For Women in the Second Half of Life
Incognito Exercise Stations Around Your House
What you do or don’t physically in the last quarter of your life can raise or lower the quality of the remainder of your life. It is so important to keep your mind and body active, and even more so during this pandemic.
I want to share some ways you can create simple, incognito exercise stations in and around your house to help stay in shape while you are going about your everyday activities. You don’t need any special equipment or a home gym to do these either.
Outside the house, I try to walk six miles or more a week on 2 or 3 walks. I count mowing the lawn as one of those walks rather than a chore, and I love that I’m accomplishing something along with getting a good 45-minute workout of walking and pushing. My least favorite outdoor chore is picking weeds from the sidewalk and patio pavers, but the squatting and crawling around works my glutes enough for me to be sore the next day. I have two foam pads I use to protect my knees for that exercise/chore.
Inside the house, welcome opportunities to move around more rather than get frustrated. For example I’ve changed my attitude about the dogs getting me up and down throughout the day to let them in or out of the house because it gets me moving. I keep ice in a freezer in the garage so I have to walk out there to get it, which involves going up and down steps. I don’t mind sweeping the porch or vacuuming now because it involves movement.
Something I’ve also started doing every time I get out of a chair or my bed is to not use my arms to push or pull myself up, which makes my thighs and abdomen work harder. If you aren’t used to getting up without using your arms, it may take a while for you to be able to do it, but it’s possible if you keep trying. The key is to lean forward like you’re getting off a ski lift. Be safe, though, and don’t lose your balance. It’s okay to hold onto something if you need it, but let your legs and abdomen do the work.
The bathroom is where I do two exercises regularly because there is room to do them. If your bathroom is too small, you can do these at the kitchen counter and any floor space. The first one is standing pushups against the sink counter. Several years ago, I did 20 pushups every time I went to the bathroom, but over time I strained my shoulder and elbow, which took months to heal. So now I limit the pushups to 40 a day in increments of 10 or 20 rather than the 140 standing pushups I used to do per day.
The second exercise I do in the bathroom takes place after I brush my teeth before I go to bed. I use a prescription fluoride toothpaste that I have to keep in my mouth for at least 3 minutes, so I use that time to do exercises to strengthen my back. I’ve had trouble with back spasms for years due to two compressed discs, but since my chiropractor showed me how to do this floor exercise, I haven’t had any chronic back issues. I get down on all fours, using a foam pad for my knees. My chiropractor started me doing 15 leg lefts for each leg, and then for the second round, I bend my knee and do 15 additional lifts for each leg. That number didn’t do much for me, so I worked my way up to doing 50-was 60 leg lifts for each exercise (200-240 total). These leg lifts only take minutes, but it has strengthened my core and kept my back from spasming. I started off having to hold onto something to get up from the floor after doing these exercises, but I can now get up without holding onto anything other than pushing against a raised knee. Progress!
In bed, I do leg lifts on each side, which works my thighs. I also do mini-crunches there, raising my head and chest just enough to put pressure on my abs. I usually do 20 for each exercise, but you can do whatever number you feel is working for you.
If I have to pick up or place something on the floor or ground, I bend my knees and squat down as far as I can go rather than just bending from the waist. Leg squats can be done anywhere; just remember to push your derrière out to the back and not let your knees extend further than the tips of your toes.
Standing in front of the kitchen sink with my legs apart, I sway from side to side, which works my thighs. I also tip toe and rock back on my heels to stretch my calf muscles. You can also do back kicks standing in front of a counter or a sturdy chair.
I enjoyed going to the Y for yoga and Zumba classes before the pandemic hit, and I hope to eventually return when a safe vaccine is available. But even then I plan to continue to do these simple exercises as I go about my daily activities.
Click on the following link and print out this sheet of stick figures, cut them out, and post them where you plan to make incognito exercise stations around your house. Or just put colored dots or tiny post-it notes to mark your exercise stations. These little signs will remind you to do some reps of each exercise throughout the day.
Link to Stick Figure Symbols
Start with a number you are comfortable with for each exercise and decide how often you should do them per day and per week. Remember, anything is better than nothing when it comes to movement and exercise, but on the other hand don’t turn this into a CrossFit/Gladiator/Bootcamp/Kathy Bates Misery workout that you dread doing. The mini-signs are incognito reminders to do these exercises, which just take minutes at a time spread out throughout the day. I’m in better shape now than I was 20 years ago just by changing and adding a few simple habits.