Cardio (Aerobic) Exercises
These are the exercises that raise your heart rate and improve lung capacity and endurance. The choices are virtually limitless, but here are a few to get you started:
- Biking (outdoors or on an exercise bike)
- Walking briskly
- Jog-walking (i.e., walking for 2 minutes, jogging for 2, and so on)
- Treadmill (doing all of the above on a treadmill)
- Treadmill, with incline (Gradually increase the incline on the treadmill, a little more each week, for a more intense workout.)
- Elliptical machine
- Rowing machine
- Stair-climbing machine
- Climbing real stairs (and going down is also a good workout)
- Aerobics class
- Dancing (Do either an aerobic dance class, like Zumba, or go out dancing; any type that raises heart rate and gets you a little out of breath.)
Here are some basic moves; the graphics are courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.1 If you’re doing this at home instead of a gym, I suggest investing in a set of dumbbells. To save space, buy the adjustable type.
Ultimately, you should be doing these moves 10 to 12 times (called “reps”) in one “set,” and do at least two sets in a row (it’s OK to pause for just a little bit between sets). Those last two reps should be hard to do. When they become fairly easy, it’s time to either add another set, or, if you’re using weights, increase the weight.
For exercises that require dumbbells, start with the lowest weight that still feels like a little bit of a challenge. (It’ll feel like much more of one by the 10th lift!)
For lower body:
Strengthens hips, thighs and buttocks
Begin by standing in front of a chair and squat down as if you were sitting in it, but don’t go down that far. To protect your knees, make sure they don’t go past your toes.
Strengthens knees and quadriceps (front of thigh muscles)
Sit on a chair without arms, with both feet on the floor. Slowly raise your right leg, extending your toes upward. When leg is level with your thigh (and parallel to the floor) let it hover for a few seconds, then lower it back down to a count of four. Repeat with the left leg.
Strengthens the hamstrings—muscles in the back of your upper legs.
Hold onto the back of a chair or another firm support, stand up straight, and slowly bend your right leg. Bring your right foot as close to your buttocks as you can, but keep the right thigh straight (alongside your left leg), with your knee pointing down to the floor.
For Upper Body:
Sit up straight on a chair without arms, feet firmly on the ground, with your upper and lower arm at a 90-degree angle, as shown in the picture. Lift the weights, palms rotating in and heading up toward your shoulders. Keep your upper arms close to your body—try not to move them much. Lift up to a count of two, pause at the top, then slowly go back down to a count of four.
Strengthens arms, upper back and shoulders
Sit up straight in a chair without arms, feet planted firmly on the ground. Start with palms facing forward, elbows bent, and close to your sides, dumbbells shoulder height, as in the picture. Slowly—to the count of two—raise weights up so arms are straight up above your shoulders. Pause, then lower weights to the count of four.
Strengthens upper arms and upper back
Stand up straight, feet about hip width apart. Hold dumbbells with palms facing your body, in front of your hips as shown in the picture. To the count of two bring weights up; shoulder height. Pause, then lower the weights back to the starting position on the count of four.
Tones and strengthens abdominals and strengthens lower back.
Lie on a mat, knees bent, feet on the mat, as show in the picture. With your hands behind your head for light support (it’s really your abdominal muscles that are lifting you), raise your upper body to the count of two. Ideally, your shoulder blades are off the mat (as shown in the drawing). Keep low back firmly pressed to the floor while lifting. Hold for a few seconds, and then go down again to the count of two.
Tones and strengthen abdomen and buttocks and can improve posture.
Lie on a mat, knees bent, feet on the mat, arms at your side, as shown in the drawing. Slowly roll your pelvis, first lifting the tailbone end off the ground, and then your low back to a count of two. Pause, and then slowly (count of four) lower your pelvis back down.
Floor back extension (also called “Supermans”)
Strengthens back and abdominals.
Lie face down on a mat, with a long pillow (or two pillows) under your hips. As shown in the picture, your arms are stretched out over your head, and at the start of this exercise, both are on the floor (as are your legs). Simultaneously, to the count of two, lift your right arm and left leg. Hover for a few seconds, and then lower them back to the floor. Repeat 10 times with the same arm and leg (one rep). Now switch to your left arm and right leg and do the same.
Consult your health care provider to determine a safe level of exercise for you.
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