Whether you are just starting (or restarting) or looking to up your workout routine, there is a natural point of entry for any body type or for any desired result.
Here are five of the best exercise options that women can implement and find success:
Rooted in Chinese martial arts history, tai chi is a low impact, fluid practice. It focuses on movement and relaxation. It assists with breathing and mindfulness, all the while, you are moving your body. Its movements are designed to have a graceful and easy to learn pattern so that the mind can maintain a place of calm.
Tai chi can be a great place to begin a routine if you have been away from an active lifestyle due to its slow and measured movements. It doesn’t require special clothing (beyond a non-restrictive fit) or equipment and can be done anywhere, often outdoors in quiet surroundings to further the meditative aspects.
The practice of yoga takes tai chi up a notch with its physicality. While it is still considered a slower and meditative method, it transitions its movements a little faster – getting the heart rate increased, and it focuses on stretching and breathing more than relaxation. As you begin to feel yourself loosening in the stretches over time, you can begin to push yourself to stretch further. The practice of ‘pushing’ yourself alone is a wonderful internal practice that comes naturally with yoga.
Yoga has many variations with the Vinyasa flow being a basic routine that typically takes about 30-45 minutes with a warm up and cool down phase for a complete workout.
Yoga includes movements on the floor, so a yoga mat is strongly recommended, but special clothes are not. Just be sure the clothes are loose fitting and allow you to move through the stretches without constriction.
Another great exercise routine entry point is swimming. The buoyancy of the water increases the ability to move your body without impact to joints and muscle groups. Pool therapy is a common technique for physical rehab patients because of this.
Swimming works well with all the muscle groups or can be tailored to a specific set of muscles and is a good generator for cardio. Being in the pool with the resistance of the water makes for a natural transition to other types of resistance training that can be done outside the pool.
Swimming doesn’t require special equipment, but you will need a comfortable bathing suit that allows you to move freely in the water and you’ll need a towel.
Many facilities will offer classes that include various types of swimming or water exercise (and they may have a sauna or hot tub that can be beneficial to relaxing your muscles after a workout).
Walking may seem like an obvious or basic suggestion as exercise, but the benefits of consistent walking are numerous and varied. 30-60 minutes of walking at a moderate speed 3 times each week will help with muscle building, cardio and endurance training, and potential moderate weight loss, just to name a few.
Walking requires a good pair of shoes, and any loose fitting, weather appropriate, and comfortable yet curated clothing will work nicely.
There are many programs that can ease you into a consistent walking lifestyle. Couch tob5k is common and effective as they start you of slowly and work you up to being able to run a 5k within 6 weeks.
If you find yourself already somewhat fit and are wanting to up your game, so to speak, you can begin with some basic strength training activities. These exercises are designed to get your heart rate pumping and build muscle or strength. They can also assist in toning your physique.
Some equipment is required (as described) and quality clothing made for regular strength training is recommended.
(Note: seek professional instruction before starting any strength building exercise to ensure that your body is healthy and that your form and technique are good and will not lead to injury. These instructors can also guide you with how many repetitions to do with each type of activity.)
A basic, regular, 3 times per week workout may include the following
- Deadlift – lifting a barbell with weights from the floor while facing the barbell
- Squat – lifting a barbell with weights with your legs while it is on your shoulders
- Weighted Hip Thrust – lay on your back with the barbell over your hips and lift your stomach up, then back down
- Overhead Press – from a standing position, lift a barbell over your head
- Kettlebell swings – swing a kettlebell between your legs then to the front, about chest height
If you are looking to really push yourself into a strong exercise regimen, an intermediate, regular 3 times per week routine suggestion is:
- Squat to Overhead Press – start with a basic squat, then to standing, up to an overhead press and back down
- Single-Leg Dumbbell Row – from a half bend position, lift a dumbbell with one hand while raising the opposite leg behind you. Repeat with the opposite arm/leg combination
- Step-Up with Bicep Curl – step up onto a stool or sturdy chair, then curl a dumbbell, uncurl, and step back down
- Dolphin Plank – start in a plank position, then lift hips up and back down to plank
- Curtsy Lunge – cross one leg over the other and reach one arm to the opposite direction; repeat for the other side of the body
- Superman – lay face down, then point arms and feet, then lift them at the same time so only your stomach remains touching the floor
The bottom line is that regular exercise, no matter your entry level, can be fun, meditative, and excellent for keeping your mind and body in great shape.