By Erik Vance
Finding a reliable, enjoyable way to stay fit can be a bit overwhelming. Should you do CrossFit, Pilates or pickleball? Is Zumba still a thing? Does running to catch the bus count as exercise?
But these are the wrong questions. To find an enduring strategy for healthy movement, there are really only two things you need to ask: What are my goals? And: What do I like to do?
Here on the Well desk, we have built our fitness coverage around these two simple questions, bringing in science-backed advice to help you find activities that will allow you to feel your best while pushing your body as far as is comfortable. On occasion you might have a little fun, too.
Here is a sampling of our favorite workouts from the past year.
Put one foot in front of the other.
— Walking Versus Running
We all know walking is good for us. But could a short run be even better? In many cases, experts say, yes. Building what scientists call “vigorous” exercise into your routine pays phenomenal dividends down the line.
— The Ease of Rucking
Find a heavy thing. Put that heavy thing in a backpack. Now, carry the backpack.
It is truly hard to imagine a more basic exercise than rucking, a fitness trend that started in the military and has swept the nation over the last 10 years. But don’t let its simplicity fool you; rucking is a highly effective way to build both cardiovascular health and strength, whether you carry a specialized pack or wear an old JanSport with a couple dictionaries stuffed inside.
Exercise for longevity.
— Getting a Grip
Studies have shown that a strong set of hands plays a big role in longevity. Good grip strength allows you to catch yourself if you fall. It also allows you to do various essential household tasks such as carry a pot, lift a heavy bag and open the mayo jar.
— Preventing Neck Pain
There are all sorts of workout strategies to avoid knee injuries, back pain, shoulder issues, even ankle problems. But the tricks for avoiding neck pain are more subtle. It’s less about big exercises and more about posture and work habits.
Try body weight exercises.
— Yoga in the AM
Doing a few yoga poses first thing will limber you up and help you start the day focused and calm.
— The World’s Most Efficient Workout
High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is the simplest way to get your weekly fill of hard exercise — which experts are increasingly finding is essential for long-term health and fitness.
While people often associate the workout with CrossFit, there are many flavors of HIIT.
— A Strong Core
The key to almost all activities — sports, household chores, playing with your kids — is a strong core. But forget about situps; those are just to look good at the beach. Real core strength comes from all the other muscles that wrap your trunk, as well as your abs.
— The Perfect Hike
Hiking is one of the country’s most popular pastimes, but it can be intimidating. The most important — and often trickiest — part is choosing the right hike. Is 500 feet elevation gain per mile a lot? Which app should you use when Google fails you (as it tends to in the woods)?
— Hitting the Slopes Safely
Every year, about 66,000 Americans go to emergency rooms with skiing- and snowboarding-related injuries, many of which can be avoided by doing a bit of training ahead of time.
While it’s best to begin a couple months before you hit the slopes, it’s never too late to start. According to experts, the most important body parts to train are the hamstrings, the core and the shoulders.
— Resistance in the Pool
Looking for a routine that’s easy on the joints? Take your HIIT workout into the shallow end of the pool. Pool exercises are a great way to get in shape, in part because water is harder to move through than air. Trainers have managed to come up with exhausting, challenging and interesting routines for the water.
— Tai Chi for Your Mind and Body
Tai chi is among the world’s most popular workouts and is highly effective at training balance, mobility and breathing. And with moves like “Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane,” “Wave Hands Like Clouds” and “Washing Yourself With Qi From the Heavens,” it’s hard not to have fun while doing it.
Pick a few moves and follow your curiosity.