep. Still confused? Check this video out.
To advance this exercise, give these other two options a try:
- Push-up burpee: Follow the same process as a basic burpee, but once you have landed into a plank position, do a pushup, return to plank, then continue back up into a standing position.
- Tuck-jump burpee: Follow the same process as a basic burpee, but once you have brought your feet back up to meet your hands, jump explosively and bring your knees to your chest for a tuck jump. See below for further details on how to do a tuck jump.
Tuck jump (great for full body):
Start in standing position with feet hip-width apart. Slightly bend your knees and extend arms out at shoulder height. Using the power from your legs, bend deeper and jump straight up lifting your knees to touch your extended hands. Be sure to land softly and again with bent knees. Avoid locking the knees to reduce impact on joints. Check out this video for how to do a tuck jump.
Duck walk (great for mobility):
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and try to squat until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor, extending your arms out in front of you for balance. Keep your chest up, weight on your heels, and your eyes straight ahead. Maintain this stance as you walk forwards and backwards. If it’s too difficult to maintain a parallel squat, or you aren’t flexible enough to do so, go as low as you comfortably can and try to maintain that depth for the entire exercise. Take a look at this video for how to do the duck walk.
Push-ups (great for upper body and core strength):
The correct setup for a standard push-up is to position your hands shoulder-width apart, or a little bit wider if needed. As you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body. Your fingers should be splayed, with your middle fingers pointing toward 12 o’clock. It’s important to keep your core engaged and back flat, so that your body is in one straight line from the top of your head to your heels. While arms out at a 45-degree angle is considered a standard push-up form, the angle that’s most comfortable for you may be slightly different so it’s okay to adjust. If you need guidance on how to do a proper pushup, check out this video.
To modify this exercise, try:
- Incline bench push-ups: Retain the same guidelines as a normal pushup, but place your hands on the edge of a bench or box so your body is not parallel with the ground. You will be on about a 45 degree angle to the ground.
Bear crawl (great for mobility and core stability):
Get down on all fours with your arms straight, hands below your shoulders, and your knees bent 90 degrees below your hips. (Only your hands and toes should touch the ground.) Keeping a flat back, crawl forward and backward moving opposite hands and feet in unison (right hand and left foot, left hand and right foot). Check out how to do the bear crawl here.
Once you’ve completed your circuit, be sure to do some light stretching. Stretching is great for the body for several reasons: it reduces pain and stiffness, enhances range of motion, improves muscle function, reduces risk of injury, and improves blood circulation.
The exercises we’ve given you are all equipment-free and designed to improve body mechanics while getting in your daily movement. Not only are they simple to complete and can be done just about anywhere, but they can be modified to increase of decrease difficult. If you’re not 100% sure if you’re doing them right, be sure to check out the links provided for sample videos.
Movement is just one part of the puzzle called paleo lifestyle. The other important one is nutrition. Subscribe to receive our weekly paleo recipes now – it’s free!