No matter how in shape you are, sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to lace up those shoes and go to the gym. Believe me… I know it.
But I promise you, it’s worth it. Even adding just a little bit of exercise to your daily routine can help you burn calories.
The Centers for Disease Control found that people who did 20 minutes of light-moderate exercise each day lost weight faster than those who did not.
And exercise has more benefits than just helping you shed the pounds.
For one thing, it helps out your digestive system. In fact, cardio exercises strengthen your abdominal muscles, and even help your intestinal muscles keep food moving through your system.
It’ll even help keep you from getting winded when you’re playing with your grandchildren. And it will give you the energy to go out with friends and the balance to dance the night away with your spouse.
The problem is: whether you’re doing a workout video at home or taking a class at the gym, you’ll probably encounter some moves you just can’t do.
I know that can often kill your motivation and your confidence.
But what if I told you there are some easy ways to modify your exercise for your fitness level?
Here are some simple modifications you can make to some popular exercises.
Jumping Jacks: You probably remember these from elementary school gym class. As the body gets older and you carry more weight, these get harder on the knees and the back.
Want to make them simpler? Here are 2 modifications I love:
- Step Jacks: Instead of jumping, step one leg out while bringing your arms together over your head. Alternate legs as you repeat the exercise.You can do these as slowly or as quickly as you feel comfortable. Focus on engaging your muscles and standing with good posture.
- Seated Jacks: Sit straight in a sturdy chair without arms. As with a standard jumping jack, bring your legs and arms apart at the same time, then back together.Repeat as quickly or as slowly as you are able, focusing on sitting straight and engaging your abs.
Squats: Squats are great for toning your legs and butt. That said, a traditional squat requires excellent balance, and as we get older maintaining that balance gets harder and harder.
Here are two ways to use a chair to support your squat. Make sure you pick a sturdy chair without wheels to provide optimal support.
- Squat to Chair: Doing your squats from a sturdy chair is a fantastic modification — the chair will keep you from bending too deep into your squat and damaging your knees.Keep your core muscles engaged and focus on squatting slowly rather than focusing on lots of reps. If you need a break, simply sit down with good posture.
- Supported Squats: If you find yourself struggling with balance, squat behind the chair, using it for support. You can also use a kitchen counter or even your desk.Make sure not to squat too deeply — your knees shouldn’t go beyond 90 degrees. Focus on engaging your core and glutes to avoid injury.
Bridge: You may notice that a lot of exercise routines involve bridges. They help to work your back, core, and glutes.
A lot of my patients have mentioned they feel lower back pain while doing a bridge. Here are a few variations to help avoid back pain.
- Supported Bridge: While lying on the floor with your knees bent, bring your arms next to you. They can either lie by your sides or, if you’d like more support, at a 90 degree angle to your body.Lift your hips as high as you feel comfortable. You can either hold your hips up or raise them up and down with control.
- Ball Bridge: If a supported bridge is still a struggle, consider a ball bridge.Many gyms have exercise balls you can borrow, and you can find them in the fitness aisle of most big box stores. You can do this at home with a pillow and/or ottoman as well.
Sit on the ball. Carefully walk your feet out until your back is supported on the ball and your feet are at a 90 degree angle.
Raise and lower your hips, focusing on engaging your glutes and maintaining your balance. Try lifting one leg at a time for an added challenge.
Crunches: Traditional crunches can really hurt the lower back. Here are a couple of modifications for crunches that take the pressure off the low back while still working those abs.
- Leg Lifts: These are just as effective as traditional crunches, but they’re way easier on your back.Placing your hands by your side, or under the top of your butt for more support, raise your legs to a right angle from your body. You can place a small pillow under your lower back if you’d like more support.
You can keep your legs completely straight or put a slight bend in your knees for more comfort. Lower legs until they’re 6 inches off the floor. Repeat as many times as possible.
- Ball Crunches: If you still find that you need more back support, try ball crunches. The curve of an average-sized exercise ball really supports the lower back, making crunches less painful.To do ball crunches, sit on an exercise ball. Walk your feet out until your lower back is resting on the ball. Focus on keeping your core engaged and your back straight as you do your crunches.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to modify even the more challenging exercise moves to make them work for any fitness level.
And remember, even 10 minutes of exercise a day can make a big difference in your life.
A study done by the American Medical Association found that regular exercise can help reduce depression and anxiety, improve sleep habits, and even speed up your metabolism.
In reality though, the benefits to exercise are endless. So, make sure to keep your body active on a daily basis. You’ll look and feel amazing when you do this!
Amy Lee, MD (Nucific)