College Students: Turn Your Dorm Room into a Gym

How to stay fit with limited space and cash

A day in the life of a college student: roll out of bed; try not to wake your roommate, who’s sleeping two feet away; grab coffee on the way to class; check Facebook; head to the dining hall for lunch (Surprise! It’s pizza day again!); gulp coffee; stay awake in class; eat Nutella for dinner; Facebook again; go to bed.

Not exactly the profile of a health nut.

College life does not make living a healthy lifestyle easy, but it’s vital for undergrads to incorporate a fitness routine into their daily lives. Regular exercise will help reduce stress, increase energy, and combat the dreaded Freshman (or Sophomore or Junior) 15. That means you’ll feel and look better.

If you don’t the time or cash for the gym, fear not. Here are five inexpensive items you can use to do a quick, well-rounded workout in your dorm room.

1. Yoga Mat

You don’t have to be a yogi to use this tool. It’s a good soft surface to work out on (you know, in case your dorm doesn’t have plush carpeting), making it ideal for stretching and floor exercises. Try a simple Downward Dog pose at the beginning and end of your workout to lengthen muscles and prevent injury:

– Start on the floor on your hands and knees, keeping your palms spread.
– Exhale as you lift your knees off the ground, pressing your butt toward the ceiling.
– Remember to keep your head down and neck aligned with your spine, so you form a clean, upside-down V shape.
– Don’t come up on your toes. Keep your heels pressed to the floor for a great back, calf and hamstring stretch.

We like: The Cap Barbell Yoga Mat with Carrying Strap, Modell’s, 1528 Chestnut Street, $12.99

2. Resistance Band

Easy to store and oh-so-versatile, adding the band to simple exercises will strengthen your muscles and amp up your heart rate. Rob Baban, a personal trainer working wonders in Philly and South Jersey, suggests the squat row for a “great full body exercise.”

– Make sure your band is secured to heavy object; for example, you could wrap it around your bed post.
– With your arms in front of you, perform a squat and pause at the bottom.
– While holding the squat at it’s lowest point, perform a rowing motion with the cables.
– Upon releasing the cables, slowly release your squat. Repeat.

We like: TheraBand Resistance Bands, available in heavy and light resistance, City Sports, 1608 Walnut Street, $12.99

3. Medicine Ball
Baban’s also got a way for you to bond with your roomie: the two-person pushup toss. This fun spin on a traditional pushup will challenge your core and get your arms burning.

– Kneel on your mat about eight feet away from your partner, holding the medicine ball at your chest.
– Throw a chest pass to your partner, allowing the momentum to bring you forward to the floor.
– Brace yourself with your hands and perform a push-up, pushing yourself back up into kneeling position.
– Catch the ball as your partner tosses it back to you and does his or her pushup. Repeat.

We like: TKO Rubberized 6lb Medicine Ball, Modell’s, $12.99

4. Light Dumbbells

Abbey Zuckerman, a personal trainer at Platoon Fitness, recommends the Tabata method to turn any exercise into a cardio blast. A Tabata is a four-minute workout in which you exercise at a high intensity for 20 seconds, rest for 10, and repeat until you hit the four-minute mark. Try this Tabata squat with your dumbbells for a sculpted butt and quick cardio workout.

– Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart, holding your dumbbells at your shoulders.
– Do squats continuously for 20 seconds. Make sure your knees stay above your ankles, not in front of them. Your tush should be doing the work, not your joints.
– Then hold a squat position for 10 seconds. That’s one 30-second cycle. Repeat seven more times to complete the Tabata.
– If it’s too intense, you can stand for 10 “rest” seconds instead of squatting.

Try: Pure Fitness 5lb Dumbbells, Modell’s, $6.99

5. YOU!

No purchase necessary, no assembly required—doesn’t get much easier than this! Kimberly Garrison, fitness consult for the Philadelphia Daily News, believes in “optimizing everything you have,” and this exercise does just that. Using your own body weight, the squat thrust works arms, back and abs, and gets your heart pumping. “Ten to fifteen reps of this, and you’re ready to pass out!” she says.

– Start standing upright, feet hip-width apart, shoulders back and down.
– Squat to the ground, placing your hands flat on the mat bear your feet. Hop your feet back into a plank position.
– Pop your feet back in and stand straight up; that’s one rep.
– To up the intensity, add a push-up when you’re in plank position, and a vertical jump when you stand again.