The winter months bring holidays, sub-par exercise weather, and lots of travel. Maintaining a fitness regime is one of the keys to staying healthy and energetic through the season. Exercise has a myriad of amazing health benefits including improving cardiovascular health, building muscle, and increasing bone density. However, exercise is great for mental health as well. Exercising lifts mood improves symptoms of both anxiety and depression, and has even been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Taking just 20 minutes to move your body can go a long way! Let’s take a look at 5 of my favorite simple exercises to get your body moving wherever you find yourself.
Plank à Forearm Plank
This may be a simple movement, but not definitely not easy. Start with your hands stacked directly underneath your shoulders, with your body in plank position. Knees in line with the hips, hips in line with the shoulders. Drop onto your right forearm, followed by your left, so you are now in a forearm plank. Press up leading with your right hand, followed by your left so you find yourself back in the original position. 3-4 rounds of 20 repetitions will have your muscles working and blood pumping. After 20 reps, hold your forearm plank for 30 seconds or longer.
Strengthening the gluteus muscles is key to preventing back and knee injuries. This is a simple exercise that can be done as it is, or with many variations! Try small pulses at the top, lift one leg, lift both heels, or add a band around the knees to work the outer hips. Go for 3-4 rounds of 30 reps.
Leg Raises with Variations
The key here is to try to keep your lower back pressing into the floor at all times as to avoid strain and engage the lower abdominal muscles. Lower your legs only as much as you can without lifting the lower back up off the ground. Try 20 reps x 3-4 rounds.
Options: alternate lifting one leg at a time for a lower impact variation. Or while the legs are low to the ground, try flutter kicks or scissors (crossing the legs over one another repeatedly) for an extra heat-building exercise.
Beginning Position with legs vertical to the ground – option to place hands under lower back for support
Downward dog to Standing Forward Fold
Downward dog is extremely effective in opening up the shoulders, hamstrings, and the entire back of the body. Start in plank pose so that you have the ideal distance between hands and feet. Then, lift your hips up to the sky so your body becomes a “V” shape. Keep the knees bent slightly so that the lower back is not rounded. Lift your hips up as high towards the sky as you can to elongate the back muscles.
After you’ve peddled out the legs (lengthened one, bent the other), walk your feet in towards your hand and find yourself in a standing forward fold with the knees bent. Bend your legs as much as needed to allow your chest to be supported by your thighs, while still feeling a stretch through the hamstrings. Allow your upper body to melt over your lower body.
Option: interlace hands behind your head, massage your neck, or grab opposite elbows to help decompress the spine.
Legs Up The Wall
Amazing for post-flight lymph drainage or calming the nervous system after a long day, this yoga pose is one of my favorites. Begin by sitting adjacent to a wall with your left hip facing the wall, about a foot away. Place a small pillow or towel where your lower back will go if you would like more support. At the same time, roll your back onto the floor or pillow and swing your legs up the wall. Place your hands by your side, on the floor above your head, or onto your stomach. Take deep, slow breaths. Stay as long as you wish.
My last tip; carry exercise bands with you while you travel. They take up almost no space in your bag and are extremely versatile. Simply toss on a Youtube video tutorial and you’re on your way to a quick and effective workout. Even 15 minutes of movement can make a huge difference in your mood, metabolism, and overall health.
Exercise for me is a way to boost energy, mood, and productivity throughout the day. Some days it’s an intense spin class, other days just a few stretches to release the day. Whatever it is, it’s a form of self-care and time well spent. Movement is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, along with balanced nutrition and adequate rest. Listen and your body will tell you what it needs.
Co-Created by Molly Pelletier, Yoga/Meditation Instructor and Nutrition Student.