Advice from Harvard on The Best Exercises Ever

Getting fit isn’t always easy, especially as the years pass. Some of us think we’re too old, or too out of shape. Others are intimidated by a gym culture that seems to look down on anyone who isn’t young. But don’t let that stop you from exercising. The experts at Harvard Medical School have come up with a list of five exercise that can help you shape up and lower your risk of disease. (Editor’s note: Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.)

SWIMMING. The Harvard experts say that this is a good exercise if your joints are painful, because the water takes the pressure off them. Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard, says that it’s good for people with arthritis. Experts also say that swimming can act as a de-stressor. You might also want to try water aerobics, the Harvard experts say.
Tai chi. This Chinese martial art incorporates movement and relaxation, and, the experts say, it’s good for body and mind. It consists of a series of graceful movements that flow into each other. There are different levels of tai chi, including those that are appropriate for differing ages and fitness levels. Dr. Lee, the Harvard expert, says it’s particularly important in maintaining balance skills.

STRENGTH TRAINING. We’re not talking about bulking up and lifting hundreds of pounds. Working with light weights will keep your muscles strong. According to Dr. Lee, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.

The Harvard experts recommend starting with just one- or two-pound weights. You should be able to easily lift the weights 10 times. After a few weeks of that, you can up your weights by a pound or two. Before starting a weight training program, be sure to learn the proper form. (Editor’s Note: Check your local Y or community center for strength training classes that are right for you.)

WALKING. This simple exercise can help you control your weight, strengthen your bones, lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes and even lift your mood. The Harvard experts recommend walking for about 10-15 minutes at a time, walking faster and farther until you are walking for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week. Make sure you have a well-fitting, supportive pair of shoes.

KEGEL EXERCISES. These strengthen the pelvic floor, which supports the bladder; that means that Kegels can help prevent incontinence. Although Kegels have often been thought of as an exercise for women, men can do them, too.

The Harvard experts say that to do a Kegel correctly, squeeze and release the muscles you would use to stop urination or prevent you from passing gas. Alternate quick squeezes and releases with longer, 10-second contractions and releases. Work up to three sets of 10-15 Kegel exercises each day.