Here's some quick physics fun: A body at rest tends to stay at rest. That's the fitness version of Newton's First Law, and it means that humans will find literally any excuse to not work out. I don't have time.... I felt a slight ache in my knee and don't want to make that worse... It's high tide. Somewhere. Probably. This happens to everyone—even the most dedicated, ruthless, disciplined gym-goers among us. (Like we said, it's science)
Family relationships can benefit from exercise too. On days when the weather is nice the entire family may enjoy a walk or the couple a bike ride with the children in child seats behind the parents. If the family is involved in that very active phase of rearing young children, a parent's exercise break between work and child responsibilities will likely help them to be a calmer, more able parent.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in a bent-knee push-up position with your palms underneath your shoulders and knees bent at 90-degrees. Kick your right leg in front of you and assume a one-arm, one-leg hip bridge. Hold for one count, then reverse the movement and repeat on the other side. Move at a slower, more-controlled pace if it’s difficult, or even try a modified version called “sit-throughs,” where you sit on the outside of your hip as you move to each side.
In addition to its other benefits, regular exercise helps older people remain independent by improving functional ability and by preventing falls and fractures (see also Exercise in the Elderly). It can strengthen the muscles of even the frailest older person living in a nursing or retirement home. It tends to increase appetite, reduce constipation, and promote quality sleep.
You probably have a vague sense that exercise is good for you—and you’ve probably heard that it’s “healthy for the heart.” But if you’re like most people, that’s not enough motivation to get you to break a sweat with any regularity. As I report in the TIME cover story, “The Exercise Cure,” only 20% of Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week, more than half of all baby boomers report doing no exercise whatsoever, and 80.2 million Americans over age 6 are entirely inactive.
We've got some happy news that will rev up your workout routine: The moment you head out on your run, launch into your Spinning class, or start your Pilates session, the benefits of exercise kick in. "We see changes in the body within seconds," says FITNESS advisory board member Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. Your heart rate increases, and blood is delivered to your muscles. You start burning calories for fuel. And you get an almost immediate mood boost.
Stand with your legs wide apart, toes turned out and arms at your sides. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor and you're low enough to touch it with your fingertips (A). Immediately jump up as high as you can, keeping your legs wide and extending your arms straight overhead (B). That's one rep. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps, resting for 30 seconds between sets.
If you're ready to move on from classic Bulgarian split squats, Swan's amped-up variation gets your upper body in on the action for a true total-body exercise. "This combination move works your legs, butt, chest, back, arms, and core," she says. "And it not only hits all the major muscle groups—it also lets you work on balance." Give it a shot and you'll see why.