Do you want to get in shape without running the circuit of exercise equipment like a gym rat or being observed like a lab rat?
Whether you feel it’s unsafe, too expensive, or just feel you aren’t gym material, you can get in shape on your own. And it doesn’t mean investing hundreds of dollars in workout equipment to build your own circuit.
Like any Do-it-Yourself project, it just takes a little creativity.
“Some of the best physical activities for your body don’t require the gym or ask you to get fit enough to run a marathon,” says an article on the Harvard Medical School website called “5 of the Best Exercises You Can Ever Do.”
The site suggests there are natural means to: Lose weight, increase your range of motion, strengthen your bones, protect your joints, create better bladder control and minimize memory loss. And these methods apply to all age and fitness levels.
As a fitness choice, there are as many mental advantages to swimming as there are physical benefits, says Lynn Hetzler, in an article for Livestrong called “Mental and Physical Benefits of Swimming.”
“Swimming is the second most popular sport in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” Hetzler says. “Kids love to swim at the pool or the beach but this healthful activity is not just for children. Adults who engage in swimming are healthier and happier than people who live a sedentary lifestyle. You even gain mental and physical benefits from regular swimming as a senior citizen.”
For joint pain, Harvard Medical School researchers refer to swimming as “the perfect workout” because the buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly.
“Swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it’s less weight-bearing,” explains Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
A Chinese martial art using stylized meditative exercise, tai chi began as an ancient discipline, but gains more attention for its health benefits.
The definition of t’ai chi ch’uan is “supreme ultimate boxing.” Its slow, circular movements offer those who practice the art a combination of movement and relaxation, which cause some to call it “meditation in motion,” according to Harvard Medical School.
“Tai chi is made up of a series of graceful movements, one transitioning smoothly into the next,” says the Harvard website. “Because the classes are offered at various levels, tai chi is accessible — and valuable — for people of all ages and fitness levels.”
Dr. Lee persuades older patients to utilize the martial arts, because it promotes better balance.
Tai chi is a complementary treatment with chiropractic care for patients with neck pain, say researchers from the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America in an article written for the National Center for Biotechnology Information. “No obvious single treatment modality has been shown to be most efficacious,” says the abstract of the article. “As such, the clinician should consider alternative treatment modalities if a modality is engaging, financially feasible, potentially efficacious, and is low risk for the patient.”
It isn’t necessary to buy an extensive workout set for your home, even if you choose to DIY strength training. Dr. Lee says that just light lifting will give individuals the added strength they need without causing muscles to gain excess bulk. “If you don’t use muscles, they will lose their strength over time,” Dr. Lee says.
Creating muscle burns calories, adding to a person’s efforts to trim down. And like other forms of exercise, it can improve brain function.
Consulting your chiropractor before launching into a weight training program is a good idea. An article by Ken Nakamura for Bodi Empowerment, a sports medicine website, offers specific tips for lifting with proper posture. He advises “butt lifting” over the conventional method of lifting with a straight back, which he says puts undue strain on the discs and ligaments. He also discusses the use of backbelts and supports if you move forward with a larger weightlifting plan.
But begin slowly. You want to learn proper form before randomly lifting free weights and start light, with just one or two pounds, the Harvard website says. You should be able to lift the weights 10 times with ease. After a couple of weeks, increase that by a pound or two.
It may be the exercise you didn’t know you needed. It’s also one that everyone does without giving it any extra thought, and its best feature is that no one but you knows you’re exercising.
Pregnant women are taught to do this hidden motion to counteract the incontinence that sometimes follows pregnancy and delivery.
“One of the most effective methods of treating incontinence, and avoiding surgery, is strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor by using Kegel exercises,” says Elaine Stillerman, LMT, in an article for Massage Today. “These exercises were developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel to treat postpartum incontinence by restoring functional integrity to the pelvic floor and improving urethral and rectal sphincter function.”
The exercise benefits both men and women. Squeeze, or contract, the muscles you would use to prevent yourself from urinating. After two or three seconds, relax. Repeat this 10 times, being sure to relax your pelvic floor after each.
“It might take several weeks before most people notice a difference, but it’s well worth the effort,” Stillerman says. “When done correctly, Kegel exercises are 50-80 percent effective in improving urinary incontinence. That sure beats the alternatives.”
If you can do four or five sets a day, it should strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to support the bladder adequately. If not, consult your chiropractic care professional. He or she can do manual muscle tests for impairments in the lumbar spine and pelvic region.
Another low-maintenance exercise you can do alone or with friends, walking is a good go-to method of fitness, particularly if more vigorous means aren’t possible.
“It’s simple, yet powerful,” the Harvard article says. “A number of studies have shown that walking and other physical activities can even improve memory and resist age-related memory loss.”
The benefits of walking may include:
- Staying trim
- Improving cholesterol levels
- Strengthening bones
- Keeping blood pressure in check
- Lifting your mood
- Lowering your risk for a number of diseases (diabetes and heart disease, for example)
You may need to purchase appropriate shoes, but aside from that, you can get going today. You can begin with just 10-15 minutes at a time, increasing your distance and speed as you are able.
To maximize your success, a visit to your chiropractic professional is in order. Karen Erickson, DC, FACC was speaking for the American Chiropractic Association when she said in an interview with Shape Magazine: “Most people don’t walk with proper alignment. From all of the sitting that we do during the day, our hip flexors are tight, so we walk with our hips flexed, our back arched and our bum behind us.”
That goes for many of our everyday activities, from gardening to playing with the kids.
“As long as you’re doing some form of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and you include two days of strength training a week, you can consider yourself an “active” person,” say experts at Harvard Medical School.
This is a DIY project with big benefits. And it doesn’t involve quilting squares or chalkboard paint.
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