Exercises for a Fitter New Year
Instead of throwing in the towel when you decide you just can’t spend another day doing the same exact routine as usual, or giving up when you aren’t seeing the results you want, try mixing up your schedule with these fun and fitness-boosting activities and classes.
Walking — This low-impact, heart-rate increasing activity is good for just about any fitness level because of its ability to provide something for everyone. For the novice exerciser, walking is a good way to get muscles moving, burn extra calories, strengthen and tone the lower body and build stamina for other exercises. As a bonus, walkers can tone their upper bodies and increase their exercise gains by carrying hand weights or donning lightly weighted backpacks.
Running — The ultimate full-body workout, running moves muscles that many people don’t even know they have. With plenty of plans available online to take beginners off the couch or advanced runners into ultra-marathons, running can be customized to every ability level and every goal. Not sure you could run for more than a few minutes? That’s okay, too! Many running plans start with Walk-Running or Run-Walking, allowing beginners to alternate running and walking in order to build up to distance running.
Kickboxing — Incorporating many forms of martial arts, this empowering type of exercise trains your muscles to move in new ways, building new muscle, toning old muscle, increasing flexibility and giving you a great cardio workout.
Dance/Zumba — A craze that has swept the world, cardio dance classes like Zumba are creating fun ways for people of all ages and ability levels to come together in the name of cardio workouts and fitness. Dance to fun and upbeat songs, memorize dance routines filled with fitness-blasting moves and get to know some new friends in the process.
Pilates — A centuries-old tradition, Pilates incorporates low-impact muscle building and flexibility improving moves that tone the body and still the mind. Think of it as a slightly more intense yoga workout, in which slow movements are repeated in order to help build muscle and raise the heart rate.
Yoga — While not nearly as cardiovascular-focused as other workouts, yoga has been proven to be the ideal “workout sidekick.” Most fitness classes build muscle through repetitive movements, causing those working muscles to shorten and tighten. Yoga works to lengthen those muscles, working out the kinks and helping to release unnecessary tension wherever possible. While it may seem like that would counteract the work from other fitness classes and activities, yoga actually aids in overall fitness as it helps the muscles to build in long, toned ways instead of short, stocky, bulky ways.
Swimming — The perfect activity for those with mobility issues such as joint pain, lower body injuries or recent surgeries, swimming provides a stress-free alternative to exercises like running, weight lifting and walking. With many variations from which to choose, including lap swimming, treading exercises, kicking with a kickboard, water aerobics, water polo and many more, swimming provides a workout for all ability and skill levels.
Tai Chi/Chi Gong — Like yoga, tai chi and chi gong provide a very low impact complement to exercise. Through deep breathing and long, slow muscle movements, exercisers the world over see their muscles elongate, their stress levels go down and their overall health and well being rise.
Weight Lifting — You can’t lose fat without building muscle and weight lifting is a great way to do just that. Through repetitions of movements with a variety of shapes and sizes of weights, you can build up your muscles, toning them, creating greater strength and making yourself healthier in the process. Weight lifting can be geared toward any ability level, beginning with 1 or 2 pound hand weights and going up to extremely advanced movements with barbells.
Boot Camp — A cardio extravaganza, boot camp-style classes do exactly what they seem like they should do: put you through an intense workout filled with body weight, weighted and cardio movements designed to work every single muscle in your body. While most classes generally offer beginner level modifications for boot camp moves, it is important to make sure that the class you are attending caters to all skill levels.
Spinning — If you enjoy biking or riding a stationary bike, then spinning is for you! Perched atop a spinning bike, instructors lead the class through a series of intensity intervals, treating the class as if the whole group were going up and down hills, racing as fast as they can and then treating their muscles to much deserved lower intensity “rests.”
Barre — A very low intensity workout, barre, or barre Pilates, utilizes props and small muscle movements to train specific muscle groups. Props like exercise rings, exercise balls, weights and more are utilized as aids to resistance training, most while holding onto a dance barre, working different muscles to create changes throughout the body.
Interval Training — Interval training combines cardio with weight lifting, creating a mash up of exercises that raises the heart rate, builds muscle, burns fat and helps to transform the body. Intervals of activity (with or without weights) are mixed with intervals of rest to help people gradually build themselves and achieve their fitness goals.
Tell us about your favorite exercise routine in the comments below!