The Beginner’s Guide to Exercise: 3 Workouts You Need
To stay strong and active for years to come, you’ll want a well-rounded fitness plan. Start here.
If you asked a group of your friends what the best exercise is, you would probably get 10 different answers. One pal might swear by walking, but another may love Zumba. A neighbor might argue that strength training changed his life, and a different neighbor might argue back that swimming is actually better for you.
In a way, they’re all right. The best exercise is the one you’ll do. If you’re starting from square one, any movement is better than no movement at all, and even five minutes—yes, five minutes—has health benefits for older adults, according to the current fitness guidelines.
Of course, over time, the more you can do, the more health benefits you’ll reap. With regular physical activity, you’ll lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, falls, and dementia. You’ll also sleep better, decrease anxiety, and help yourself lose weight. And that’s just the beginning!
For your best health now and in the future, you’ll want a well-rounded fitness plan that includes different types of exercise. Use this guide.
1. Strengthen Your Heart and Lungs with Cardio
Cardio (also known as aerobic exercise) is anything that increases your heart rate and breathing. Naturally, it’s a great way to improve the health of your heart and lungs—and your entire circulatory system. When blood and oxygen can flow freely from head to toe, your whole body works better.
Ideally, you’d get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, which is about 22 minutes a day. You can walk, jog, swim, dance, bike, use cardio machines, or take a cardio-based fitness class.
2. Protect Your Muscles and Bones with Strength Training
As you age, your muscles and bones get weaker. That makes it harder to move around on your own and can lead to pain in your shoulders, back, hips, knees, and other joints.
Regular strength training can help you prevent and relieve many of these problems. Muscles and bones that can support your body make it easier to walk, climb stairs, and stay active—without pain.
All it takes is two days of strength training each week. You can use dumbbells, resistance bands, or gym machines if you’d like. But you can even strength train without special equipment. Two options: Use a chair to support you as you sit and stand or use a wall for pushups.
3. Help Prevent Falls with Balance Training
Falls are one of the most common and serious health problems older adults face. In fact, one in four older Americans fall each year, which can lead to a broken hip or a head injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s never too early to start working on your balance. Include balance activities at least once a week, but if you can, try adding them up to three times a week. Luckily, many strength-training moves, particularly ones where you stand on one leg, may also count as balance training. Yoga and tai chi are terrific balance boosters, too.