We all know we should be exercising, and many of us believe we need to be pounding the pavements to make a real difference to our health.
But that’s not so, according to Dr I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Long-distance running can be hard on your joints and digestive system, and instead she recommends five other types of workouts.
These are detailed in a Harvard Medical School health report called ‘Starting to Exercise’ which outlines some of the best exercises to carry out.
Their benefits include weight loss, muscle building, boosting your heart and brain health and strengthening your bones – with no collapsing across a marathon finish line needed.
Dr Lee’s recommendations are listed below:
Dr I-Min Lee, a professor at Harvard Medical School has outlined five of the best exercises for your health (stock photo)
According to Dr Lee, swimming is ‘the perfect workout’ because it uses nearly every muscle in your body.
Swimming regularly for at least 30 to 45 minutes gives you an aerobic workout– which is linked to raising your heart rate to improving your heart health. It also protects the brain from age-related decline.
For most people, swimming is a safe and effective form of exercise (stock photo)
Plus, swimming is low-impact as the support of the water means its easier on your joints. ‘Swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it’s less weight-bearing,’ Dr Lee explains.
Regular swimming can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, according to NHS Choices. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.
2. Tai chi
Tai chi combines deep breathing and relaxation with flowing movements.
Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, it is accessible for a wide variety of people, regardless of age or fitness level since practitioners go at their own pace.
Tai chi is characterised by its slow, graceful, continuous movements that are gentle on the joints and muscles (stock photo)
Tai chi ‘is particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older,’ Dr Lee said.
Indeed research has shown that the exercise can help people aged 65 and over to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs.
Some studies suggests that tai chi can reduce the risk of falls among older adults and improve mobility in the ankle, hip and knee in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
3. Strength training
This type of training involves using weight – which can be your own body, free weights like barbells or dumbbells – to create resistance against the pull of gravity. You can also use elastic bands or weighted ankle cuffs.
Experts hail this type of exercise as a great way to reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass as well as develop strong bones and increase your metabolism to help you burn more calories.
Experts say strength training can increase your metabolism and can be done at home or in the gym (stock photo)
According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
The current national guidelines for physical activity recommend strengthening exercises for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) at least twice a week.
One set – usually 8 to 12 repetitions of the same movement – per session is effective, though some evidence suggests that two to three sets may be better. Your muscles need at least 48 hours to recover between strength training sessions.
It might sound insignificant, but walking – even just in small amounts on a regular basis – can work wonders for your health.
Scientists discovered that a brisk daily walk of just 20 minutes could add years to your life.
The Cambridge University study of 334,000 people found that even a modest amount of activity prolonged life. And the least fit had the most to gain.
Walking has been linked to boosted mood and memory and a brisk 20 minute walk every day could cut the chance of dying early (stock photo)
In a stark warning against couch-potato lifestyles, they said lack of exercise killed twice as many people as obesity.
Another recent study found adults who walked for 30 minutes four days a week showed repaired connections in the region of the brain linked with memory loss. It has also been shown to improve depression.
If you don’t currently exercise regularly, the researchers at Harvard recommend starting off with 10-15 minute treks and building up to 30 or 60-minute hikes.
5. Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises can help you prevent or control urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor problems. They are important for both men and women.
Many factors can weaken these muscles, including pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, ageing and being overweight.
Kegel exercises can be done during pregnancy or after childbirth to try to prevent urinary incontinence (stock photo)
But strengthening them can help prevent embarrassing accidents like bladder leakage and improve your sex life.
The right way to do kegels involves squeezes the muscles you’d use to hold in urine or gas, say the Harvard researchers.
They recommend holding the contraction for two to three seconds, releasing, and repeating 10 times. For the optimal results, do them four to five times a day.