Fitness is a wide, wide world. And adult fitness is an incredibly intriguing topic. It’s vast. It’s also one of the most important topics of the day. Lately, many of us have had more time than ever before to focus on our health. And our fitness routine is a key component to our total well-being. This is also the perfect time to take our physical (and mental) fitness to the next level. And that will be the theme of this topic. I want to explore the many ways we can upgrade our physical and mental well-being in order to live with greater energy, vitality, and inspiration.
The first topic we should delve into is functional fitness. Functional fitness refers to exercise we naturally do in our day-to-day activities. This includes lifting heavy objects like boxes, children, books, etc. It also includes simple movements like getting down to the floor and up off the floor. Functional fitness even relates to putting dishes back on the shelves. When we think about improving our functional fitness, we think about becoming stronger and more agile so that we can easily do all the things necessary to live independently, and with ease—especially as we age. That being said, we want to do exercises that improve our balance, our overall strength, and our coordination.
To make sure we’re well prepared to maintain functional fitness health throughout our lives, we should do the following exercises at least a few times each week:
Plank pose is a yoga position that strengthens the core muscles. It also builds muscles in the shoulders, arms, and even the quads. You probably know how to do plank pose, but if you don’t, simply come to your hands and knees, and then straighten your legs behind you so that your entire body is forming a plank. Hold the plank and breathe. Rest and repeat as many times as you like.
Squat against the wall
This one is everyone’s favorite! (Not really.) It’s a challenging position to hold for long periods of time, but even brief periods significantly builds the quadriceps. All you do is place your back up against a wall, and squat so that your legs are at a right angle. If you can’t go down that far, no worries. Just squat down as far as you can and hold the pose while you breathe. Stand up to rest for a few moments, and then ease back into the pose. Do this as many times as you like.
Single leg lift
Because balance is key to functional fitness as we age, the single leg lift is one to do often. All you need to do is put your weight on one foot, and slowly do little leg lifts with the other. Lift the leg to the front, the side, the back—whatever you like. You’ll be working different parts of the leg depending upon which direction you go.
High Intensity Interval Training
I might sound like a broken record when it comes to high intensity interval training. But, this is because it’s so darn good for you. Plus, it’s highly efficient—especially for those of us who are short on time. Also called burst training (and sometimes tabata), high intensity interval training (HIIT) makes the heart grow stronger. And because cardiovascular disease is today’s most common killer, every adult on the planet needs to commit to a workout that strengthens his or her heart muscle.
The best thing about HIIT is its efficiency. There’s no need to spend hours working out. And, you can do the workout from home—perfect since most of us are working from home anyway, these days. If you’re wondering how much time you need each week, I say 40 minutes to an hour. That’s it! All you need to do is a 20-minute routine. Then do that routine either twice each week, or thrice each week. It’s totally up to you. This anaerobic style of exercise isn’t easy.
Don’t expect it to be easy at first. But, with time, you’ll adapt. And be able to stick with it. Find a routine online you can follow—one that gets you breathing heavily and your heart pounding with the breath. You need to be challenged, and there are so many online routines from which to choose from. Find one that takes you to your edge, and then stick with it for a while. Then, take it to the next level. Work your way up slowly, and enjoy the ride!
Bicycling and walking for transportation
Bicycling and walking are two forms of steady state aerobic activity that you can do for hours at a time should you choose. These forms of exercise are easy on the joints, and excellent for your heart. They can also put you in a state of deep relaxation and meditation as you get into a steady rhythm. These two exercises are forms of movement that also become functional in nature when you wrap your head around using them as your primary form of transportation. Now, you might be thinking, no way!
But, I want you to simply consider the idea, and take little steps here and there. For me, these are my modes of getting places, because I don’t own a car. In fact, I haven’t for over a decade. I love the health and freedom my car-free lifestyle gives me. And while your lifestyle might dictate that you travel places via automobile, I’m sure there are times you don’t have to. Why not see what it’s like to go get your groceries with a backpack and your own two feet? Or a backpack and a bicycle? You might actually have fun! Remember how much you loved biking with your friends as a kid? It’s no different now. You just need to relax and find your bicycle legs again.
Build your muscles
Building muscle mass through various forms of strength training is part and parcel of a healthy adult fitness regimen. As we get older, our muscles lose mass. Bone density decreases, and our bodies lose the tone they once had. But, this doesn’t have to be the case if you commit to regular strength training exercises. Plus, they’ll help you trim your belly and keep excess weight off because strength training exercises burn loads of calories. They do this by increasing your metabolism. If you’ve been reading our articles, you probably know that after you’ve finished a muscle building workout, your body continues to burn calories for hours after you’ve finished working out. How’s that for efficiency?
