The #1 Exercise You Should Do Today
Exercise should be fun and enjoyable. It shouldn’t be considered drudgery or something that “you know you should do.” If that’s the case, then it’s easy to become frustrated and harder to stick with it. However, there are plenty of ways to inject fun into your workout, like taking it outside and bringing your loved ones along.
Times Have Changed
We all know kids today aren’t getting as much physical activity as we did when we were young—you’ve heard the stories about summer days spent on bikes until you had to be home for dinner. Regardless if those are exaggerated memories or true tales, kids today spend much more time indoors being sedentary. According to the CDC, childhood obesity affects 12.5 million children and adolescents (approximately one in three), which has nearly tripled since 1980. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is trying to get school-age kids back outside doing things that take them away from televisions, video games and computer screens.
I say this is great advice for adults, too. We need to step away from our televisions and computers and put down the smart phones to rekindle some of that childhood fun of being active outside. And one of the best ways to let our kids and grandchildren know the value of exercise is to show them. This is where actions speak louder (much louder) than words.
Up, Up and Away
Any activity that gets you, your spouse, kids or grandchildren and even the family dog moving counts as exercising, like tossing a Frisbee or playing around in the pool, especially if it involves swimming laps or “running” in the water. But if you really want to make the physical effort count toward getting fit, I say think vertical, as in adding an incline. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that running uphill demands 9% more muscle activation with each stride than running on flat land does. Anytime you are going up, you’re naturally engaging the glutes and hamstrings, and the steeper the step, the greater the engagement. The incline also ups your cardio, which remember, burns calories.
You don’t have to climb a mountain to get the benefits of incline exercising. Any hill will do. My daughters and I used to hike every weekend, and now that they’re adults, we try to hike around Park City whenever we can. I get such a thrill out of reaching the top of a trail, and as a “job well done” reward, we treat ourselves with something like a chocolate-covered coconut square. It’s become a family tradition.
If your family isn’t keen on the idea of running or hiking hills, try biking. You’ll still get a wonderful aerobic workout. If they need a little convincing, remind them that what goes up must come down, and when you’re coming down on a bike, it’s a lot faster. For a little friendly competition, make a wager as to who makes it down the hill first, then pedal…fast!
No hills around where you live? No problem. Get creative with your environment. If you shuttle athletes to team practice a couple of times a week, don’t just sit on the bleachers while they run drills on the field. Instead, climb the stairs. Start by going up and down the steps one at a time. As that gets easier, take them two at a time. I like to do four or five sets of stairs, and it’s a killer workout. By the end of the season, your backside will beautifully show off how you spent your summer.
Another idea is to check out your local summer leagues. Find one that you can do with your spouse, like couples volleyball. Your incline there will be jumping to make or block shots.
Not all inclines have to involve some kind of climb. You create an incline simply by adding an angle to a number of moves. That extra angle instantly increases the intensity level and the benefits you gain from the exercise.
Even better, you don’t need any special equipment for incline strength training. In fact, your neighborhood playgrounds are excellent places to work your entire body. For example, use a park bench as a base for triceps dips. Turn around to face the bench for incline pushups. Also, many parks have circuit courses with different stations for different exercises, like chin-up bars and incline benches for sit-ups. Turn it into an obstacle-course challenge.
Positive Side Effects
When my girls were younger, I never set a fitness prescription that they had to run x number of miles a week. We just simply incorporated exercise into our lifestyle as something fun to do together. And no matter what physical activities you do with your husband or wife and children or grandchildren, you are going to see the results in everyone’s fitness levels and relationships—it becomes a bonding experience. Plus, when you find something you all enjoy doing together, you’re more likely to stick to it and motivate each other. So, what are you waiting for? Grab the family and go have fun this summer.
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