Exercise is one of several components of overall well-being. I find it to be highly beneficial for mental and cognitive health as well physical health. Exercise as a whole is an incredible stress management tool to help us cope with our busy lives.
An essential exercise is something that can be done nearly anywhere with minimal equipment and accessories. Something that doesn’t require a group – this works for me but if you are more of a social person a group setting would most likely be better. It has to be an effective use of time and it has to be enjoyable.
I want to be able to continue exercising for the rest of my life which means that I have to actually enjoy doing it. Exercise is part of my life (but it isn’t my life) so I want activities that I can easily incorporate into my daily routine. Essentially, I want to gain the most benefit from the least amount of effort and time.
The essential exercises for simple living.
Of any of the types of exercise, aerobic activity takes up the most amount of time. Anything that repetitively requires us to move our big muscle groups, like our quads, deltoids or lats, is aerobic as long as our breathing remains comfortable during the activity. Walking. Biking. Running. Rollerblading. Swimming. Rowing or kayaking. Hiking. These are great examples of aerobic exercise but I tend to favor walking, running and hiking because they don’t require a membership or specialized equipment other than a good pair of shoes.
Depending on where you live and your specific interests, I am sure you can incorporate at least one of these exercises into your schedule and reap plenty of benefit. Running, my exercise of choice because of its inherent simplicity, always helps to clear my mind, and relieve tension and daily stress. I have never felt worse after a run.
Similar to aerobic exercise, strength exercise take up a fair amount of time as well. But does it have to? I would argue that it actually can take up very little time. When I think back to when I would spend upwards of an hour or more in the gym moving from one piece of equipment to the next, I can attest to the enormous waste most of this time really is.
I relinquished my gym membership years ago and haven’t missed it at all. I tend to favor simple bodyweight exercises that I can do anywhere and I require minimal equipment – a pull-up bar, and a few kettlebells. The shorter the workout the better.
I have found I can easily do a full body routine in less than the time it would take me to drive to the gym (and I live about a mile away). Pushups, pull-ups, plank, and bodyweight squats. A couple days a week I will add kettlebell swings. The whole workout takes me about 5 minutes. I plan to do these exercises every morning, though in reality I probably do them 5 days a week. I figure this is better than planning to do them 5 days a week and only really doing them 3 times.
Even just one of these exercises is a great way to incorporate a little movement into the day, especially after sitting for a couple hours straight at a desk.
Flexibility and mobility exercise:
I will admit, this group of exercises is something I should focus more on. I am typically better about stretching in the warmer weather after run as part of my cool down, but when it is cold outside all I care about is getting inside to warm up. Nonetheless, flexibility is still a key part of overall physical health.
Exercises like stretching, yoga, pilates, foam rolling and myofascial release, and massage are all examples of ways we can keep our body limber and they are important for muscle and joint health. Basic yoga postures including downward facing dog, forward fold, cat and cow, happy baby, and lunges are simple and easy ways to incorporate stretching into your day.
I challenge you to incorporate aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises into your day, especially at times when you are feeling overly stressed, overwhelmed, and that you don’t have time for it. Start your day with a 20 minute walk and 5 minutes of bodyweight strength exercises. Spend 5 to 10 minutes walking outside during your lunch break. Take 10 minutes before you go to bed for simple stretches like lunges and happy baby to open up your hips after the many hours spent sitting all day.
Turn some of this movement into a habit and routine that will improve your overall health and well-being for the rest of your life.