Including physical activity in your life can be one of the best things you can do for yourself, both physically and mentally, regardless of age. But the reality is that it's easier said than done.
Generally, it takes about three weeks to develop a new habit -- but only five or six days to break it. If you are really serious about moving and stretching out those tired and unused muscles, it pays to have a plan, one that is both realistic and flexible. Here are a few fitness facts that could help prevent fitness failure and some tips to help you get moving in the right direction.
Exercises• High-to-Low Crossover: Targets core muscles. Begin with a light weight or medicine ball, until you are used to the movement. Standing tall, feet shoulder-width apart, extend arms overhead holding ball or weight; abdominals contracted. Moving hips to the back, lower into squat position while lowering ball to right foot with straight arms, elbows slightly relaxed. Pushing through heels, return to original position. Continue to alternate sides for 10 repetitions per side.
• The Birddog: Strengthens muscles around spine, abdominals and gluteal muscles, and helps to improve balance and stability. Begin in a hand-knee position, abdominals contracted and back parallel to floor, knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Keeping head in a neutral position with eyes looking downward, extend one arm shoulder-height while extending opposite leg hip-height, parallel to floor. Hold a few seconds, then release. Complete 10 repetitions, repeating 10 more reps with opposite arm and leg.
• Squat and Balance: Strengthens thighs and improves balance. Holding both arms in front of chest, balance on right leg, lifting left leg several inches from floor. Maintaining a straight back, slowly bend right leg; lower hips slightly to the back and keep knee over ankle. Hold for a count of four. Press into heel to return to standing.
• Pretzel Stretch: Stretches hips, gluteals and lower back, and is very relaxing. Lying on back, cross left foot just above bent right knee, clasping hands behind right thigh. Gently bring leg in toward chest while opening left knee to further the stretch. Hold 15 to 20 seconds, repeating on opposite side.
Note: If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.
Myth 1: Ab exercises will remove abdominal fat: Don't count on any spot exercises to remove body fat on top of the ab muscle. The only way to successfully lose abdominal fat is through cardio and strength training for the whole body, not just a body part, and, of course, a healthy low-calorie diet. That will help you reduce your overall body fat, but genetics will pretty much dictate where you will lose the fat.
Myth 2: You should be sore after every workout: This has never been validated by any scientific research, but persists because of the mistaken macho belief that a workout needs to make you feel really sore to be effective. Workouts need to be challenging and your muscles may be slightly sore when you first start to exercise, but you should not evaluate the success of workouts by how sore you feel after the workout.
Myth 3: Aerobic workouts will increase metabolism for hours after a workout: This is actually only half a myth. The caloric burn is minimal: 20 extra calories a day.
Myth 4: Strength training will bulk up women: Testosterone is a key player when it comes to building muscle size, and women generally do not have enough of it to build large bulky muscles. Men have 20 to 30 times more testosterone than women.
Tips to get started
1. Create a good attitude: Think positive. Think of exercise time as an opportunity to regain energy you may have lost; give you some time to yourself; reduce stress; gain mental and physical health benefits; lose weight; and firm up.
2. Keep it simple: Long-term goals may act as a good motivating tool, but tend to be a little overwhelming. While you never want to lose sight of your major goal, as you progress, introduce smaller weekly goals; monitoring goals and successes in a journal can be very helpful.
3. Enjoy: Bringing along a friend might help to keep you motivated; you can create your own personal biggest-loser competition. Your choices are many: walking or jogging, gym workouts (many gyms will give a free orientation); have a certified personal trainer set up a home program for you to follow; try a cardio dance class or just a night of fun dancing. Exercise doesn't have to be running until you drop!
4. Mix it up: When you continue to perform the same exercise routine all the time, your body adapts to the exercise and can begin to lose its effectiveness. Challenge your body by varying the routine. Your muscles will thank you for more stimulation, preventing a plateau. And a big plus: You will prevent becoming bored and dropping out.
5. Reward yourself: When you reach your personal mini-goals, treat yourself to a little something, maybe a massage or seeing a special movie you have been wanting to see. And give yourself a big hug.