Congratulations on making the commitment for achieving optimal health. I believe that exercise is a powerful tool that greatly influences your ability to be fully healthy. It also puts you above the majority of the world population from a health standpoint according to the the World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 4 adults worldwide does not get enough physical activity,1 which puts them at risk for chronic diseases.
By exercising alone, you’re already moving up the ladder toward optimal health. But in order to maximize the benefits of exercise, it needs to be combined with proper nutrition, sufficient high-quality sleep, stress management and holistic living.
You may think exercise is all about shedding excess pounds and getting toned abs and glutes, but these are actually just a fraction of what exercise can do for you — no matter how old you are. Even when initiated later in life, exercise can provide you with profound physical and mental health benefits:
Physical benefits of exercise:
- Slows down aging — Your body begins to increase production of cellular energy and new mitochondria, which may help slow down premature aging.
- Gives you better skin — The increased blood flow from exercising boosts your circulation, thereby bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your skin. Resistance training can maximize results further, because increasing muscle mass can help your skin appear more taut.
- Helps you recover better from chronic disease — Those affected with chronic conditions such as depression, anxiety, joint pain and cancer may manage the symptoms better through exercise.
- Shrinks your fat cells — High-intensity exercise has been shown to affect genes related to fat metabolism.
Mental benefits of exercise:
- Boosts your brain health — Increasing your physical activity helps improve oxygenation in your brain, which can result in improved cognitive function.
- Improves your mood — Exercise produces neurons in your brain that may help uplift your disposition.
Benefits of using a trainer / workout partner
The struggle to stay motivated when exercising by yourself is not uncommon. If you’re going through this slump, you need to make positive changes to get you back on track. One of the most effective ways to help you meet your fitness goals is to get a workout partner.
In fact, there are studies that not only support this, but show you may even get as much as double the results you achieve during a fitness session. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen2 note that having a partner can help you exercise more by helping you not miss an exercise session, or to exercise a little harder. Furthermore, they found that the partner offering emotional support in addition to the practical support was actually more effective than the practical support alone.
Here are some other tips to help you look for a workout partner:
- Approach someone at the gym you are already friendly with
- Ask for suggestions from fitness trainers at the gym
- Try looking for workout buddies in MeetUp.com or ZogSports.com
- Sign up at the local recreation center
- Connect with friends or family
Why you should join a gym
Joining a gym can help you meet your fitness goals easier. One of the main benefits of joining a gym is the atmosphere — you’ll be inspired to take your training more seriously, and you’ll become dedicated to achieving greater results.
When you join a gym, you get to soak in the training culture. As time goes by, you will focus on living a healthier lifestyle until it becomes second nature to you. Another big benefit to joining a gym is access to resources. The people there may help you get started on concepts such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training and a host of other exercises that you may not discover on your own when exercising at home.
If you’re thinking you can’t muster up the motivation to join a gym for any number of reasons, just do it anyway, and dive right in. It’s normal to feel intimidated by the environment, especially if you haven’t visited a gym before. But the trick is not to compare yourself to what everyone else is doing. Simply focus on yourself and your own workout goals, and you’ll eventually see results.
Exercising at home
But what if you can’t squeeze in gym workouts into your schedule or if you do not have the budget to sign up for a membership? What if there’s no gym near your house or workplace? In this case, you can simply do exercises at home.
Knowing how to do different exercises at home can help you stay active and on track with your fitness goals, if you don’t have access to a gym or if you’re simply looking to deviate from your usual exercise routine. Here are some cheap and efficient workout ideas that you can do inside your home or in your backyard or lawn:
- Try bodyweight strength training — Bodyweight workouts have been popular for decades because they’re efficient, cheap and beneficial. They can also be done anytime, anywhere — in your home, at the office or even at a hotel when you’re traveling. Some of my favorites include pushups, plank ups, squats, lunges, jumping squats and triceps dips, which you will learn later on this guide.
- Take the stairs for a cardio workout — Climbing stairs increases your heart rate quickly and engages your hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and core muscles more than working out on a flat surface. Working against gravity also helps increase your work output.
- Invest on affordable home gym equipment — You don’t have to break the bank to set up your own home gym. Some of the cheap but effective workout tools I recommend include kettlebells, resistance bands, sliders, Swiss ball, Ab and foam rollers, jump rope, stretch straps and Magic Circle Pilates ring. For under $20 each, these gears can help you perform four foundational exercises: balance, flexibility, cardio and strength training.
- Take up racket sports, swimming and aerobics — If you’re looking to add variety into your workout routine, consider doing these top three activities, as they have been found to help lower the risk for premature death based on data analyzed from more than 80,000 people.3
- Challenge yourself with obstacle courses, if there’s enough area outdoors — Obstacle courses combine a number of activities, including barbed wire, swimming through ice water, climbing walls and crawling through mud, to test the participants’ physical and mental endurance. Besides building endurance, agility and coordination, these courses promote camaraderie, with participants helping each other reach the finish line.4
- Take a daily walk — Walking is considered a light physical activity that may help reduce the risk of stroke when done at least four hours a week, according to a study in the journal Neurology. When you pick up your pace to brisk walk, you’ll also engage in moderate physical activity, which is ideally done for two to three hours a week.5,6
Aside from these tips, you can also switch your car for a bicycle. Active commute, which includes biking back and forth to work, has been found to help reduce the risk from diseases and all-cause mortality.7 You get to save on gas money, too!