Exercise plays an essential role in your overall health and wellbeing. You can eat the most balanced, healthy, plant-based diet and without exercise you are still missing a piece of the puzzle to achieve optimal health. Diet and exercise not only complement one another but work together to help you reduce heart risk, improve your mental health, achieve your weight loss goals, and keep you in good health. Whether you find yourself in the midst of a busy season fighting for time to get to the gym or don’t know where to start, here are 5 simple exercises you can do anytime, anywhere:
No equipment needed! You may think squats are only good for strengthening your quads, but this simple exercise also strengthens your abs, calves, hip muscles, hamstrings, and butt muscles. New to squats? No sweat. Challenge yourself to 3 sets of 12-15 reps per day.
Here are a few tips to help you perfect the squat:
- Keep your chest elevated. This will help you avoid leaning forward when squatting.
- Stand with your feet hips’ width apart, toes facing forward.
- Look directly forward, keeping your head and neck in a neutral position.
- Shift your weight over your heels. Push through your heels to stand up.
Looking for a way to elevate the basic squat? (We see you!) Try the squat jump. Keep the same form, lower your body into the squat and explode into a vertical jump, swinging your arms overhead. Return to squat. Repeat.
Your core is a central muscle group that assists you in everyday motions, as well as supporting other muscle groups like your back. Unbeknownst to most, your core muscles are more than the idealistic 6 pack; they wrap around your torso, and include muscles in your side and back. Many simple movements are powered by your core, such as bending over, sitting down, and standing to name a few. A strong core also helps you maintain good posture.
Here are a few tips to maintain a perfect plank form:
- Keep your elbows directly below your shoulders.
- Be mindful of keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe; resist raising your hips or butt in the air.
- Keep your head in a neutral position with eyes looking at the floor.
The great thing about the plank is it can be easily modified. If a plank is too hard, drop your knees to the floor, being mindful of keeping the same form. Looking for a challenge? Try the plank with a shoulder tap. While in the plank position, simply lift your right hand off the floor and touch your left shoulder, and vice versa.
This simple exercise helps increase hamstring flexibility while strengthening your shoulders, core, chest, lower back, and deltoid muscles. The inchworm can be done anywhere and like the others, it doesn’t require any equipment.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Hinge at the hips and bring your hands to the ground by your feet.
- Walk your hands forward to a plank position.
- Hold for a few seconds and then walk your hands back up to your feet.
If you’re looking for an extra challenge, add in a push up when you’re in the plank position.
4. Calf raises
Calf raises are a great way to engage and strengthen your muscles while sitting or standing at your desk or kitchen counter. Calf raises help with foot and ankle support and flexibility, which are central in running and jumping. Strengthened calf muscles also help decrease injury in other joints and muscles, like your knees and achilles tendon.
Here are a few tips for calf raises:
- Be sure to stretch before you exercise to prevent cramping.
- Don’t lock your knees but keep them extended.
5. Arm pulses
Tone your biceps, triceps, and upper back muscles with arm pulses. With your arms at your side and palms facing backward, simply pulse your arms backward. This exercise can be done anywhere. Add it to your routine as you binge your favorite Netflix show, work from home, or wait in line at Starbucks.
Tips for arm pulses:
- Keep your shoulders down.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together for an added stretch and muscle workout.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine doesn’t have to be daunting. Start simple. Add a couple or all of these exercises into your day and begin to see the results. Daily movement or exercise not only complements a well-balanced diet, but supports mental health, increasing endorphins and lowering stress and anxiety. With a balanced, healthy, plant-powered diet and an added exercise routine, you’re on your way to optimal health!