Let’s face it: not everyone is an athlete.
Many people get a racier heartrate by thinking about having to exercise, than in actual exercise on any given day. While few people have the desire to run a marathon (why run when nothing is chasing you?), all of us want to live long, healthy lives. It is true that vitality without exercise, in the long run, is as likely as a shark attack in winter – which is incidentally still more likely than winning the lottery – so what is a gym phobic to do?
Breathe easy, we bear good tidings. The Harvard Medical School has identified five physical activities that will keep your weight under control, improve your balance and range of motion, strengthen your bones, protect your joints, prevent bladder control problems, and even ward off memory loss – without making you heave and sweat like a sumo wrestler in a heat wave.
The gentle, no impact motion in light resistance makes swimming the ideal full-body workout. The buoyancy of the water supports joints making your movements more, well, fluid. Anything from walking through the water without getting your hair wet, to swimming laps carry significant health benefits. Just being in water can lift your mood and improve your mental state.
- Mindful exercise like Pilates
Although not strictly meditational like yoga, Pilates places emphasis on linking deep breathing with movement which enhances the mind-body connection. Using smooth, controlled actions it is accessible to people of all fitness levels and if practiced regularly, develops long, lean muscles that are flexible and strong. Pilates offers long term relief from back ache and other niggles originating from tight muscles and bad posture. Entering a Pilates studio is a peaceful, harmonious feeling, belying the amount of exertion required of deep muscle fibres. The quietness of the studio and the deep breathing brings you as close to nirvana as is possible in 45minutes and will leave you feeling like you’ve been on a little holiday. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating. It’s that good. And you don’t need any special gear – not even shoes.
- Strength Training
Relax, you don’t have to become a macho steroid junkie with apelike forearms but with muscles, as with most things in life, it is use it or lose it. Muscles lose their strength over time if not worked properly. Why do you need strong muscles? To do everyday things like climbing stairs, carrying groceries and walking beyond your forties. Muscle also helps burn calories making it easier to maintain a healthy weight and strength training even improves bone density which can prevent osteoporosis. It is crucial to have good posture and to start light, increasing the intensity as muscles get stronger. Bodyweight exercises (like Pilates) and resistance bands can deliver the same benefits as bulky free weights and weight machines. Planking is a simple strength building exercise almost anyone can safely try with much benefit.
Aaah, the power of simplicity. A simple stroll around the neighbourhood can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check, lift your mood, and lower your risk for a number of diseases (diabetes and heart disease, for example) and even fix that malfunctioning memory of yours. Start with only 10 minutes and work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days to get all the benefits of this age-old activity. It makes a great family activity too!
- Kegel exercises
You didn’t see that one coming right? While Kegel exercises won’t improve your fitness levels, they do strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, and small intestine. They benefit men and women alike and should be part of every healthy person’s daily routine. You’ll thank us one day. Promise.
So there you have it: a (mostly) sweat-free, heave-free list of most beneficial exercises for a long, healthy life. Add to that wholesome food, good hydration and a quick to forgive, slow to take offense attitude, and you have a fool-proof recipe for longevity and happiness.