The last couple of years have put most of us through the ringer, both mentally and physically. So it’s no surprise you may be looking for ways to improve your overall health in this new year.
Even if you have a busy schedule filled with carpools, after school activities, and overtime hours, we’ve got you covered with five easy ways you can incorporate physical activity and mental self-care into your daily routine.
Let’s get started with some popular physical exercises you may already know, as well as a few fun new ways to get your body moving. We’ll end with a few mental health exercises to improve your mind-body connection.
The following exercises are considered fundamental because they do a great job of working out every part of your body and they’re easy to do from the comfort of home.
If you notice that you’re barely breaking a sweat with them, however, we recommend increasing your challenge by:
- Adding more reps
- Adding more weight
- Adding a jump to squats and lunges
- Completing exercises within a set amount of time instead of a set number of reps
Remember, while these exercises will definitely do your body good, there’s always room to push your limits so that you don’t plateau.
A well-rounded exercise routine should include a balancing challenge. Lunges increase your leg and glute strength, while also promoting functional movement.
Rest days are just as important as workout days, so allow for rest by alternating your leg workout days. This is especially true if you are using weights.
Push-ups are one of the most basic exercises you can do using only your body weight. It’s one of the most effective exercises because of the number of muscles that are involved. The best way to start is with a small number of reps and gradually increasing it.
Remember to incorporate breathing into this exercise – inhaling as you lower your body, exhaling as you extend your arms.
Squats offer many benefits to the body, from improving your lower body and core strength to increasing flexibility in your lower back and hips.
This is a great calorie-burning exercise for anyone who wants to increase knee stability or strengthen their calves, hamstrings, and quads.
Planks primarily target your abdominal muscles, but they also workout many areas throughout your body. They stabilize your core without straining your back, which is often a concern with crunches and sit-ups.
A strong core is important for a healthy body. Core-specific exercises, like planks and side planks, provide great bang for your buck for endurance and muscle strength. Be sure to focus on your mind-muscle connection to ensure you’re getting the most from this exercise.
Exercise classes can be as challenging as they are exhilarating. Taken on their own or combined with other cardio and resistance workouts, exercise classes are definitely worth a try – if they are in your budget.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll like a class environment, start with something you think you’ll enjoy and go from there.
Boxercise is a great cardio workout inspired by boxing. Boxercise classes are based on the training concepts of professional boxers and are offered in a variety of formats. Typically classes include shadow-boxing, skipping, hitting pads, kicking punch bags, shuttle-runs, sit-ups, and push-ups.
It’s a great way to get fit and strong, while letting out any frustrations from your day. Because no classes involve contact, boxercise is a safe and challenging workout.
If you think yoga is only about gentle flows and deep breaths, you may need to take a second look at this popular exercise. Yoga is utilized by many professional athletes to help with balance, arm and shoulder strength, as well as core strength.
Perhaps the best part of participating in yoga, is that the warmup and cooldown parts of a workout are built into the class. You can show up without having stretched and avoid injury because the class will warm you up, work you out, and return your heart rate to normal.
Sometimes referred to as spin, indoor cycling is an ideal way to improve cardiovascular health without putting too much stress on your joints. If weight loss, endurance, or improved strength are on your resolution list, spin will produce the results you want.
Spin classes are designed to bring participants into the present moment. With their custom playlists, strobe lighting, and often choreographed routine, spin classes make fitness fun. You’ll need to commit to around 100 to 150 minutes per week to gain the full benefits.
Most of the time, people only think about the physical benefits of taking Pilates because of its traditional focus on core strength and back health. Actually, Pilates was founded on the belief of the connection between physical and mental health.
Learning the skill of Pilates while focusing on technique and how your body feels is an extremely mindful activity. As a result, it’s also great for relaxation and stress relief.
Even if you think you can’t spare five minutes to devote to cardio exercise, you may be able to incorporate physical activity into your on-the-go lifestyle.
The first two listed below are traditional get out and move exercises, but the final two are clever ways to add more exercise into your routine, seamlessly.
Running or walking outside may be the most refreshing exercise as it allows you to connect with nature, while breathing fresh air. If you aren’t able to get outside, running on a treadmill inside is almost as good.
It’s a good idea to keep track of your time and distance so you can see how you’re improving. Also be sure to set new challenges and goals to reach throughout the year.
Perhaps there’s a charity run/walk you want to participate in this summer or fall. Start with brisk walking, if you’re new to running, and work up to running.
