1. Safety first
Stress is a positive force that challenges the body, and in doing so, helps sustain physical resilience and build strength. Strain is an excess of force that causes deformation (including injury). We want to stress the body, but not strain it.
Please be careful when trying new physical exercises and techniques, especially if it has been a while since undertaking similar activities. As always, consult a physician before making dramatic lifestyle changes.
2. Maintain posture
Gravity is one of the many forces of the physical world working against us. It constantly pulls at us. So, pull back. Without doing so, over time your skeletal frame will slowly bend to the will of gravity.
Routinely assess your posture while sitting, standing, walking, and conducting work or play on your phone or computer. Ask for an objective, third-party assessment. Consider having a friend use a yardstick to check your alignment. When viewed from the side, the ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should form a vertical line.
Make a conscious effort to sit more erectly, stand more erectly, and walk, work, and play more erectly. Adjust your behaviors (e.g., hold your book higher or throw your shoulders back when standing and chatting with a friend) and your environment (e.g., raise your computer screen to a level eyesight) to help improve your posture.
If you are over thirty, poor posture may already have had a deleterious impact. Efforts to correct one’s posture may seem uncomfortable at first but press on. This will take time and effort, but it is critical to quality of life, especially in the later years.
3. Sit less; stand more
The average U.S. adult sits for 6.5 hours each day (7 to 10 hours for office workers). U.S. teenagers sit for an average of more than 8 hours a day! Because of this, many of us have become less physically capable and more physically vulnerable. Sedentary habits lead to back problems, muscle atrophy, circulation issues, weight gain, and more, all of which work to further thwart the pursuit of an active lifestyle.
In pursuit of “sit less; stand more,” consider the use of a standing desk. Doing so will strengthen the legs, improve posture, and burn more calories.
Walk: walk and explore, walk and listen, walk and learn, and walk and talk. Walk by yourself, walk with your partner, walk with your family, walk with your dog, walk with a friend or even a new neighbor or acquaintance. Just walk. As little as 30 minutes of walking several times a week can have a positive effect on your physical health, as well as your disposition.
Recent studies even suggest a relationship between faster walking and improved mental capability. So, step lively! And, do not be discouraged if you cannot walk at a faster pace for long times or distances. Even walking faster for intervals—fixed distances or periods of time—will not only aid the brain but raise your metabolism and heart rate and burn extra calories in the process.
5. Adopt an enjoyable endurance exercise
Endurance exercises—physical activities performed for a prolonged period of time—challenge the respiratory and cardiovascular systems to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Endurance exercises are aerobic exercises and are often referred to as “cardio” (short for cardiovascular) exercises.
There are many popular endurance-building exercises from which to choose. Consider adopting any of the following provided in approximate order of ease to initiate:
- Walking: Easy and impactful.
- Hiking: You might need a better pair of shoes, but the great outdoors awaits.
- Calisthenics: Sixty seconds of jumping jacks each day can have a positive impact.
- Jump rope: A heightened degree of difficulty.
- Running: Again, have the right shoes. The calorie burn rate is higher than walking, and lung capacity can be challenged more quickly.
- Dancing: A great exercise for endurance and coordination. Also, a great way to enhance a relationship.
- Rowing: Whether on the water or a machine, a great full-body exercise.
- Biking: Whether a road performance bike for the more serious-minded or a hybrid for those who want an opportunity to take in a bit more scenery along the way, get out there and ride.
- Swimming: A wonderful, low-impact exercise that mixes in a degree of tranquility with the effort.
To reap meaningful benefits from a given activity, sustainability is essential. Sustainability is easier when you choose something enjoyable. Given your personal circumstances, choose an activity that can be done conveniently, frequently, and enjoyably.
A word of warning: Impact exercises like jump rope or calisthenics can really aid in promoting bone health. But some such exercises, like long-distance running, can cause repetitive motion injuries when done in excess due to the continuous pounding on the ankles, knees, and hips.
6. Practice coordination skills
Coordination is the integrated functioning of the mind and body to accomplish a complicated set of movements and/or tasks. This capability can be expanded to the benefit of both mind and body (as well as self-confidence). Challenge yourself with some new, challenging, and helpful coordination activities to include:
- Dancing…all types
- A new sport, perhaps kickboxing, ping pong, pickle ball, etc.
- Conducting tasks with the opposite (or weak) arm/hand or leg/foot
Some sources suggest that 10,000 repetitions are essential to help achieve some level of mastery of any such new skill. So, get busy.
7. Take pride in the physical you
A little bit of personal vanity can be a good thing. Take time to:
- Look in the mirror and assess improvements made and opportunity areas to be pursued. Stand tall and suck in that gut when doing so to help envision the next version of yourself.
- Wear clothing (both professionally and casually) that complements your look. Engage unbiased professionals to suggest what best fits your specific body type.
- Maintain proper hygiene and grooming. Looking old is often a matter of hair in new and unusual places. Remove or trim it!
- Use lotions to moisturize skin and create a younger-looking you in real-time and defer (if not prevent) the negative impacts of aging.
- Consider applying a subtle fragrance pleasing to yourself and others.
A modicum of effort in this area can help fuel both your aspirations and efforts toward greater physical well-being.
8. Consider the use of a personal trainer or a motivated partner
Peer pressure is a powerful force. If affordable, a personal trainer can help by adding needed discipline along with bespoke guidance right for you.
Not affordable but needed? Try linking with a partner of similar, or at least compatible, ambitions. Additionally, consider a virtual friend in the form of workout videos. You would be surprised at the level of motivation and action a favorite online coach can inspire.
9. Build routines
Daily routines can enhance discipline, which can lead to execution, which can lead to gains. Consider adding some of the following examples to your day:
Start the day with a small workout. An example routine might include 10 minutes to perform the following:
- 60 seconds of a forward bend stretch
- 10 or more pushups
- 60 seconds of a plank exercise
- 20 or more scissor kicks
- Squat hold for 60 seconds
During your workday, stop for the occasional minute to perform a quick set of pushups or strike and hold a balancing pose. On breaks or when proceeding to lunch, take the stairs and/or take a short walkabout.
Combine tasks during planned breaks in your exercise routine. Example: Perform a strenuous exercise set, and then use your rest period to do a bit of housework or read a tedious email, etc. Repeat till your exercise target is met.
10. Monitor personal performance
Feedback in the way of performance data is always instructive and can be motivating.
- Use a fitness watch to measure critical parameters during physical activity (e.g., distance, heart rate).
- Use a weight scale that transmits key body measurements to an accompanying fitness app.
- Keep count of time expended or repetitions completed.
- Regularly assess your posture and form while you exercise. Ask a workout partner to provide objective feedback.
- Record personal data and review for trends. Take note of factors before, during, and after an activity to gain helpful insights.
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