Some of the best physical activities for your body don’t require a gym membership or ask you to get fit enough to run a marathon.
Exercise can do wonders for your health by helping to keep your weight under control, improve your balance and range of motion, strengthen your bones, protect your joints, prevent bladder control problems, and even ward off memory loss.
No matter your age or fitness level, the following activities are some of the best exercises you can do and will help you get in shape and lower your risk for disease:
You might call swimming the perfect workout. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly.
Swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it’s less weight-bearing. Make sure you change your swim strokes every couple laps. That way, you don’t overstress one set of muscles which leads to developing tendonitis and imbalanced muscle tension.
Research has found that swimming can also improve your mental state and put you in a better mood. Water aerobics is another option. These classes help you burn calories and tone up. Check out your local YMCA/YWCA and local community pools for lap swimming and classes.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong
These Chinese martial arts combine movement and relaxation that are good for both body and mind. They are commonly called “meditation in motion.” Tai chi and Qi Gong are made up of a series of graceful movements, one transitioning smoothly into the next.
Because classes are offered at various levels, both are accessible and valuable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Both are also particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older.
Take a class to help you get started and learn the proper form. You can find Tai Chi and Qi Gong programs at your local YMCA/YWCA, health club, community center, or senior center. There are also many good teachers on YouTube.
Lifting light weights won’t bulk up your muscles, and will keep them strong. If you don’t use muscles, they will lose their strength over time.
Muscle also helps burn calories. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, so it’s easier to maintain your weight. Similar to other exercise, strength training may also help preserve brain function in later years.
Before starting a weight training program, be sure to learn the proper form. Start light, with 1lb weights. You should be able to lift the weights 10 times with ease. After a couple of weeks, increase that by a pound. If you can easily lift the weights through the entire range of motion more than 12 times, move up to slightly heavier weight. Using a maximum of 8lb weights is a good goal.
Walking is simple, yet powerful. It can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check, lift your mood, and lower your risk for a number of diseases (diabetes and heart disease, for example).
Studies have shown that walking and other physical activities can even improve memory and resist age-related memory loss. All you need is a well-fitting and supportive pair of shoes. Start with walking for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Over time, you can start to walk farther and faster, until you’re walking for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week.
Many of the things we do for fun (and work) count as exercise. Raking the yard counts as physical activity. So does ballroom dancing and playing with your kids or grandkids. As long as you’re doing some form of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and you include two days of strength training a week, you can consider yourself an “active” person.
Source: Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School “Trusted Advice for a Healthier Life”