If walking around a track or in your neighborhood doesn’t sound too exciting, try getting out in the great outdoors. Hiking is a fun way to take in some amazing scenery and reconnect with nature, while simultaneously improving your cardiovascular health.
If your work environment consists of a lot of meetings on a daily basis, consider making at least one each day a “walking meeting”. In workplaces where it’s allowed, take a stroll in a nearby park or on a footpath around the building while you talk business.
In addition to increasing your cardio activity during the day, it’s also nice for your mental health to get out of the stuffy office environment every now and then.
Taking the stairs helps increase your physical activity each day by a lot. This may be an obvious suggestion, but surprisingly, we still choose the popular alternative most of the time. Probably because taking the stairs doesn’t feel like a fun option for a workout.
Choosing to take the stairs works all the major muscle groups in your legs and glutes, so, unless you’re in a hurry, consider whether stairs are available nearby to get you to your destination.
When a workout is fun, you look forward to it more, which means you’re more likely to stick with it and stay motivated. Finding something you enjoy can be the difference between giving up out of boredom and making physical activity part of your routine.
If you want to have some fun while you get in shape, check out these alternative exercise options.
We already covered traditional walking and running and how it can benefit your overall health, but sometimes it can get a little boring taking the same loop around the neighborhood.
Take a look at some ways to spice up traditional running and walking.
- Download Zombies, Run! – this app transforms your walk or run into an adventure by putting you in the midst of an apocalypse where zombies chase you as you run.
- Play Geocaching Games – Ingress and Pokémon GO encourage you to interact with virtual objects placed in your real world.
Just because walking and running are the most easily accessible forms of exercise, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with them!
Frisbee is a fun and easy way to get active that doesn’t feel like working out.
Go out with a friend and count how many times you can throw the frisbee back and forth without dropping it. Or ask them to throw it a little off-course, so you have to run for it.
The best part is, you don’t have to be “good” at frisbee to have fun and improve your cardiovascular health.
Whether you take lessons or just have fun dancing around your living room – dancing is a great exercise that raises your heart rate and challenges your coordination.
If you choose to take a class, there are many options available, including one-off classes and term-based sign-ups. Term-based classes allow you to try one style for a few months and then switch up.
It only takes about 8 songs to get your 30 minutes of cardio in for the day. Alone or with friends, find time to incorporate dancing into your week and reap the physical and mental health benefits.
As a kid, hula hooping is just plain fun. As an adult, however, hula hooping can be a serious workout.
This simple piece of equipment can boost the fun factor of your workout while simultaneously:
- Toning your abs
- Improving your balance
- Burning calories, fat, and inches
Hula hooping is an inexpensive, portable, and family-friendly exercise.
If you crave an adrenaline rush, try rock climbing. Improve your strength while you defy gravity at an indoor climbing gym or, if you’re more experienced, as you scale a rock wall in nature.
Beginners can find instructors at indoor gyms to show them the basics and techniques for improving. More skilled climbers may want to join a climbing club or start one with friends.
Taking care of yourself physically can indeed improve your mental health. But taking care of your mental well-being is crucial to maintain your physical health. Keep reading for a few easy suggestions to prioritize your mental health.
Relaxation exercises can improve your state of mind, as well as your outlook on life. If you are religious, prayer is similar to mindfulness. Meditation has been shown to help you feel calm and can enhance the positive effects of therapy.
Similar to starting a new physical exercise, it’s easier to start meditating for the first time by easing into it. Try to find a few minutes each day to sit in quiet, increasing the intervals as you can. There are plenty of apps out there to help you get started as well.
People who seek out appropriate care may be better equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It takes a lot of commitment to your physical and mental health to ask for help when you need it.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life – so we might as well find ways to deal with it rather than try to ignore it. What works for one person may or may not work for you, so it’s important to try different activities to find what helps relieve your stress.
Try one or more of the following:
- Play with your pet
- Write in a journal
- Take a nature walk
- Write down one or more things you’re grateful for each day
This list is not exhaustive and you should try any activity that you think will help.
Remember to smile as often as you think of it, and try to see the humor in life. Laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body, and reduce stress.
Remembering to value yourself may be the most important health tip on our list. Offer yourself words of encouragement rather than self-criticism. Treat yourself with respect and kindness.
Make time for your hobbies and fun projects. Do a puzzle, play a game, learn a new language or how to play an instrument. Take dance lessons or plant a garden.
Engaging in uplifting speech and joy-filled activities will go a long way in improving your mental and physical well-being.