I know what you are thinking: “Are there exercises that I should always do, regardless of the piece of equipment I am using?”
Excellent question! The answer is, “Yeppers peppers. 100%!”
There are 4 types of exercises that I consider non-negotiables:
- Balance exercises
- Multi-directional motions
Play around with the equipment you use to your heart’s content — in fact, I encourage “playing,” as variety is absolutely the spice of life and boredom is the kiss of workout death — BUT in some way you have to incorporate the above 4 movement patterns!
My tagline is “squatting is life.”
Think about it. We squat innumerable times every day. You squat to go to the bathroom, to sit down and get up, to get in and out of the car, and even to sit down into bed. It is almost impossible to function if you can't squat.
Tips on squatting: Start with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend at your knees, hips, and ankles so that you sit back — as if you were sitting in a chair. As you sit, imagine your sit bones widening at the back. Watch your knees — make sure they track over your middle toes. Engage your bum and core to stand up.
Note: The squat is, in my opinion, the most fundamental strength exercise, but really strength exercises in general should be non-negotiable. Strength training increases lean muscle mass, helps to decrease the risk of osteoporosis, maintains the integrity of joints, and mitigates decreases in bone and muscle mass. Don't just squat. Incorporate a range of multi-joint functional exercises: also try deadlifts and rows.
Walking and running require single-leg stability. Since walking is key for functional fitness and independence, to avoid injury I suggest training your muscles to support your body on one leg. Single-leg exercises train the body to balance, dissipate forces, and provide feedback to the brain about the body's position in space.
Try standing on one leg. Once that is easy, try standing on a Bosu. Or do a single-leg hinge with a free weight or kettlebell: stand on your right leg, chest out, with the weight or kettlebell your left hand. Hinge forward, keeping your back flat. Keep your left hip down toward the floor as you hinge your chest forward. Use your right bum muscles to stand up. Repeat 5 or more times. Switch legs.
Multi-directional strength and mobility exercises
We are not robots, but with age our bodies often start to feel stiff. The body becomes less subtle; we lose the ability to easily rotate, bend, step, or lean sideways and to react with multi-directional movements. This lack of agility not only feels terrible, but it can contribute to injuries from doing simple tasks like rotating to get something from the backseat or reaching for something awkwardly placed.
The solution? Try mixing sideways walking into your treadmill workout or activities such as yoga, stretching, dancing, sports that require multi-directional motion (like tennis), and/or multi-direction strength exercises such as side lunges.
Cardio and Intervals
Interval training improves cardiovascular health, places a high metabolic demand on the body, burns lots of calories in a short amount of time, produces a high EPOC (post-workout calorie burn), increases mitochondrial growth (mitochondria help to burn fat), and helps improve one's fitness level.
On any cardio machine (the bike, elliptical, treadmill, etc.) try rolling intervals: once warmed up, alternate 1 minute easy, 1 minute moderate, and 1 minute hard for 9 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, try jumping rope or high-intensity body-weight cardio exercises such as burpees or jumping jacks.