By: Shivani Shah
Due to a grab-bag of factors including (but not limited to) cultural differences, means, and societal priorities at the time, neither of my parents grew up placing any emphasis on exercise. This remained to be the case until last year, when they both began to show some modicum of interest in working out. Until recently, they’ve stayed healthy by focusing on diet and getting their steps in. Now in their fifties, they’ve started lifting weights, doing breathwork, and trying pilates. It brings me an indescribable amount of joy to see them take agency in their fitness and enjoy the process. Introducing a new habit into your life is no easy task, and as I’m told, it only gets harder with age. My parents tell me that diversity in their workouts has been key to keeping them motivated. With the new year in full swing, now is a great time to take a page from my parents’ book and try something new. Below is a sample week of workouts and their respective health benefits. Be sure to consult your physician before implementing new workouts into your routine.
Sunday: Bikram Yoga
This 90 minute practice cycles through 26 asanas, or poses. All of this takes place in a sweltering room set to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity. Often confused with hot yoga, Bikram yoga is just one style of hot yoga. It is known to improve range of motion, lower body strength, and balance. Most adults do not emphasize balance in their exercise regimes, but it should not be overlooked. Balance can serve as a powerful preventative measure to avoid fractures as we age. If trying bikram yoga, be sure to be properly hydrated with water and electrolytes. The electrolytes are particularly important, as you sweat large amounts in this practice.
Monday: Legs Resistance Training
The body of evidence supporting the benefits of resistance training is too substantial to ignore. Inactive adults experience a 3% - 8% loss of muscle mass per decade. Resistance training can help not only prevent this loss, but also boost metabolism, burn fat, and build stronger bones. As the old adage goes, “Don’t skip leg day!” By training the lower body, you are creating a strong foundation for all bodily movements. Be sure to train all parts of the legs, including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes. I encourage you to introduce lateral exercises into your workout (i.e. resistance band side-steps, weighted lateral lunges). Often ignored, lateral movement plays a big role in injury prevention.
Tuesday: Cardio (Long Session)
On this day, the focus is on a long, controlled cardio session. Referred to as “Zone 2” cardio, this session should be low intensity. You should be exerting effort, but still be able to hold a conversation. Try to work up to an hour, or longer. This low heart rate training burns fat and will improve your metabolic flexibility by optimizing mitochondrial function. There is truth to the saying, “Train slow to run fast.” To switch things up, try different forms of cardio. To name a few examples, you can jog, swim, row, or bike.
Wednesday: Rest and Stretch
Note: Try to stretch regularly, throughout the week.
Thursday: Long walk and Breathwork
We breathe in and out around 25,000 times a day. According to James Nestor, most of us are not breathing correctly. From mouth breathing to breathing too frequently, these poor practices can lead to poor sleep and increased stress, respectively. Learning to breathe correctly has astounding physiological and psychological benefits. By breathing through your nose, you get about 20% more oxygen per breath than you would by breathing through the mouth. To prevent “overbreathing”, Nestor suggests breathing in for about 5.5 seconds and out for about 5.5 seconds. Setting aside time to deliberately practice this breathing can help you incorporate it into your daily routine.
Friday: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Perhaps the most time-effective mode of training, this workout can be completed in 30 minutes or less. The focus is on short periods of intense exercise alternated with recovery periods. Beyond improving metabolic rate and assisting in fat loss, HIIT training can help build muscle groups.
Saturday: Upper Body Resistance Training
With all of the same general benefits I listed when talking about lower body resistance training, upper body training should not be ignored. It can help posture and overall mobility. Like with lower body training, try focusing on unilateral exercises to avoid creating imbalances in the upper body. In addition to training biceps, triceps, back, and forearms, you should consider training your neck. Although it sounds funny, this can help reduce neck and back pain by releasing tension.
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