This week I made my debut doing health/fitness segments on the local TV station. I am excited to have the opportunity to offer free exercise and nutrition advice once a month to viewers in the greater Columbus area. (You can catch the segments the first Sunday of each month in the 9 a.m. hour of Good Day Columbus on FOX 28.)
My first segment detailed five basic moves for a beginner who is just getting started with an exercise program. Each exercise mimics “activities of daily living” meaning these are movements we actually perform frequently in our daily lives. For that reason they are very functional and a great starting point.
1. The “bend & lift” movement. Exercise: Squat
The squat is one of the most basic yet most effective lower body moves. Every time you sit down on the couch or get up out of a car, you’re doing a squat.
In fitness we use the squat to challenge all the lower body muscles, as well as improve balance.
Aim to go as low as possible without the knees coming forward past the toes, and without leaning forward or rounding the back. As you get stronger, keep working to get the glutes lower to the floor. To make it harder, add weights.
2. The “single-leg” movement. Exercise: Lunge
The lunge is a one-legged version of the squat. It is more difficult because it requires better balance and the ability to lift and lower your body weight with one leg. Walking up stairs or bending over to pick something up with the weight on one leg would be examples of movements similar to the lunge.
As with the squat, the goal here is to keep the weight in the back of the body (the glutes and hamstrings) and to lower yourself as close to the floor as possible without allowing the knee to go past the toe or leaning forward. This exercise puts more pressure on the knee so it should be avoided if you have knee joint issues.
3. The “push” movement. Exercise: Push-up
The push-up is an exercise I include in all my client programs and group classes. It’s extremely functional and effective.
However, many of my clients (especially women) hate doing them. That’s because they are hard! It requires a strong back and core, as well as a very strong upper body.
Being able to lift your own body weight is an important strength to have, especially as we age. If you fall to the floor, you want to be able to push yourself back up, right?
When just starting out, make push-ups less challenging by doing them on your knees. Just be sure to keep your weight forward in your hands and not in your knees and hips. Once you can lower your chest all the way to the floor, you can progress to doing them on your toes.
4. The “pull” movement. Exercise: Resistance Band Row
Pulling is an action we do regularly. Examples of pulling movements would be opening a door, or pulling something heavy toward you. It is one movement that is hard to recreate in the exercise world without equipment.
A resistance band is a great option for working out at home. You could also use cable machines and barbells or dumbbells to perform pulling movements if you are at a gym.
Using the band, wrap it around something sturdy like a pole or another person, then keeping the elbows tucked to your sides, draw the arms straight back and shoulder blades together. Release the band slowly then repeat. I tell clients to imagine pinching a pencil beneath your shoulder blades. Be careful not to let your shoulders take over- press them down and away from your ears.
5. The “rotational” movement. Exercise: Medicine Ball Rotation
One of my favorite things is showing someone new to exercise ways to work their core without laying down on the floor. Often when we think of core exercises we only think of crunches. In reality, our core is working all day long to stabilize our spine and prevent injury to the lower back. Why not, then, work the core in a way that more realistically mimics how we move throughout our day?
Using a medicine ball or light weights, simply twisting slowly from side to side provides a functional challenge to the muscles of the core. Be careful not to over-rotate which could put pressure on the spine and low back, and be sure the hips and feet stay forward. Twist from the belly button up. Keep the abs tight and the movement slow and deliberate. To make it more difficult, extend the arms out parallel to the floor.
All five exercises shown here are safe for anyone who is generally healthy, without any chronic conditions or injuries or has been cleared by a doctor for exercise. A person with diabetes, hypertension, other chronic illness, joint pain or injury should first consult their doctor.