Advice from Harvard Medical School: The 5 Best Exercises

Getting and staying fit can be an intimidating process, especially if you haven’t been exercising. But you don’t need to have a complicated, expensive routine.  Here, Harvard Medical School experts suggest five exercises that can help control your weight, improve your balance, make your bones stronger, protect joints and even fight memory loss. (As always, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program).

Swimming. According to the Harvard experts, swimming can be thought of as the “perfect workout.” Because water is buoyant, it supports your body and takes the stress off joints. Swimming has also been found to improve your mood. You might also look into water aerobics, which can help you burn calories and tone muscles.

Tai chi. Also known as “meditation in motion,” tai chi is good for body and mind, the Harvard experts say. In tai chi, a series of movements gracefully transition from one to the next. There are various levels of expertise, so people of all ages and fitness levels can take part.

Strength training. You don’t have to be a weight-lifting champion to benefit from strength training. Just lifting light weight can help keep your muscles strong. Additionally, the Harvard experts say, strength training may help preserve your ability to remember.

The experts’ suggestions for a strength training routine: First, learn the proper form. Being with one- or two-pound weights. You can tell if the weights are right for you if you can lift them 10 times easily. Start light with just one or two pounds. You should be able to lift the weights 10 times with ease. Once you’ve done this for a few weeks, increase the weight by another pound or two.

Walking. Although it’s a simple exercise, it can have powerful effects, the Harvard experts say. Walking can help you control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also strengthens bones and lowers risk for serious illness such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, it’s a good mood lifter and can help fight age-related memory loss.

The Harvard experts recommend that you start walking for 10-15 minutes at a time and work up to 30 to 60 minutes daily on most days of the week.

Kegel exercises. Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and can help prevent incontinence. Squeeze and release the muscles you would use to stop urination or to prevent passing gas. The Harvard experts recommend that you alternate quick squeezes and releases with longer contractions that you hold for 10 seconds before releasing for 10 seconds. They also say you can work up to three sets of 10-15 Kegel exercises daily.

The bottom line: as long as you are doing some form of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, and two days of strength training per week, you can consider yourself “active.”