Walking remains one of the most accessible and effective forms of physical activity for many people. Not only does it burn calories and improve heart health, research has shown that it can improve your mood and reduce tension. Use these ideas to find easy ways to walk more.
Take a Day Hike
Add some exploration to your weekend routine and plan a day hike. Whether you have access to coastal trails, deep forests, or mountains, weekend hiking is a great way to move more without making exercise feel like a chore. Pack a few healthy snacks and water, gather your family or friends, and set out to explore your area. Research shows that lower intensity, longer duration activities like hiking can improve blood cholesterol levels, improve insulin function, and burn calories for weight loss.
Give Yourself a Mental Break
Work stress and family conflicts affect everyone. Regular mental breaks are necessary to get your mind off of the problem and to help you brainstorm effective solutions. A 10 to 15 minute walk gives you a break from your current environment, adds exercise to your day, and leaves you feeling mentally refreshed. Don’t wait for a problem to arise before you take advantage of walking. Take regular breaks throughout your day to walk away stress.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone with an Active Commute
Walking to work, or to complete errands, can be challenging due to distance or lack of a pedestrian-friendly route. Investigate ways you can make a portion of your commute active. Can you walk to a coworker's house and then carpool from there? Can you walk to complete your errands or to meetings once you are at the office? Every little bit helps your health, so don’t get overwhelmed with the feeling that you need to complete a full five-mile commute to get exercise.
Always Be Prepared
You are likely faced with many opportunities to walk throughout the day, but you may be unprepared. Arriving early, waiting for a phone call, or a casual business meeting are all opportunities to squeeze in 10 to 15 minutes. Keep your tennis shoes nearby, or even better, invest in casual dress shoes that are designed with the comfort and support necessary for walking.
Muscle tension and tightness can contribute to back pain, making core flexibility an important factor in keeping your back healthy and pain free. Stretches that gently elongate the back muscles should be a regular part of your core strengthening routine. Ease into these stretches, and hold each for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to three times.
Move onto your hands and knees on the floor. Position your knees so that they are hip-width apart and your hands so that they are about shoulder-width apart. Contract your stomach muscles as you round your back and slightly tuck your chin. Release the stretch and return to a flat back before repeating.
Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Rotate your upper body to the right, and place your right hand at the edge of the chair where the back of the chair meets the seat. Place the left hand on the edge of the seat, just under your right thigh. Sit up tall as you rotate at the torso and stretch the back muscles. Slowly return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side by rotating to the left.
Knees to Chest
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly pull your right knee into your chest. Grasp your your leg at the top of your shin and gently pull the knee in closer. Return the right leg to the starting position, and repeat the stretch with your left leg. Next, pull both knees in towards your chest at the same time. To deepen the stretch, as you pull one leg into your chest, extend the opposite leg out along the floor.
Seated Forward Bend
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet flexed. Sit up straight and raise your arms straight up in the air over your head. Gently bend forward at the waist as you reach your arms out towards your feet. Let your hands rest wherever is comfortable, such as at your knees, shins, ankles, or feet. Reach only as far as you feel a stretch with slight discomfort, not pain. To deepen the stretch, you can grasp the end of a rolled towel or yoga strap in each hand and wrap it around the balls of your feet. Gently pull the towel towards you as you bend forward into the stretch.
Your goals will be your number one priority when you set out to adopt healthier habits. As time goes on, without constant reminders, you may lose sight of why you started. To stay motivated and persevere, it’s important to keep the focus on your fitness goals.
Hang them up
Physically keeping your goals in plain sight helps you make smart choices when you are faced with tough decisions, like what to eat and whether or not to skip the gym. Write down your goals and use them to help guide your choices at the moment you need to make a decision. Stick them on the refrigerator and the snack drawer, list them on your daily calendar, hang them near your computer monitor, or set regular reminders on your smartphone.
A strong support system is important for reaching your fitness goals. Don’t keep your goals to yourself. Share them with those who you know will support you. These people can help cheer you on when you feel discouraged and join you in celebrating your successes.
