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With many gyms closed and our usual routines upended, it's fair to say your 2021 fitness resolutions probably look a bit different from last year's. Indeed, social distancing has already changed how many of us exercise. “The silver lining of the pandemic is people looking to work out have discovered they can pretty much do it anywhere, whether it's a walk outdoors or bodyweight exercises in their living room,” says Pamela Peeke, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fit to Live. As she sees it, “The entire COVID-19 experience has been a wake-up call, with many adults, especially those over the age of 50, realizing how important it is to be in good health.” But like everything in life, sometimes the best results come with baby steps or subtle tweaks, rather than all-out makeovers. Here are five easy, doable fitness resolutions to adopt today.
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1. Sit an hour less each day
Over 40 percent of all U.S. adults reported sitting for more than eight hours a day during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a December 2020 study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports. While that may be understandable, it's not good: “Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, weight gain and high cholesterol, all of which in themselves raise your risk of complications from COVID-19,” Peeke explains.
Resolve to slash your sitting time by simply setting the timer on your phone to take a break from sitting every half hour, recommends Peeke. She also suggests purchasing a mini-trampoline (available online for less than $150). “Even simply standing on it for five minutes improves balance and stability, and strengthens your core,” she explains. You could also try doing jumping jacks or jumping up and down for a few minutes. “This is great for overall bone health, since it stimulates the growth of osteoblasts, the cells that grow new bone,” she says. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that trampolining increases bone density and strength.
2. Work in once-a-week yoga
This winter could be a good time to look into all the yoga classes available online. “Yoga's superb for balance and flexibility, both of which decrease with age,” Peeke notes. “It's also less wear and tear on your body than doing CrossFit.”
A University of Michigan review analyzed studies of yoga among older adults and concluded it can boost bone mineral density, increase physical fitness, relieve osteoarthritis pain, and even help improve sleep and depression. Another 2017 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that older adults who attended yoga classes twice weekly for eight weeks experienced 48 percent fewer falls in the six months after the sessions began, compared to the prior six months. Peek says that could be related to how yoga “strengthens your core, enhances your stability and makes you more aware of how you move."