Before we get started with the equipment you need and exercises you need to do, let's discuss safety and caution. Using the right equipment and carrying out each exercise correctly is essential to avoiding injuries and getting the most out of your training. The last thing you need is to walk away from an exercise session with an injury that has you down for several weeks of recovery. Much the same, if you're doing the actual exercise wrong or using the wrong equipment, it's like putting a band-aid on a severed leg - it just doesn't work. What you're doing right now - the research - is the best possible step you can take towards ensuring that you exercise in a way that improves your quality of life.
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Gathering the Goods
It goes without saying that you should adhere to any medical advice given to you. Don't attempt to do exercises a health professional has advised you against, and don't push yourself too hard. Building strength and flexibility comes with steady progress - it's not a race. That said, let's take the time to look into the equipment you might need when training. When you're just starting out, we strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with the non-equipment exercises before tackling exercises that require equipment. You will need to have a few items to improve the quality and comfort of your workout. Below is a list set up in two categories for ease of reference.
The Basic Essentials List
This is the basic essentials list, which you should always have to hand when exercising, with or without equipment. While this may seem rather dull, we can't stress the importance of this equipment list enough as it will enhance your comfort and safety when exercising. Besides, we don't want or need an exercise-related injury to eat into our busy lifestyles at this stage of our lives!
Comfortable Gym Wear
Gym clothing that fits comfortably should not restrict movement or be too tight to prevent muscle strain and injury. One of the benefits of wearing gym clothing includes preventing you from overheating as it aids with wicking the sweat away from your body. In addition, compression gym clothing supports the body while moving, improving recovery and circulation post-workout. However, before you head out to purchase every available piece of lime-green lycra, a comfortable pair of joggers or yoga pants topped with a loose-fitting t-shirt are equally beneficial! In fact, any clothing will be okay as long as it provides the space for stretch and movement.
Injury caused by wearing the wrong shoes can seriously impact your exercise goals. Investing in a quality gym shoe or trainer can help you prevent ankle and foot damage while enhancing your comfort when working out. Ensure your footwear fits comfortably, provides enough support and has a sufficient under sole grip to prevent slipping during movement.
The thicker, non-slip surface of an exercise mat can help you to remain comfortable during a workout providing additional support for the ankles, knees and wrists. In addition, many exercises are done on the floor, putting your spine, tailbone and hips in direct contact with a hard surface. This can be painful if you are not using a mat. A non-slip rug or beach towel are excellent alternatives if you don't have an exercise mat.
When working out, the body loses water via our breath and sweat. The more water we lose, the more dehydrated we become, which can result in dizziness, lethargy and cramps. Water helps the body to exercise effectively as it lubricates the entire body. It also helps with many chemical functions in the body, which, if hampered by a lack of water, can result in slower muscle recovery and tissue healing. Not something we want hampering our mission for becoming fit! We advise that you keep a bottle of water nearby when exercising, but rather than gulping large quantities throughout your workout, stop for small sips regularly. Drinking water throughout the day is also beneficial on workout and non-workout days as it keeps the mind sharp and focused.
Warming Up for Your Routine
Many of us are guilty of being in too much of a rush to warm up properly for exercise. Often this gets down to busy schedules (one can never play too much tennis or golf!) and family responsibilities. However, warming up is critical no matter what exercise you are doing! Exercising with cold muscles increases your risk of serious injury. In contrast, warming up increases blood flow to the muscles, muscle metabolism and secretion of synovial fluid in the joints. Basically, it provides lubrication to the nuts ‘n bolts of the body, allowing it to move freely and easily during exercise while limiting the risk of injury. The following is a warmup routine you can use to limber up before tackling your exercise routines.
Marching in Place
Stand with your arms loosely at your sides, fists gently clenched and posture straight and relaxed. Then march on the spot, rhythmically pumping your arms and legs up and down. Keep your elbows bent and raise each loose fist to shoulder height. Lift each bent knee to hip height as you march on the spot.
Start by marching on the spot as you did for the marching man, except keep your arms loosely at your sides. Then slowly roll your shoulders forwards 5 times and then backwards 5 times.
Assume a comfortable stance on a non-slip mat or surface. Hold both arms straight up above your head. Slowly draw an imaginary circle just above your head like an angel's halo. Complete this movement 10 times in each direction; this will stretch and warm up the muscles in your torso and shoulders. Follow this circular movement with your hips to loosen and warm your lower back simultaneously.
Items Required Specifically for Equipment-Based Exercise
We thought we'd provide a little extra bonus information here, for those who are building up some equipment to workout in the comfort of their own home. Here we can start discussing some of the equipment required to tighten and strengthen our bodies if there's not a local gym nearby).
Stability or Exercise Balls
are large rubber balls that can be used for stretching, strength training and core strengthening exercises. They help promote good posture, balance and stability and are relatively inexpensive. Stability balls can vary in size, but the most common diameter range is 21.6-25.5 inches.
The Ab Roller Wheel
is a small non-slip wheel with handgrips on either side. The ab wheel is used to perform ab wheel rollouts which activate the rectus abdominis (six-pack) and abdominal muscles, strengthening and increasing core strength.
are adjustable straps, with handles and grips, foot holds, and locking carabiners that can be used to perform full-body resistance exercises. TRX strap exercise is an excellent form of suspension training that uses your body weight to increase strength, flexibility, balance and core strength. These straps can be attached to a door, the ceiling or a stable anchor. Once you place your hands in the grips, or feet in the straps, you can perform many exercises such as bicep curls, push-ups, planks, and hamstring curls.
Made from a bar and two brackets, the pull-up bar can be mounted in a door frame or reinforced ceiling. While not a machine, the pull-up bar is perfect for training the back and shoulders. Remember, a strong back and good posture are vital for a strong core. In addition, the pull-up bar minimizes impact on the joints when doing exercises such as push-ups and provides a full-body workout, working the core and glutes.
Now that you’re warmed up, it's time to get your exercise routine under way!
They say the real fun starts at 50. If so, there's no reason you should spend it in pain, discomfort, and declining health.
Our recommended book: Life After 50: Strength Training