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Ease Your Way into Exercise
Written by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci
There’s no question about it: To be your best, you need to exercise. But while that’s easy to say, it’s not always easy to do. If you’ve been sedentary for years, or you’re battling serious health problems, simply getting up and moving can be a challenge.
But you know what? Once you do get up and start moving, it’ll get easier every week. And before you know it, I bet you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
The trick, if you haven’t exercised for a long time, is to ease into it gradually. In addition, choose exercises that promote strength, balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. Here are five of the best ones.
This is the easiest form of exercise, and it’s a great first step (no pun intended!) if you want to transform yourself from a couch potato to an active exerciser.
When you start walking, determine how much distance you can comfortably cover in your walk. Then, every few days, challenge yourself to walk a little bit farther. As you get stronger, try routes that have an uphill and downhill grade. Vary your walks so you stay interested, and consider joining a walking group to give you motivation.
Exercising in a pool is a wonderful way to get weak muscles back in shape, because you’re working against the resistance of water. It has other powerful benefits too, especially if you’re a senior. For instance, one study involving older women found that exercising in water improved not just their strength but also their cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, blood lipids, agility, and flexibility.
What’s more, you don’t need to know how to swim in order to get in shape. You can tone and strengthen your muscles by doing standing leg lifts, breast strokes, and back strokes. Start with small movements, and work up to bigger ones.
Remember when you were a kid, and you could touch your toes and do the splits? Then, over time, you got less and less flexible—and now you may even struggle to put on your shoes and socks. You’re especially likely to have problems with flexibility if you have diabetes.
One of the best ways to increase your range of motion is by practicing Tai Chi. The gentle, fluid movements of Tai Chi will boost your flexibility gradually without straining your joints, and they’re also excellent for your balance.
I know that weightlifting may seem like the last thing you should try if you’re really out of shape! However, the results may surprise you! If you need inspiration, check out 91-year-old “Gus” in this video.
In my opinion, resistance training is the #1 way to get yourself back in good condition. The key here is to start very gradually—with one- or two-pound weights, if necessary—and have an expert help you so you avoid injuries. (Be sure to get your doctor’s okay, too.) A professional can also design a program that works for you if you’ve had breast cancer surgery, you have arthritis, or you need other modifications.
Your core muscles are among the first to go when you don’t exercise. Tone them even a little, and you’ll see a big difference in your posture, your balance, and your health. To start whipping them into shape, try these exercises every day:
Do a “tummy tuck” by pulling in your abdominal muscles, holding them in for three breaths, and then releasing them, repeating the exercise 12 times.
Lying on your back, move your legs in a “bicycling” motion. You can do this on a bed if lying on the floor is too difficult.
Lying on your back with your knees bent, lift and lower your pelvis several times, holding for a few seconds at the top of the exercise. Again, you can do this on a bed if lying on the floor is too hard.
Also, try to create a habit of tightening your abdominal muscles each time you think about it throughout the day. This simple habit can do wonders for your abs over time.
I’m not going to kid you: At first, getting your body back in motion will take grit. You’ll experience some aches and pains, and you may occasionally wish you were back on that sofa.
But trust me—I’ve helped thousands of people make this journey back to fitness, and I know you’re up for the challenge. So right now, commit to reversing that downward spiral by moving in ways that make your body a little healthier every single day. You’ll never know how strong you can be until you try!
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