Add short sessions of meditation to your day that allow you to focus on your end goal. When you visualize yourself accomplishing it, this can boost your confidence and motivation to keep you on track.
Incorporate regular rewards
Don’t let small accomplishments go unnoticed. Incorporate rewards for each small step you conquer towards your goal. These rewards serve as reminders that you are working towards something worthwhile and continuing to make progress.
Revise them when necessary
Your goals should change as you do. As you lose weight, drop clothing sizes, or run further you will need to continue to set new goals to stay motivated. It’s also important to remember that the goals you set when you first start out may not be a good fit for you as you progress. Perhaps a scheduling conflict makes it impossible to attend a fitness class, or it turns out you’d rather jog than walk. Revisit your goals often and make sure they are challenging enough to keep you motivated.
Performing well during exercise is important to get the results you want. Your performance is dependent not only on a challenging workout, but also your exercise recovery. Check out some of this affordable exercise gear that can improve your workout and your recovery so that you can give your best during every exercise session.
A foam roller is a cylinder-shaped piece of firm foam used to give you a mini-massage that lengthens and stretches the muscles. Regular foam rolling has been found to decrease muscle soreness and improve range of motion.
Leg sleeves are one of the many forms of compression clothing that have gained recent popularity. While most research has not found a direct link between compression sleeves and better exercise performance, studies have shown that they may help with exercise recovery. In some cases, leg sleeves have been found to reduce muscle soreness.
A tennis ball is a simple piece of equipment that can be used to massage and stretch small target areas. For example, you can place the ball on the floor and put your foot over it. Then, slowly move your foot around to massage the soles of the feet. In a similar way, the balls can also be used to massage specific areas of the upper back.
Performing your strength training routine with exercise bands allows you to challenge your muscles in a new way. The bands are a great alternative to add variety to your routine. They are also ideal for traveling and can be used during stretching exercises to improve flexibility.
A study by the American Council on Exercise rated crunches on the exercise ball number 3 among numerous exercises tested for effectiveness. The exercise ball can also be used to improve balance and challenge smaller muscle groups while performing moves like push-ups and shoulder presses. It can also be used during stretching -- especially for the upper and lower back, abdominals, and hamstrings.
Swimming offers an effective low-impact workout, and it adds a new activity to spice up a boring routine. If you’ve been thinking about adding swimming to your workouts, use these tips to get started.
Don’t Overdo It On Gear
All you need to start swimming is a training swimsuit and goggles. Most people also prefer to wear a swim cap to keep hair dry and away from your face. A waterproof watch can be helpful, but isn’t absolutely necessary if there is a clock at the pool to help you track your exercise time.
Start with the Basics
Begin by identifying your goals. Do you want to simply include swimming as another form of exercise, or do you have a long-term goal of competing in a triathlon? Once you know what you’d like to accomplish, get yourself familiar with the pool.
Consider taking an aquatics class or grabbing a kickboard to do simple laps when you start out. Give yourself time to get acquainted with how it feels to exercise in the water and to learn what your fitness level will allow. When you are ready to start swimming laps, the standard freestyle stroke is the best place to start. From there, you can determine if swimming freestyle for 30 minutes a few times a week is what you need to reach your goals, or if you’ll need to become familiar with other strokes, speeds, and distances to compete in an event.
Find a Convenient Pool Time
If you aren’t comfortable with being in a crowded pool, plan to visit at different times throughout the day to find one that is less busy. Most recreation centers and gyms have free swim times when the pool is not being used for lessons or classes. Experiment with completing your swim workouts early in the morning, taking a late lunch break, or later in the evening when group classes have ended.
Seek Out Basic Instruction
There are several things you will need to master to swim efficiently. Breathing with water coming at your face and creating a rhythm with your breathing can be difficult. Be patient with yourself and take breaks as you need them. You can practice strokes and kicks on dry land before you hit the water to ensure you understand proper form. If you are completely new to swimming, seek out a beginner class at your local recreation center, or hire a swim coach to learn the basics and assess your performance in the water. Often just a session or two can help you get the hang of things, and then you can return to solo workouts to apply what you learned.