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Body Weight Exercise
The health and fitness experts at Harvard Medical School perfected workout routines that use your own body weight to strengthen your whole body — routines that offer a wealth of better health and more pep in your step. They’re all in the Body-Weight Exercise Special Health Report, along with step-by-step directions and how-to photos. You can do these feel-younger exercises at home and adjust them to your fitness level. And there’s positively no equipment necessary to get great results.
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They’re all in Harvard’s Special Health Report Body-Weight Exercise, along with easy-to-follow directions and how-to photos. And more good news: you can easily do these feel-younger exercises at home and adjust them to your fitness level. And there’s positively no equipment necessary to get great results.
You’ll notice certain changes when you start one of these body-weight routines — like having more energy, being able to lift things more easily, seeing some definition in your muscles, and maybe even losing some pounds or inches.
And then there are the changes that you can’t see—like stronger bones, lower blood pressure, and your body’s improved ability to manage blood sugar. Even short workouts will help you build whole-body fitness … improve your balance … enhance your mobility … and more.
Step-by-step, the routines in the Body-Weight Exercise Special Health Report guide you to a healthier, younger body. For example, you’ll discover:
- How to strengthen your hip muscles to help prevent knee pain and make walking easier.
- The easy-on-the-joints cardio interval workout that builds endurance as it strengthens your core.
- The lunge exercise that will help keep you strong and agile, making it easier to pick things up from the floor.
- The squat exercise that helps improve your balance, stability, posture, and power.
- How to make it easier to twist and bend sideways with our 1-2-3-4 exercise.
- The small ab-engaging movement that helps support your lower back.
- The core-strengthening exercise you can do sitting down!
- And much more!
You are constantly working against gravity as you go about your daily life. Even when you’re standing still, muscles throughout your body, the so-called antigravity muscles—from your legs (calf muscles, quadriceps, and gluteals) to your upper back (the erector spinae)—are working to keep you upright. But the more you move, the more energy you’re expending to counter this unseen force.
To understand just how effective everyday weightbearing exercise is, consider the experience of astronauts, who are weightless when they are in outer space. Research has found that astronauts can lose up to 20% of their muscle mass in less than two weeks when they are deprived of the resistance of gravity. That’s because the body, in its wisdom, does not put its resources into maintaining muscles that have minimal demands placed on them. Even bone density declines at a rate of up to 10% in six months, when bones no longer have to harden themselves to withstand the forces of terrestrial life. To maintain muscle and bone mass while in outer space, astronauts have to exercise for two to two-and-a-half hours a day, using special equipment that provides resistance.
Unlike the astronauts in outer space, we on Earth have gravity to help us, day in and day out. But how much benefit you derive from it depends on how much you get up and move around. Failing to take advantage of it is like leaving dumbbells in the corner to gather dust or turning your treadmill into a clothes hanger.
Even doing a single exercise is better than doing nothing. For one study, a small group of frail 70-somethings were instructed to do 48 chair stands twice a week for 12 weeks. A chair stand (page 26) is a simple exercise in which you stand up from a chair and sit down again repeatedly, using only your muscles to power the movement. It’s a perfect example of bodyweight exercise and is something you can easily do at home, even while watching TV. And it’s surprisingly effective. During the 12 weeks of the study, the participants increased their muscle mass by about 6% (instead of seeing declines, which are typical at this age) and boosted the strength of their quadriceps (the muscles in the front of the thigh) by about 10%.
To derive the full benefits of gravity, try to meet the recommendations set out in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They specifically mention bodyweight exercise as one way to fulfill the recommendation for strength training.
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Strength and Power Training for All Ages
Studies attest that strength training, as well as aerobic exercise, can help you manage and sometimes prevent conditions as varied as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis. It can also protect vitality, make everyday tasks more manageable, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Strength and Power Training for All Ages helps you take strength training to the next level by developing a program that's right for you.
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