You don't have to work out longer and harder to reap the benefits of exercise. These workout-boosting strategies can help you maximize your moves.
When it comes to workouts, the most important element is consistency. Exercising only now and then is better than nothing, but getting activity on a regular basis can bring a wealth of physical and mental benefits.
But once you have a plan in place, how do you ensure you're getting the most out of those sessions? Here are some strategies for boosting the effectiveness of your exercise time, no matter what type of activity you're doing.
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1. Choose What You Enjoy
Although it may seem obvious, having fun during a workout can be the secret sauce when it comes to making a workout more effective, according to Rocky Snyder, C.S.C.S., author of the strength training guide Return to Center.
"Many people seem to believe they have to make a decision between enjoying what they do or getting a good workout," he says. "Why not both? The fact is that when you look forward to a workout and you appreciate the exercise while you're doing it, you tend to put in more effort and you're more likely to be consistent."
The authors of a Clinical Rehabilitation study found that enjoyment was the main driver in whether participants got enough physical activity. The study focused on older adults with heart failure. Those who had fun during exercise were significantly more likely to stay motivated and maintain high activity levels.
SilverSneakers LIVE Express 15-minute classes are a good way to try different workouts and find routines that you’ll look forward to doing. Current offerings include:
- Balance and Stability
- Cardio Interval
- Acondicionamiento del torso
- Gentle Stretch
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Pilates Principles
- Seated Strength
- Circuito SilverSneakers
- Strength Training
- Walk Strong
In many ways, exercise is a highly individualized pursuit. You may love swimming while your significant other doesn't even like baths. Or you're all about strength training while your friends swoon over cardio dance classes. Understanding what works for you can be a major part of finding what's most effective in your workouts.
Recommended reading: 5 Genius Ways to Get (and Stay) Motivated to Exercise
2. Expand Your Dynamic Warmup
Maybe you remember those high school P.E. classes where you “warmed up” by getting into a stretch and holding it for a few seconds before switching to another one. But that’s actually much less effective than a dynamic warmup, which involves prepping the muscles you’re about to use.
For example, if you’re going for a brisk walk on the treadmill, a dynamic warmup might be bodyweight squats or walking lunges. Similarly, you may notice that in a SilverSneakers class, warmup focuses on the whole body with arm circles and marching in place.
"When we do a dynamic warmup, we activate our central nervous system and let our body know we are about to exercise," says Brooke Van Paris, C.P.T., personal trainer and senior fitness specialist at Life Time, which runs fitness centers across the United States. "We elevate the heart rate, increase the blood flow, and raise the body temperature, which keeps the muscles firing and ready to engage in activity."
As a result, that provides greater range of motion and faster response times — not to mention a reduced risk of exercise-related injury.
3. Create a Motivating Playlist
The effect of music during a workout can’t be overstated, says Van Paris. A playlist that makes you feel energized and uplifted can have a profound effect when it comes to workout efficiency.
Research supports this, too. A 2021 study in Perceptual and Motor Skills on bench press exercises found that those who listened to music for just three minutes before that workout showed more power and endurance than those who prepped in silence.
Another 2021 study, also using bench presses, found that when participants listened to music they liked, they were able to increase their repetitions and work out for longer than when they listened to music that wasn’t their choice.
4. Use Free Weights to Work Your Core
If you’ve been relying on weight machines to take the guesswork out of strength training, consider doing at least some moves with free weights, such as dumbbells or kettlebells, says Van Paris. Although it might take some time to learn proper form — talking with a trainer or your SilverSneakers instructor can help — free weights offer a greater range of exercises and help boost core strength.
“Free weights allow your body to move the way it naturally wants to,” says Van Paris. “When you are no longer on a machine in a fixed position, your body is taxed to use more of its stabilizer muscles and core strength to maintain form under loading, which causes fatigue to happen in a shorter period of time.”
Translation: You’ll get a more effective workout with less time and effort.
5. Track Your Protein Intake
Many older adults may believe that losing muscle mass and gaining weight is just a normal part of aging, according to Stephen Perrine, co-author of The Whole Body Reset: Your Weight-Loss Plan for a Flat Belly, Optimum Health & a Body You’ll Love at Midlife and Beyond. However, that’s simply not true.
“It’s shocking how many people have this perspective, which can lead to not doing enough resistance training to build muscle, and not getting enough protein to support that effort,” Perrine says. “When you consistently get enough protein every day, you can build and maintain muscle at any age, and it makes your strength training much more effective.”
According to a 2020 study in The Journals of Gerontology looking at how protein intake affected muscle mass and physical function over a 23-year time span for older adults, researchers found that higher protein consumption helped participants maintain lean muscle mass, strength, and mobility more than those who consumed less protein.
A good rule of thumb is to aim to eat 25 to 30 grams of protein with each meal, says Abby Sauer, M.P.H., R.D., a dietitian specializing in adult and geriatric nutrition.
Recommended reading: Lose the Weight, Keep (Even Gain!) the Muscle: Your 3-Step Plan
See our sources:
Study on link between exercise enjoyment and motivation: Clinical Rehabilitation
Effects of music on exercise effectiveness: Perceptual and Motor Skills
How picking your preferred music can boost a workout: The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Protein intake and muscle mass: The Journals of Gerontology
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