The cool thing is, you don’t have to be a weight lifting machine to get the full effects of a strength training workout. You can build muscles through all kinds of exercise. There’s Pilates, calisthenics, kettlebells, resistance bands—even a well-rounded yoga practice can build significant muscle mass throughout your entire body. Ways to build muscle mass are endless. Find what works for you and integrate a little routine into your weekly workout.
If you haven’t already explored the wide world of yoga, and found the perfect style for you, now’s the time! And I suggest you do so by signing up for a 30-day yoga challenge. This is a wonderful way to do short videos every day. Many 30-day yoga challenges allow you to sample various styles, in a simple way that’s led by a qualified yoga teacher. You also get to connect with students across the globe who are doing the challenge with you. In my view, all adults nowadays need to have yoga as a part of their fitness regimen. This is a no-brainer, as yoga targets all aspects of health—mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual. It’s a powerful tool to combat stress, too. And god knows we all need some help with alleviating stress from our days (and nights).
And with so many yoga studios and gyms closed these days, you need a program that’s going to motivate you to practice from home. This is why trying a 30-day yoga challenge now is ideal. Whether you’re just getting started with yoga, or you’re an advanced practitioner, a 30-day yoga challenge is beneficial on a variety of levels. You get to connect with likeminded people. You get to follow a new teacher, and in some cases, you don’t have to pay a dime. Many 30-day yoga challenges are totally free of charge. There’s really no time like the present to make yoga an integral part of your fitness routine.
I truly believe that in this day and age, mental fitness is every bit as important as physical fitness. Mental clarity and present moment awareness help you live a much fuller life. Plus, it also helps you lose weight, enjoying your food rather than scarfing it down. Mindful eating trains the mind to eat better, foregoing the addiction to sweets while supporting the love of nutritious foods.
This is why meditation should be part of your daily routine. To get started with a meditation practice, you may want to find a teacher online, and there are so many wonderful ones out there. Mindfulness is a popular form of meditation these days, which comes from the Buddhist tradition. Mantra meditation is another favorite, hailing from the yoga tradition. There are even concentration meditations that have to do with simply focusing on a candle and breathing. Various guided meditations are available on youtube. Play around a bit and experiment with different meditation styles until you find one you like.
Then, commit to the practice each morning. I like to listen to a guided meditation after I wake up, use the bathroom, and make coffee. This particular meditation lasts for 30 minutes. This is a time frame that works best for me. But, I’ve been meditating for years. If you’re just beginning, 30 minutes may sound huge. So, start small. Even 2 minutes is better than no minutes. The important thing is getting started. Once you’ve been meditating for a while, you may find you love it so much you’ll increase time spent contemplating quicker than you realized you would. Our minds are all seeking peace, and meditation allows little snippets of peace to arise. It’s a crucial step to harnessing our mental powers of calm and clarity.
Dance, dance, dance
Adult fitness doesn’t have to be all about function. It can also be about artistry. I recently signed up for an online flamenco dance class. Flamenco is a form of music and dance that hails from Andalucia, in southern Spain. Back in 2007 and 2008 I danced it professionally. Life happened and I lost touch with this art form I once loved. Is there some kind of dance you used to do that made your heart sing? Dance is a wonderful way to keep moving, and if there’s a class you can take, even if it’s just online, all the better.
Dance classes allow you to meet new kindred spirits. Music uplifts the spirit, and we could all use as much of that these days as possible! Loads of dance classes are being taught online nowadays, and hopefully soon in live studios. There’s tango, flamenco, hip hop, tap, jazz, ballet, zumba, rumba, swing dancing, ballroom dance, Irish step dancing, West African dance, Brazilian samba—so many dance forms from across the world can bring true joy and color into your life. Why not explore your options and jump back into the world of dance. I did, and I’ve no regrets!
The key to a well-rounded adult fitness routine is variety. Your body needs to move in various ways to ensure that mobility, strength, and balance stay with it as you age. The variety involved will help you stay engaged, interested, and motivated. Find a workout buddy if that will keep you on track. Once you find your groove, the rest is simple. And don’t forget to meditate. A clear mind is the best personal trainer you’ll ever have!