We may not be able to rewind the clock, but certain exercises can make it feel like we are taking a few years off.
The best way to make our bodies feel younger? Do any exercise that scares you, says celebrity personal trainer and founder of The Limit, Beth Nicely. “We get more fearful as we age and it’s different for everyone, so whether it’s 10 burpees, dance cardio or using heavier weights — pushing your limits will make you feel younger,” said Beth. “If we don’t give ourselves permission to be challenged, we don’t grow, we deteriorate, and that doesn’t have to be the case!”
In addition to tackling a movement that intimidates you, here are four other exercises that Nicely says will have you feeling like you pressed rewind on the time clock.
Back extensions and scapula contractions
We are all guilty of bad posture — whether you spend all day slouched in your desk chair or curled up on the couch — and over time it can wreak havoc on the body. “Your body is smart and will adapt to what you give it,” said Nicely. “Your body can get better and better at staying hunched over or it can get better and better at becoming more aligned. What’s really important is to keep that spine lengthened.”
Practicing back extensions and scapula contractions throughout the day is a simple way to help lengthen the spine. To do this, sit in a chair with your knees, ankles and hips all in a line. Press your elbows straight back against your chair keeping a 90-degree angle at your elbows. As you press into the elbows, extend your thoracic spin, engaging the scapula and squeezing your shoulder blades together. This will push your upper back and ribs away from the seat back.
360 breath work
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that breath work is huge for your core,” Nicely said. “You have deep intrinsic core muscles that attach to your spine. When those are strong, you won’t have lower back pain, etc.”
You may have heard of hollowing out your abdomen during a workout, what this means is breathing in a way that engages the core. This type of breathing, called 360 breath work, targets those deep abdominals connected to your spine.
You can do 360 breath work while sitting at your desk in between meetings! Put your fingers around your ribcage, breathe in through your nose and expand your lower ribs, then forcefully breathe out through your mouth, engaging the core and hollowing out the abs.
“To get that extra work in, try lifting and alternating legs while you are deep breathing,” Nicely said. This gets the quadriceps involved and helps create a “C” curve with the core, which engages the abs.
The simplest movement with the biggest impact? Jumping! On her Instagram, Nicely shared a video of one of her clients, Jennifer Garner, performing an impressive jumping workout on a Pilates box. The moves they do are advanced, but even those who are currently sedentary or just getting back into exercise can incorporate plyometric work into their routine.
“People stop jumping — but impact helps your bones get stronger!” said Nicely. “Functionally, jumping on and jumping off things can help knee and hip problems, if you’re jumping in proper alignment and you don’t have a medical issue.”
Before performing any jumping exercise, make sure you have proper form with the knees over the second and third toes when your toes are straight. Nicely offered up three variations of jump work that you can perform using a box at a gym or a step:
- Beginner: Step up-up-down-down on the box.
- Intermediate: Jump up on the box with both feet, then step down with each leg one at a time.
- Advanced: Jump up on the box with both feet, then jump back to the ground with both feet. For an added challenge, you can also add a tuck jump at the top before jumping back down.
“Our hearts are a muscle and you have to strengthen them like any other muscle,” said Nicely. “The American Heart Association recommends getting a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio — or five, 30-minute workouts — a week. That is the minimum for heart health.”
Nicely’s go-to cardio exercises with her clients are dance cardio and plyometrics like jumping jacks, speed skaters and burpees.
“Cardio is beyond important to make your body feel younger. Mainly for your heart,” said Nicely. “I can’t even tell you how many of my clients have gone to the doctor after training with me and their heart rates are so strong.”
For cardio workouts, Nicely recommends starting with performing exercises in rounds of three, for example, doing 20 jumping jacks, taking a breath, then repeating for three rounds total. “Once you’ve mastered that you can try more intense plyometrics like speed skaters,” she said.
Moving in these ways can help your body feel younger and more agile, but the most important thing is consistency. So find an exercise that you enjoy and can make a regular part of your routine. “Exercise should be something like personal hygiene, like brushing your teeth,” said Nicely, “It’s that important to your health.”