Our Top 10 Exercises to Build a Healthy Body and Mind
Doing daily exercise will have huge benefits to your daily life.
As well as giving you more energy, it will strengthen your muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons so that you are less likely to injure yourself while doing daily activities.
It will improve your mood and feelings of well-being, and recent studies have shown that it will also improve memory and cognition, the list of benefits is extensive and covered in another article on this website, suffice it to say that it really is worth the effort.
The exercise routine you do depends very much on where you are at this moment with your fitness. There’s no point attempting to run five miles if you are new to running, you’ll probably just hurt your joints and/or feel terrible afterwards.
With this in mind, each exercise below can be adjusted depending on whether you are a fitness novice or more advanced.
The most basic, but also one of the most beneficial exercises. Walking stimulates the cardiovascular system – the heart, lungs and circulation, it strengthens the bones and muscles of the legs, strengthens the core muscles and spine, and can help alleviate back problems.
Walking has a low barrier to entry, just about everyone can manage a 5 minute amble to the shops, which can be turned into a 30 minute power walk when your fitness level allows it.
Another excellent all-rounder exercise. Swimming burns lots of calories, and exercises a larger range of muscles than many other exercises, everything from your legs, core and arms will get a workout.
It can also be useful for people who suffer joint pain, as it take the weight off knees and ankles.
To start off try 30 minutes slow swimming up and down the pool, and when you feel comfortable doing this you can try counting number of lengths that you can do in 30 minutes, and try to beat your score with each session.
3) Racquet Sports
Racquet sports are great fun, and much more sociable than some other exercises.
You can start with badminton, which is suitable for older or less fit people to begin with but can become more of a workout as you and your partners skill level increases.
Badminton is also works well when playing doubles. If badminton is a bit lightweight for you then squash or tennis will give you a more serious workout. Racquet sports have the advantage of being social so you are much more likely to actually turn up for a pre-arranged match rather than make excuses, which you might do for a solo workout.
4) Strength Training
The aim is not to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but simply to strengthen the muscles you have, this will also strengthen the joints and reduce the likely hood of injury.
A short routine of lifting weights will give you the strength to do other exercises without damaging yourself. Start off light, you should be able to do 5-10 reps before your muscles get tired. If you can do more than 12 then its time to increase the weight.
Perhaps not the most fun of exercises but one of the best ways build strength in the upper body and core muscles. If you struggle with push-ups you can do them with your knees on the floor to start with.
If you can do 10-15 push-ups easily the next stage is to try twist push-ups, where at the top of your push-up, you lift one hand high in the air, put it back down again and do the same on the other side. Advanced level push-ups – try one handed and clap-push-ups.
While pushups give your upper body and core a workout, squats give your legs the same treatment. Squats work on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles, as well as strengthening the joints of the ankle and knees.
If you can easily do more than 12 squats try holding a couple of dumbbells or kettlebells. Some people find squats very easy, even with weights, in which case you might want to do either single leg squats, or lunges instead.
Lunges work out similar muscles to squats, except basically one leg at a time, and extra effort is needed by the core muscles to keep you upright.
7) Sit Ups and Crunches
Another basic but staple exercise of any routine. Sit ups target the core abdominal muscles that will help with your posture and help prevent back injuries.
If you are already suffering from a weak back you might want to do crunches instead. The next level is to try and touch your knee with the opposite elbow on each sit-up or crunch.
These can be considered the hardcore of the simple exercises, there’s no easy way to do a burpee.
On the other hand if you are short of time they can be a good way to get a intense burst of exercise in little time, and with no equipment.
If you are not familiar with them here’s what they involve: From a standing position, squat down, place your hands on the floor, jump out with your feet into a pushup position, do a pushup, jump your feet back in again, come back to the squat position, and jump in the air and land back into your starting position.
9) Dips, or Reverse Plank
These are essentially pushups, but where you are facing the ceiling rather than the floor, they will exercise the opposite side of the core muscles to pushups.
You will need to support yourself of a chair to get enough room to do the dip. If Dips are too much for you, just try holding the reverse plank for 30-60 seconds, this will strengthen the all important core muscles.
While not strictly an exercise, stretching can give you many of the benefits of exercise, such as making you feel limber, and giving you confidence that the next rep you do isn’t going to tear a muscle.
You can incorporate stretching into your warm-up before you start your actual workout, and unless you are already fairly fit, limber, and under 30, doing a short (even just 3-5 minutes) stretching and limbering routine will go a very long way to preventing injuries.