15 Surprisingly Easy Exercises to Ease You Into the New Year
There’s more to New Year’s traditions than parties and balls dropping: Millions of people take the opportunity of a new calendar year to make fitness a priority. But there’s no rule that you have to overdo it, especially if you’ve been sedentary. Check out 15 ways to ease yourself off the couch and into better health in 2016.
1. AB CRUNCHES WITH A FOLDING CHAIR
You’re not going to get a six pack overnight, so don’t rush into doing dozens of crunches. To reduce the stress on your back, try abdominal crunches with your legs elevated and resting on a folding chair. Raise your shoulders off the ground and contract your abdominals for two sets of 15-20 reps.
2. INTERVAL WALKING
Walking has proven cardiovascular benefits, and it’s a perfect introduction to increasing your activity level. To tweak the difficulty, try walking for one or two minutes before switching to a light jog or brisk walk for 30-60 seconds. Keep alternating until you complete between three and five circuits.
3. BODYWEIGHT SQUAT
Both an aerobic and resistance exercise, bodyweight squats are an excellent way of increasing your endurance and strength. Stand with your feet slightly apart, then bend at the knees, keeping your back straight. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, push back up. Work up to multiple sets of 8 to 12 reps.
For a stronger core, get on the floor in a push-up position—but keep your forearms on the ground. Hold yourself up as long as you can, working your way up to two minutes.
5. JUMPING ROPE
If you have any bad memories of jumping rope until you’re drenched in sweat, try staggering your activity level by jumping for 30 seconds before resting for a minute, then repeating.
6. SIT AND STAND
Getting up from a chair can be beneficial, providing you do it for repetitions. To strengthen your legs, try standing up from a sitting position 10 times. Rest a minute, then go again.
7. KNEE EXTENSIONS
While seated, straighten your leg out so your knee is fully extended. Alternate between your legs, doing 10 reps each.
8. SEATED JUMPING JACKS
Sit on the edge of a chair and extend your legs and arms the way you would with a standing jumping jack. Move as quickly as you comfortably can for three sets of 20 reps.
9. SHOULDER SQUEEZE
To offset the slumped posture common among computer addicts, try squeezing your shoulder blades together in a sitting position. (Imagine you’re trying to pinch a pen or ball between them.) Hold it for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
10. WALL PUSH-UP
If floor push-ups aren’t quite your speed just yet, try the standing variation. Lean toward a wall with your hands touching and thumbs close to one another, then push away. Work up to 12-15 reps of three sets each.
Keeping your body straight, step forward until your knee is over your ankle, then push so you return to a starting position.
12. SITTING HOLDS
This isometric exercise builds endurance. While seated, fully extend your legs and arms out in front of you to make yourself kind of a horizontal “U” shape. Try to remain in position as long as you can without straining, or alternate 15 seconds on with 15 seconds off.
13. CALF RAISES
While standing, try to push off the floor to raise your body while balancing yourself by keeping one hand on a chair. Aim for 20 strict reps—no bending of the knees—to build your calf muscles, working your way up to 100 reps and holding the contraction at the top of the movement.
14. THE 4-MINUTE SPRINT
If you have a treadmill acting as a place to hang your clothes, you might want to consider hopping on for a quick four-minute burst of activity. Recent research shows that an effort of less than five minutes can have cardiovascular and health benefits equal to a session lasting four times as long.
You don’t need bags, gloves, or other equipment to get a boxing workout in. Practice crosses, uppercuts, and jabs for 10 reps per arm, working your way up to a one-minute “round.”