There is no excuse for not exercising when you can do these 10 exercises at home or when traveling, and no equipment is necessary!
Exercise is vital as we age, yet many people stop moving as they get older, which can cause a vicious cycle to begin. The less you move, the more your muscles atrophy, which contributes to weight gain and muscle and joint pain. The more weight we carry and the more we hurt, the less we want to exercise. The key to avoiding this cycle is to keep moving in any way you can.
Some of the benefits of exercising include:
- Building or maintaining muscle mass
- Maintaining bone density
- Burning excess calories to aid in weight loss
- Stimulate new brain synapses to keep mentally fit and avoid memory loss
- Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
Here are 10 easy exercises you can do at home. For numbers three through ten, begin with 8-10 repetitions of each and see if you can build up to two to three sets of 8-10 repetitions of each.
- Walking: Walking outdoors in the sunshine can be a great mood-booster as well as good physical exercise, but if you can’t walk outdoors due to weather or safety issues, walk in your home, in the hallways of your building, or in a shopping mall. Push yourself to increase your pace as you go and aim for a minimum of 20 minutes of continuous walking.
- Wall Sit: The wall sit is a good exercise for strengthening your hips, thighs, and abdominal muscles. Stand with your back against the wall and your feet about 12-18 inches from the wall. Slide your back down the wall, lowering your hips into a semi-sitting position. Hold the sitting position as long as you can. You may only be able to lower a few inches or hold it for only a few seconds, but as you continue to practice the wall sit over time, try to sit lower, and hold it longer.
- Squats: A squat is the exact movement you perform to sit on the toilet or into a chair. In fact, you can use the toilet seat or a chair as a guide. Stand in front of the toilet or chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your hips just to the level of the seat, barely touching it but not resting on it, and then stand up. It’s important that your hips lower behind your feet, keeping your knees over your feet. If you lower yourself with your hips in line with your feet, so that your knees extend past your toes, you put too much pressure on your knees and don’t use your hip muscles properly.
- Push-Ups: You may think of push-ups as an advanced exercise, but they don’t have to be. You can begin by performing push-ups against a wall for the least amount of resistance. Stand with your feet arms-length from the wall and your hands flat on the wall. Bend your elbows, bringing your head and chest as close to the wall as you can, then push yourself back to your standing-straight-up position. Next try them against a counter-top, then move to the edge of a sturdy chair or bench (placed against a wall so it won’t slide.) As you progress to a lower height, the resistance increases. Finally, move to the floor where you can start with your knees on the floor. If you can do a push-up in a full plank position with your knees off the floor, you are a push-up master!
- Hip Bridges: Hip bridges are excellent for maintaining strength in your hips and hamstrings and can help relieve lower back pain. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet close to your buttocks. Lift your hips off the floor, squeezing your buttocks muscles as your rise. Try to hold your hips at the level of your knees, but no higher, for a second or two before releasing back to the floor. If you have trouble getting down on the floor, you can perform hip bridges on your bed.
- Abdominal Crunches: Maintaining strong abdominal muscles is also important for preventing back pain. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows out wide. Lift your head and shoulders, and as you do so, think about pulling your navel towards your spine and pressing your lower back into the floor. Lower your head and shoulders back down. It’s important to focus on your breathing and not hold your breath during this or any exercise. This exercise can also be done on your bed if you aren’t able to get down on the floor.
- Arm Circles: Arm circles can help you maintain flexibility and strength in your shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms stretched out to your sides. Make small circles forward, without bending your elbows. Then repeat reversing the direction. You can play with the movement, making the circles larger and smaller, as you wish.
- Calf Raises: Calf raises strengthen the muscles in your calves and feet. This exercise can help you with balance as well. Stand straight up and press up onto your toes, then lower down. You can hold onto a chair back, the wall, or a countertop if you need help balancing. You can also try performing calf raises on one leg at a time.
- Chair Dips: Chair dips strengthen your arms and shoulders. Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair, up against a wall so it will not slide or tip. Place your hands on the edge of the chair with your fingers wrapped over the seat edge and your feet planted flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the edge of the seat. Bend your elbows so that your hips lower down in front of the seat. Push back up, extending your arms straight. Make sure you are bending and straightening your elbows and not just dipping your hips down and up.
- Step-Ups: Step-ups are a good exercise for strengthening the legs and hips and helping with balance. All you need is a step in your home, or a small sturdy stool or bench. If you are using a stool or bench, place it against a wall so it doesn’t slide and so you can hold onto the wall for balance. Simply step up and down on the step, making sure to stand all the way up straight each time you step up. Do one set stepping up with the right foot, and another set stepping up with the left foot.
In addition to these exercises, perform stretching exercises daily to maintain joint flexibility, and increase blood flow to the muscles. You might also try some simple yoga poses like the ones demonstrated in these videos from AARP. Yoga strengthens and stretches the muscles and helps you focus on breathing, which reduces stress. Whatever form of exercise you choose, the important thing is to keep moving!