The Best Summer Exercises For You
By Kristin Anderson
Everyone knows the benefits of exercise: It burns calories and makes you stronger, leaner and less stressed. For women over 50, there are other pluses to consider: increased flexibility, stronger injury prevention, and a better quality of life. And exercise has also been shown to tame hot flashes, joint pain, anxiety, depression and sleep problems while reducing the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
Sounds great, but how do you develop a good exercise routine? Start small. Nothing will be achieved if you don’t do anything or work out so strenuously that you won’t do it a second time. Find exercises and activities that you like and will stay with. That’s especially easy now that it’s summer!
Here are a few activities that will help you get all of the above benefits with a low risk of getting injured. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Walking or Hiking These activities force your body to navigate terrain and elements. You are managing your body temperature and respiratory system around the wind, sun, air temperature and humidity level. Your feet, ankles, knees, hips and trunk are managing terrain such as uneven ground, curbs, leaves, debris, other cars, and people. Walking more briskly in the middle portion of your walk or taking on a hill or set of stairs is a great way to really bump up your results. (Don’t start with a climb that’s too steep, though!) If the weather is too hot or it's raining, you can mimic this workout by using a treadmill and varying your speed and incline every 1/10th of a mile. You don't need big increases in incline. Just .5% or 1% different in incline or decline with a .2-.5mph change in speed will give you exactly what you need. You can also add light hand weights or practice not holding on for intervals in the middle of your exercise session.
Tai Chi or Yoga Outdoors Both of these activities give you all of the benefits listed above and much more. It’s hard to put into words, but when you experience them, you will understand how people get hooked. Check your local park and rec centers for inexpensive classes to try. Give it a shot if you never have and get back into it if you used to. I promise you will be glad you did. If you can’t find a class outdoors or in a public space, look to drop into one a local studio. I have a lot of clients who do not get into Tai Chi or yoga until their mid 50s, 60s and even 70s. Every last person is grateful they finally did.
Swimming A great workout, and almost anyone can do it safely and effectively. Whether you simply walk through the water using your arms to help move you, take an aqua aerobics class or swim laps, you are enhancing your cardio, strength, coordination and flexibility.
Outdoor Training (Part 1 of a Routine) After you really get going on your routine, this kind of workout should be done at least once or twice a week. First, find an area that you are going to use as your “workout space.” It can be as small as your driveway or yard. The area must have two different surfaces to step up and down on (stairs of different heights, such as a stoop). You also need a wall, tree, bench, pole or other stable surface that can easily hold your body weight to lean on, and a little bit of room to walk or jog. I suggest doing this two to five times in a row on each day you do the routine.
Warm up: Walk for 3-5 minutes around the perimeter of your exercise area.
Step Exercise #1--Step up and down off the lower surface of the curb or stair you're working with. Lead with the same leg for ten reps or 30 seconds. Repeat immediately with your other leg leading. If you need to, hold on to something sturdy. Eventually you want to work up to not holding on AND not looking at your feet. Ultimately you want your muscles to react to the step by just feeling it. This kind of Neuro-Reflexive Programming (NRP) will save you from falling if you ever stumble.
Click through for Part 2 of this routine
Outdoor Training (Part 2 of a Routine) Push-ups against wall, tree, bench or pole--With your arms extended in front of you at slightly below chest height, put your hands on the wall or sturdy object with elbows slightly bent, and take two steps backwards. Do not move your arms. Your weight should shift onto the balls of your feet and your heels may naturally lift a little. Now, your body is at a slant. This is your starting position. From here inhale and bend your arms, letting your elbows come out to the sides until you are almost touching the wall or sturdy object. Exhale as your tighten your stomach and press back to your starting position, straightening your arms. Always keep your shoulders down and your abs tight. Do ten to 20 push-ups.
Step Exercise #2--Step up and down on the higher surface of the curb or stair you're working with. Just as you did with the lower surface earlier in the routine, step up and down ten times with each leg leading, working up to not holding on or looking down.
Arm Circles—Do these at a height and size that is comfortable for your shoulders. Do 50 circles in each direction.
Walk in a circle or jog in place for 1 minute.
If the weather is bad, you can also do this routine in your home or gym.
Biking Biking is great by yourself or with someone else. The balance is built right in, and you can control how hard you work. The most important thing to remember in a bike is to keep your stomach pulled in tight at all times to work your abs. When you are done, be sure to stretch your quads, calves and hamstrings!
Finally: Protect Yourself! While you’re enjoying the outdoors, don’t forget to guard against the elements. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and light-colored, thin, long-sleeved shirts and pants. If you feel dizzy or faint, stop immediately. Make sure you’re hydrated, and drink water regularly even if you don’t feel thirsty. Once you start exercising outdoors, you're likely to enjoy it so much that you'll continue doing it during the rest of the year as well!
About the Author
Kristin Anderson, a trainer with studios in San Francisco and Los Angeles, believes a “mixed-method” approach to fitness that uses various types of workouts to develop power, agility, endurance and balance. Anderson has developed an M-Train fitness app for the iPhone and iPod touch. You can find out more about M-Train and Kristin’s work by visiting www.mydailytrainer.com.