13 Simple Exercises to Keep You Happy, Healthy & Fit
Do you get enough exercise? For most Americans, that answer is a big “no.” Most of us have sedentary jobs, drive a vehicle to and fro, and generally don’t have a lot of obvious opportunities for physical activity throughout the day. But not being active enough is bad for our health—and it’s time to start moving our bodies more.
We can make this manageable through simple exercises. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or run a marathon to be physically healthy. It’s just about moving more to help your body stay fit and strong.
Functional Fitness Through Simple Exercises
Exercise is more than looking good or losing weight. When you stay active, you can better perform daily activities of life—at any age. This is known as functional fitness. Functional exercises (like the 13 listed below) can also help improve important health numbers like blood pressure, boost mood, and more while also building strength and endurance that you need to move through life.
And the best part? You can do each of these simple exercises in the comfort of your own home, in a hotel room, or pretty much anywhere. For each exercise, try doing two sets of 15 repetitions and work up to more.
Safety Tip: If you have balance issues, use a sturdy chair for better leverage while performing these exercises.
Start with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend your knees as you move your bottom back as if you’re going to sit in a chair. Make sure your knees don’t go past your ankles.
When your knees are bent to at least a 90-degree angle, squeeze your glutes and come back up to standing.
You can go further than 90 degrees, or if you can’t quite go that far, stop where you’re comfortable and work up to it.
Begin with your feet together. Step your right leg forward into a split stance. Bend your knees until both are at 90 degrees, with your right knee over your right ankle and your left knee touching the floor.
Rise up and bring your right leg back to the starting position. Repeat on the left side. That’s one repetition.
3. Downward Dog
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists below your shoulders (fingers pointing toward) and knees right under your hips. Press into your palms and fingers as you tuck your toes under and straighten your legs, lifting knees off the floor.
Push back into an upside down “V” shape, lifting through your pelvis and pressing the floor away from you with your hands.
Lie face-down on a mat and extend your arms out in front of you. Lift your arms, legs, and chest off the floor at the same time and hold for two seconds. Exhale at the top of the movement and squeeze your lower back muscles. Slowly, lower everything down.
5. Forearm Planks
Start with knees on the floor and hands directly under your shoulders. Press your knees up and ground your toes into the floor with legs straight, squeezing your glutes. Make sure your neck and spine are in one line and you’re looking down at the floor.
Hold for 10-30 seconds (remembering to breathe), then lower back down. Come to your knees to make the position easier.
6. Side Planks
Start in the forearm plank position with feet together. Rotate onto one side, stacking your legs and balancing on one arm. Repeat on the other side for one repetition.
Starting in plank position with your hands a little wider than your shoulders and your back straight, bend your elbows and bring your chest towards the floor. Once your nose is almost touching the floor, push up with your arms until they’re straight and you’re back in the starting position.
If this is too hard, you can do the same movement keeping your knees on the floor.
Lying on your back, bend your knees with the soles of your feet on the ground. Interlace your fingers and place them behind your head with shoulders splayed out to the sides.
Without putting pressure on your neck and keeping your spine straight, curl up all the way to your knees, exhaling during the lift and keeping your elbows out. Lower down to the starting position.
9. Glute Bridges
Lie on the floor in the same starting position as a sit up, but bring your heels towards your glutes until your fingertips are almost touching them. Squeeze your glutes as you slowly lift your hips off the ground and there’s a straight line from your hips to your shoulders.
Hold for 10-30 seconds, then slowly return to start.
10. Side Leg Lifts
Lie on your side on a mat with your:
- legs stacked and straight
- lower arm bent to form a 90-degree angle with the top of your mat
- and your upper body propped up by your elbow
Make sure the bottom elbow is right below your shoulder and your shoulder makes a straight line all the way to your feet.
Keeping your legs together, lift them up using your legs and abs muscles, then lower down. Do 10 repetitions, then repeat on the other side of your body.
11. Calf Raises
Stand with feet hip-width part. Rise up onto your toes as you squeeze your calf muscles. Hold for a couple of seconds at the top, then slowly lower down.
12. Jumping Jacks
Start with your feet together and arms at your side. Jump your feet out wide as you raise your arms above your head, then swiftly jump your legs back together as you bring your arms down. That’s one jumping jack—and keep going!
13. Cat and Cow
Start on all fours, hands directly below shoulders and knees below hips. From here, alternate between “cat” and “cow” poses:
- Cow pose: Dip your belly down, arching your back, as your raise your head to look forward while raising your glutes.
- Cat pose: Round your back and shoulders up this time as your head moves down and your glutes contract.
The Bottom Line
Try these simple exercises to add more movement into your day! And after each workout, be sure to recover properly while fueling your body with whole foods and daily rest.
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