Exercise is great for our health, and contrary to popular misconception, its benefits are not limited to a focus on weight loss. The best types of physical activity aren’t about “burning calories” or “losing fat,” but about supporting our overall health and well-being.
Regular exercise can improve mood, sleep better, stronger bones and muscles, and reduce the risk of injury and disease—to name just a few of the health benefits.
Whether you’re looking to improve one area of your health or to support your overall well-being, here are the best exercises that aren’t focused on weight loss — complete with explanations of why and how they can support your long-term health.
1. Pelvic Floor Exercises for Your Pelvic Floor Health
Keeping your pelvic floor healthy is very important to prevent many health problems. Your pelvic floor muscles support organs including the bladder and bowel (and uterus in women), aid bladder control, and help keep the spine and pelvis stable. Strong pelvic floor muscles are essential for preventing incontinence, organ prolapse, UTI (urinary tract infection), and other health conditions. For men, the pelvic floor can weaken as a result of chronic constipation or treatment for prostate cancer. For women, heavy menstruation, endometriosis, pregnancy, childbirth and chronic constipation are risk factors.
To help prevent pelvic floor health complications, you can do pelvic floor exercises—also known as Kegels. There are many online resources that share pelvic floor exercises where you can also learn about how to keep your pelvic floor healthy.
If you want to jump right in and incorporate Kegels into your daily routine, try the app Squeeze Time – Kegel Exercises. It’s free to download and offers timed Kegels with instructions on how to do each exercise. You can also set reminders to do daily pelvic floor exercises and review your activities on History tabs.
Download: Time Squeeze for Android | iOS (Free, offers in-app purchases)
2. Mobility Movement for Injury Prevention and Quality of Life
Mobility is the ability to move purposefully throughout your day — combining balance, coordination, physical stamina, strength, and range of motion. According to Harvard Health, good mobility is essential not only for performing everyday tasks, but also for preventing injuries, avoiding falls, and reducing physical decline with age.
Practicing mobility exercises regularly is the best way to improve your balance, flexibility and strength, among all the other factors needed to keep you moving at any age. This can be achieved through yoga, Pilates and physiotherapy.
Yoga for Mobility
Yoga is well known for its health-boosting benefits. While his traditional practice is rooted in spiritual discipline (as developed in his native India), you can find modern practices that focus on the mobilizing benefits of both native asanas (poses) and vinyasa (flow of poses).
The Yoga Institute YouTube channel can help you improve your mobility through traditional practices. The Yoga Institute was founded in 1918 by Shri Yogendraji, making it the oldest organized yoga center in the world. Alternatively, learn how to choose the right yoga style for your goals in our guide.
Pilates for Mobility
Pilates is a mind-body exercise that focuses on proper movement and breathing techniques. Established Pilates teacher, Lottie Murphy, shares lots of free flexibility and mobility Pilates classes on her YouTube Channel. Or, you can download the Pilates app for Android or iOS to access Pilates content on your favorite device.
Physiotherapy Exercise for Mobility
Practicing physiotherapy exercises can help prevent injury and keep your body in optimal health. It keeps your muscles flexible and strong while allowing a full range of motion in your joints. Flexibility: mobility + recovery app is a great tool for learning physiotherapy exercises to improve your mobility. Start with a mobility test before continuing with exercises to improve your mobility, strength and endurance based on your individual needs.
Download: flexibility: mobility+recovery for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)
3. Aerobic Exercise for Your Cardiovascular Health
Taking care of your cardiovascular health is important for your long-term health. Aerobic exercise can help support your heart and circulatory system, allowing you to complete everyday tasks without getting tired or out of breath. It can help prevent cardiovascular disease (or stop it from getting worse) by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, plus improving your cholesterol levels. Other benefits include better sleep and better emotional well-being.
Whatever your heart or circulatory condition, exercise can benefit your health, says the British Heart Foundation. Physical activity can help relieve symptoms, slow heart disease, and support your overall health.
If you do have heart disease, make sure you consult your doctor before starting new activities. For the most part, the We Are Undefeatable YouTube Channel offers workout videos that are accessible and suitable for people with health conditions. You’ll find a variety of aerobics classes, including dancing, energy-boosting exercises and moderate aerobics.
You can also support heart health through other aerobic activities, such as dancing, walking, running, cycling, swimming, and more. Check out these aerobic workout apps to get your heart pumping, or you can try these low-impact cardio workouts to help prevent injury.
4. Strength Training for Your Bone Health
Keeping your bones healthy can help prevent “silent diseases” like osteoporosis. The National Institute on Aging suggests choosing weight-bearing exercises, such as strength training, hiking, stair climbing, or tennis, to help keep bones strong as you age.
If you want to give strength training a try, you can find over 1,000 workout plans on the popular fitness platform Muscle & Strength. Each plan provides strength exercises to complete, accompanied by clear instructional videos on how to perform each move safely and effectively.
You can also try gymnastic apps for effective bodyweight strength training. The popular Home Workout – No Equipment app is suitable for all levels, and you can strength train using weights or just your body—just choose body weight training only during setup for the latter.
Download: Home Workout – No Equipment for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)
5. Moderate to High Intensity Exercise for Your Brain Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that moderate to vigorous physical activity can have almost immediate beneficial effects on brain health. It can help you think, learn, solve problems, reduce anxiety or depression, and support your overall cognitive health. You only need 30 minutes a day five days a week to reap the benefits, which can be achieved through dancing, walking, household chores, or any other activity you can fit into your daily routine.
If you want to do strenuous activities to support your brain health, you can try HIIT (high-intensity interval training). The Down Dog HIIT app is an easy-to-use app that offers high-intensity workouts suitable for all levels. You can choose to work on specific areas or participate in a full body session. You can also choose the duration of your workout, depending on how much time you have.
Download: Down Dog HIIT for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)
6. Regular Physical Activity for Your Mental Health and Longevity
Ultimately, participating in regular exercise can help reduce many of the major risk factors for death, including hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer (Journal of Aging Research), which will support your longevity. The Mental Health Foundation also promotes physical activity for its mental health benefits, as it releases mood-enhancing brain chemicals that can also boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep well, and feel better overall.
If you’re not sure what type of exercise to include in your regular schedule, try using an online exercise routine generator. This free tool creates a workout plan for you to take the stress out of deciding what to do and when to move. You can also try walking or hiking, jogging, biking, and rowing, as these are all great types of cardio exercise that are beneficial to your overall health.
Exercise is very good for your health, whatever physical activity you enjoy
The best way to benefit from exercise is to choose movements that you enjoy and that don’t cause feelings of guilt or stress. While exercising to lose weight may be a great goal for some people, finding moves that can help support different areas of your health may be a better motivator. Aim for consistency no matter what that looks like to you. If you can fit 10 minutes of physical exercise into your daily routine, that’s a great place to start.
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