Exercise essentials

Back to Basics: 2022 Exercise Essentials

From barre to spin class, yoga, running, boxing, hiking, swimming, CrossFit, and weight lifting, the list of workouts to try is endless. With so many exercise trends to choose from, it can be overwhelming to find the best workout for you.


If you’re just starting out or returning to a fitness routine after some time off, you might be wondering where to start. Do you have to squeeze in all the latest fitness to be in shape and crush your fitness goals?

The truth is, you don’t need fancy or expensive equipment or exercise classes to get a good workout that engages your body from head to toe.


Whether you want to exercise to lose weight, build muscle, improve your overall health, or just move for fun, starting with the basics can help you develop foundational fitness skills and learn proper form while minimizing the risk of injury. If you’re ready to master the basics, here are four essentials to incorporate into your exercise routine.


1. Warm-Up

It can be tempting to jump right into your workout, but taking a few minutes to properly warm up your body can help prep your muscles for the work to come, increase flexibility, and may reduce the risk of hurting yourself.


You should complete your warm-up at the start of each workout. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but the movements should mimic the workout you’re about to do.


A warm-up might include low-intensity movements and dynamic stretches that get your blood moving toward muscles and joints loosened. Examples include:


  • Arm circles
  • Shoulder and neck rolls
  • Knee raises
  • Leg swings
  • Torso twists
  • Marching or jogging in place

2. Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise refers to activities that increase your heart and breathing rate. Cardio helps condition the heart and lungs, increase endurance, burns calories, and benefits brain health.


The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise per day. If you dread the thought of spending half an hour on a treadmill or elliptical machine, you’ll be happy to know there are lots of other ways to get your cardio in.


Here are some ideas for cardio that require no or minimal equipment:


  • Jumping jacks
  • Burpees
  • High knees
  • Jump rope
  • Squat jumps
  • Lateral (side to side) shuffles
  • Mountain climbers
  • Walking at a brisk pace


3. Strength Training

Strength training refers to activities that build muscle and increase strength. Muscles burn more calories than fat, so increasing your muscle mass helps to raise metabolism and is key to losing weight and creating a more sculpted body composition.


You don’t need to cycle through every piece of weight lifting equipment in the gym to get stronger, though. Basic body weight movements can challenge your muscles without specialized equipment.


Examples of body weight strength training exercises include:


  • Squats
  • Forward and reverse lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Planks
  • Tricep dips
  • Deadlifts


After you’ve mastered these exercises with body weight alone, investing in some essential gear can make them harder and expand the types of strength training exercises you can do at home.


A set of adjustable dumbbells gives you the versatility and range of a complete set of weights in a compact form.


A set of resistance bands also takes up minimal space and fits easily into a gym bag or luggage so you can increase the difficulty of most body weight exercises wherever you’re working out.


4. Stretching

Regular stretch sessions can increase flexibility and help relieve muscle stiffness and post-workout soreness. You can incorporate stretch breaks throughout the day and include stretches at the end of each workout.


Static stretches, or the kind you hold, can help you cool down and relax your muscles after exercise. Stretching should not be rushed or feel painful.


Examples of static stretches to include:


  • Seated or standing hamstring stretch
  • Seated butterfly to stretch hips and inner thighs
  • Standing quadriceps stretch
  • Side stretch
  • Shoulder stretch
  • Tricep stretch
  • Neck stretch

These exercise essentials should make up the core of your exercise routine whether you’re working out at home, in nature, or in a gym setting. Incorporating the basics, whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, offers plenty of versatility and challenge to up level your fitness and health.

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