We make plenty of excuses in order to get out of exercising. It’s too hot; it’s too cold. It’s too early; it’s too late. My kids are in town; my spouse is out of town. One thing you can’t excuse, however, are the benefits of staying active.
When it comes to fitness, most people think immediately of jogging, weightlifting, or even swimming. Jumping in the pool or jacuzzi is great fun every once in awhile, but going for a run or pumping some iron might seem daunting, especially as you get older. Staying active doesn’t always mean doing wind sprints or putting on a weight belt and heading for the squat rack. Here are five ways to keep moving and help yourself feel healthier:
Stretch it out
Stretching might not seem like much of an exercise, but it most certainly is. Aside from improving your flexibility and range of motion, it’s also one of the best ways to prevent injuries while you are moving around. It also does wonders for improving posture, and, believe it or not, it can be a very nice stress reliever, something we all need.
It’s important to do the right stretches before attempting any sort of fitness-related activity, and you’ll be amazed how you feel if you do a set of stretches every day. Stretches keep your muscles active, your joints loose, and you feeling like getting out and doing something. The best part about stretching is that it’s really not that hard to do.
Move your boots
The Center for Disease Control suggests that citizens over the age of 65 get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Walking is perfect for this, and you don’t have to go anywhere special. In fact, doing a few laps around the block while listening to the radio, an audiobook or podcast, or just chatting with friends or family is a fantastic way to stay active and keep your mind sharp.
If you’re looking for something a little more vigorous, there are a ton of activities you wouldn’t think of immediately when you thought of cardio or fitness. Activities such as dancing — line dancing, square dancing, ballroom dancing, that sort of thing — are great ways to stimulate the heart, body and mind. They’re also fun! Even if you didn’t know before, there’s a good chance that there are a number of dance groups, studios, or local bars that have nights dedicated to shaking those hips. Call up a friend, dust off those boots, and grab your favorite cowboy hat and get down to the local saloon for a little country western.
Flex those muscles
Gaining muscle doesn’t require going to a gym with a wide range of dumbbells to choose from. You can literally use anything around the house to help tone those your body, and the funny thing is, they don’t even have to be particularly heavy. Here are a few simple exercises to help you get stronger anywhere, anytime:
1. Grab two water bottles and make sure they’re full. Next, stand with your back against a wall; this will help you keep a good posture while you’re working out. Hold your hands at your side with your palms facing up, and do a curl like you would with a weight. When your arms return to your side, turn your hands over so that your palms (and the water bottles) are facing the ground. Once you’ve done that, extend those arms out so that they reach the height of your shoulders. Return them to your side. Repeat these two movements as many times as you feel comfortable, take a minute or two off, and repeat the process again. You’ll start feeling a pleasant burn in your arms, and after a few weeks of this, you’ll notice how much stronger you’re starting to feel.
2. Find a different wall (everyone needs a change of scenery) and stand a foot away from it. Lean forward slightly so that your palms are touching the wall, and make sure to keep that back straight. Slowly bend your elbows, bringing your chest towards the wall to the point where your nose is nearly touching it. Hold that pose for 3-5 seconds, and then slowly push yourself back to the position you started at. Repeat this as 5-10 times, take a few minutes off, and repeat. These modified push-ups will do wonders for your chest, shoulders, and back.
3. Stand behind a sturdy chair (no need for a wall here). Put one hand on the chair, and the other on your hip. Raise one leg in the air so it’s bent slightly, and return it to the ground. Repeat this movement 10 times and stop. Switch the hand that was on the chair with your other hip, and move the hand that was on your hip so that it’s resting on the chair. Do the same leg movement you just did 10 more times. Once you’ve done both legs, take a minute or two off, and repeat. Doing this 4-5 times a day a few times a week will help build strength in your leg and really help your balance.
Join a group, enlist the help of your guy or girlfriends, or just strike up a conversation with someone nearby. You might not know it, but working out with a group of people will motivate you to not take any days off. It will also challenge your brain, which you need to exercise even more than your body. Talk about current events, your favorite television shows, sports, or your family, and the time — and the exercises — will fly by.
If you’re taking a walk or working out with some friends, have someone in that circle teach the group how to do something. It doesn’t matter what it is: how to drive a stick shift, how to make a special pasta sauce, or how your family came to the United States. This is something that keeps everyone in the group thinking, and if your brain is always going, it will keep your body moving with it!