Weekly Wellness: Create an inexpensive three-piece gym at home

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COLUMBIA - If your life is one that just doesn't allow you the freedom, flexibility or financial obligation of belonging to a gym, this one is for you.

For some, exercising at home is the preferred choice. You don't have to drive anywhere. You don't have to get a babysitter or utilize a daycare. You don't have to pack a bag. Heck, you don't have to get out of your pajamas if you don't want to!

For those folks who still want to dedicate time to exercise, but want to exercise at home, there are three key pieces of equipment that I would suggest you invest in.

They are:

• A stability ball
• A resistance band
• A foam roller

A stability ball (sometimes referred to as a yoga ball or an exercise ball) is a large ball that is constructed of soft elastic with a diameter of approximately 35 to 85 centimeters (14 to 34 inches) and filled with air. The different sizes of balls are meant to be used with the different sizes of people. Here is a good chart to help you find the right size of ball for you.

• 30-35 cm if < 4'10" tall
• 45 cm if 4'8"-5'5" tall
• 55 cm if 5'6"-6'0" tall
• 65 cm if 6'0"-6'5" tall
• 75 cm if those over 6'5" tall
• 85 cm ball if heavier or long-legged

You can also check the packaging of the ball. It will generally indicate the height of the person that is meant to use it.

Stability balls can be used in a variety of ways to achieve different aspects of fitness:

• Increase flexibility: Lie over the ball on your back to stretch abdominal muscles, on your stomach to stretch back muscles or on your side to stretch abdominal oblique muscles. Sit on the ball with one leg extended in front and one leg flexed at the knee to support and stabilize the body, and reach forward to the toes of the extended leg to stretch the hamstrings.
• Increase muscle strength and endurance without external weight: Lie on your back on the ball and perform crunches. Perform push-ups with knees, shins or feet on ball. Lie on your stomach on the ball and perform back extensions, or perform squats by placing the ball between your back by flexing at the hips and knees to a wall and move up and down.
• Increase muscular strength and endurance by using dumbbells or other external resistance: Perform chest presses, triceps extensions, flies or other exercises while sitting or lying on your back on the ball.

Stability balls can range in cost anywhere from $10 to $40, depending upon the size, manufacturer and retailer.

A resistance band is an elastic band used for strength training. They are made of strong, thin rubber with handles at the end, and come in a variety of resistances depending on your fitness level. Resistance bands can replace the need for actual weights, allowing you to duplicate exercises that would have traditionally been done with dumbbells (i.e. chest presses, rows, shoulder presses, triceps extensions, biceps curls, squats, etc).

Resistance bands come in a variety of tensions, generally designated by color. You have a choice of extra/very light, light, medium, heavy and extra/very heavy.
They can range in cost anywhere from $10 to $30, depending upon the tension, manufacturer and retailer.

A foam roller is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment that (like the stability ball) can be used for both relaxing and sculpting your body.

Self-myofascial release, also known as "foam rolling," is another way of referring to "self-massage." It can be used to release muscle tightness or trigger points.
Essentially, by applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to help your body recover and relax.

The way rollers are used to work and tighten muscles is different than the self-massage way. Instead of rolling out your muscles (much like rolling out dough with a rolling pin), you would engage specific muscles by performing different exercises on the roller. The roller, being round, serves as an unstable tool and so your body would then have to stabilize you during the movements. Exercises like planks and push-ups become even more challenging when using the roller.

Foam rollers can range in cost anywhere from $10 to $45 depending upon the length, manufacturer and retailer.

By simply searching for "exercise ball exercises", "resistance band exercises" and "foam roller exercises" on the Internet, you will have an endless library of exercises at your disposal (so you'll never get bored doing the same thing.) With these three tools, I assure you that you will be able to create a beyond-sufficient workout in your "home gym" (aka living room).