Mind & Body

5 of the Best Workouts to Help You Get Into Exercise, According to Harvard Doctors

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You know exercise is good for you, and you know you need to do it. We're not trying to personally attack you here; it's just a scientific fact. We also understand that working out is a lot more complicated than just paying for a gym membership. Where do you start once you get there? The treadmill? The free weights? That unidentifiable workout machine? Zumba?! We've got answers, courtesy of Harvard professors.

Work It Out

Knowing how to exercise can be just as difficult as getting to the gym in the first place. Some Harvard doctors did the hard work for us and picked out the five best workouts you can do — in and out of the gym — to start incorporating exercise into your daily life. In 2015, L. Howard Hartley and I-Min Lee, both associate professors of medicine at Harvard Medical School, put together a special health report called Starting to Exercise to encourage people to start a healthy exercise program.

Gimme Five!

According to Healthbeat by Harvard Health Publishing, "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." Here are some of the ways to meet that goal, as recommended by the Harvard report:

  1. Swimming. Due to the water supporting your weight and taking pressure off your joints, Harvard Health Publishing calls swimming the perfect workout. It works more muscle groups than any other exercise, and your spine and respiratory system get benefits, too. And it's suitable for people of virtually all ages and skill levels. "Swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it's less weight-bearing," explains Lee.
  2. Tai chi. This Chinese martial art centers on slow, steady movements, earning it the title of "meditation in motion." The graceful motions flow from one into the next, requiring attention and focus. Because you can do tai chi at your own pace, this is another exercise that can work for people of all fitness levels. Lee says, "It's particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older."
  3. Strength training. Lifting weights isn't just for buff bodybuildin' dudes. Get that out of your head right now. "If you don't use muscles, they will lose their strength over time," Lee says. In addition, strength training can burn calories, help you maintain your weight, strengthen your bones, and even boost your brain power. When it comes to beginning strength training, it's important to get some guidance from an expert to make sure your form is correct and you aren't going to inadvertently hurt yourself. You should start with a weight you can lift 10 times with ease, and use that weight for a few weeks. Once you can easily complete your movement for 12 reps, then go ahead and add more weight.
  4. Walking. Don't underestimate the power of a good, long stroll. Walking can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve your cholesterol level, strengthen your bones, keep your blood pressure in check, improve your mood, lower your risk for various diseases (diabetes and heart disease, for example), and improve your memory. The Harvard report suggests starting with a 10- to 15-minute walk, then building up to walking for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.
  5. Kegel exercises. Curveball! You can't improve or maintain your overall fitness levels with kegels alone, but they're important as you age. For both men and women, kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support your bladder and prevent incontinence. To do these correctly, according to the Harvard report, "squeeze the muscles you would use to prevent yourself from passing urine or gas. Hold the contraction for two or three seconds, then release. Make sure to completely relax your pelvic floor muscles after the contraction. Repeat 10 times. Try to do four to five sets a day."

Check out the whole Starting to Exercise report for more. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto June 5, 2018

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