Benefits of Physical Activity

By Eli Follick

While it is a bit early to try on our bathing suits, activities such as graduation events, weddings, travel, and shopping for warm-weather clothes may have you looking in the mirror with greater scrutiny. Physical activity not only will help get you looking your best but is also important for healthy aging.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a department of the National Institute of Health, activity helps prevent functional decline, frailty, falls, and chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Regular physical activity also contributes to improved quality of life and reduces depression. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week of activity, including walking, weights, and balance exercises.

Below are some exercise suggestions. Begin with light weights to get the feel of the movements. Start with one exercise, and as time and energy lasts, add another until you can do all of them. Rest for 60 seconds between each exercise. When you complete all of them, rest briefly and gradually start again. Two full routines should come pretty close to satisfying the American Heart Association recommendation.

Standing alternating shoulder presses
Stand with a light dumbbell in each hand, hands at shoulders. Slowly press the right hand toward the ceiling until your arm is almost straight above you. Pause, then lower the arm and do the same with the other arm. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.

Seated arm lifts
Sit on a chair while holding a light dumbbell in each hand, with your arms straight down. Keeping your arms straight, slowly raise the weights out to your sides, then lower them. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Seated bent-over raises
Sit while holding a light dumbbell in each hand, arms straight down. Bend at the waist to lean forward. While keeping your arms straight, slowly sweep your arms up and out to your sides. Pause, then slowly lower your arms. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Lying triceps extensions
Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet flat. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms straight above you. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells till they reach your ears. Pause, then press the weights back up by slowly straightening your elbows. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Seated hammer curls
Sit on a chair while holding a light dumbbell in each hand and with your arms hanging at your sides. Bend each arm at the elbow, and slowly curl the dumbbells up to the front of your shoulders. Pause for a second, then slowly lower your arms back down. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Overhead triceps extensions
Stand and press one light dumbbell up over your head. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and lower the weight behind your head. Pause, then reverse the movement. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Wall curls
Stand against a wall with a light dumbbell in each hand and with your hands hanging down at your sides. Keeping your upper arms locked, bend both elbows and slowly curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Pause, then slowly lower the dumbbells back down. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Marching in place
Stand with feet slightly apart, and march in place. At first, count to 20. Next time, count to 30 or 40, increasing your marching time as long as it is comfortable for you.

Bend ups/sit ups
Lie on the floor, knees bent. With hands behind your head, try bending up at the waist. Life as far up as you can. It may be just a few inches at first. Repeat 10-15 times.

Leg raises
Lie on the floor, legs straight out, and lift each leg one at a time, until it’s as perpendicular as you can get it. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

When you’ve done all the exercises, rest for a few minutes, and drink a cup of water. Then, if you have the energy, try going through them a second time.

Having arms and shoulders that look inspired instead of retired just takes the right mix of moves. You’ll be stronger, have more energy, and sleep better at the end of the day knowing you have taken steps toward improving yourself and enjoying the journey to health. Remember to check with your doctor or health care provider to make sure you don’t do anything that could be harmful.

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