Contributed by Dr. Amy Whittington, Trilogy’s Naturopathic Physician
There are lots of reasons that exercise is important. Staying active contributes to a longer life because of its many physical health benefits, but it also improves your quality of life, giving you more energy, keeping your mind sharp, improving your sleep, and boosting your overall mood.
As an active adult, one challenge is to find activities that are less intense than those you might have enjoyed in your younger years (like running or kickboxing). If you’re seeking out a good way to get in shape but want to take it a little easier, here are a few excellent activities to consider:
Pilates – Pilates combines exercises that improve core strength and stability and balanced flexibility. It is a great addition to a walking or other cardio routine since its focus is strengthening abdominal muscles and improving the posture. You can take Pilates classes at Trilogy if you live here—or buy a DVD and do them at home with a Pilates or exercise mat.
Yoga – Yoga has a rich history, founded close to 2,000 years ago when the Indian sage Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutra, a compilation of “words of wisdom” that guide Yoga practice and theory as we know it today. Yoga combines physical exercises (different postures) with breathing and meditative exercises. “Classic” yoga is hatha yoga, which combines asanas (postures), pranayama (regulated breathing), Dharana and Dhyana (meditation) and kundalini (energy). As you get more into yoga, you’ll discover a wide variety of other types, like vinyasa yoga (faster pace, continuous movement), and Bikram yoga (a series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises practiced in a heated room).
Tai chi – Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that involves a series of movements combined with deep breathing. Some call it “meditation in motion” for its slow, graceful flow. Tai chi is a relaxing activity that decreases stress, increases energy, improves balance and agility, and has been shown to lower blood pressure. Once you become familiar with tai chi, you can practice it anywhere: in the comfort of your home, outdoors on a calm, beautiful day, or in a class setting.
Swimming – For those with joint pain, swimming is a wonderful choice of resistance training. Swimming is obviously great cardiovascular exercise, but it also activates the body’s largest muscle groups, so it’s good for overall toning and muscle building. If you’re a proficient swimmer, swim laps using different types of strokes. If not, you can still reap benefits through water aerobics or walking or treading water.
Bodyweight training – If the idea of bench presses and barbell squats makes you nervous, try bodyweight exercises, a less-intimidating alternative to weightlifting that still builds strength and muscle. Because you’re using your own weight, bodyweight training is convenient and can be done anywhere. Some of the best bodyweight movements for active adults are pushups or chair pushups, lunges, planks, wall squats, and chair dips.
Exercise is important for your well-being, but if you’re in a rut or just looking for something new, incorporate one or two of these activities into your exercise routine. They’re easy entry and low impact, so you can give them a try without putting yourself at risk for injury. It’s a new year, after all, and a perfect time to try something different!