These three exercises improve your ability to change direction and speed, helping you keep up with life.
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Think about your daily life and all the different ways you need to move. Most of the time, you probably move front to back, like when you walk. But other times, you might need to move side to side or even rotate your body.
Now, think about how slow or fast you need to move. Most of the time, you can likely move at a steady pace. But if you’re walking in a crowd, playing with young grandchildren, or competing in a pickleball tournament, you’ll want to be able to keep up.
“We all want to keep pace with everyday life,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack. “The best way to do that physically is just to stay a little above the pace of everyday life.”
What that means: Your fitness training should include functional movements that improve your ability to change direction and speed.
These three exercises can help you do that, plus they challenge your balance and coordination. The result: You’ll have an easier time keeping up with whatever the day brings.
How to Use These Exercises
Find a spot where you have plenty of room to move. If you’d like support during any of the exercises, set up near a wall.
You can weave the exercises into any strength or cardio workout. They’re also great to perform whenever you need a break from sitting.
Start by learning the patterns, moving slowly and with control. Once you’re comfortable with the pattern, challenge yourself by changing your speed to go slower or faster.
As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
Exercise #1: Sprinter to Balance
Perform 3 reps slowly and 3 reps quickly on each side
This pattern works your movement from front to back.
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step your left foot back, resting on the ball of your foot. Keep your right foot flat on the floor, anchoring your bodyweight. Bend your knees slightly, and adjust your body until you feel comfortable in a classic sprinter’s starting position.
Pause here to challenge your balance, then bring your left foot forward to the starting position, resting your toes on the floor. Pause, then repeat on the same leg. Do three reps slowly and three reps quickly. Switch legs and repeat, stepping your right foot back.
Make it harder: As you bring your back foot forward, lift it off the floor.
Exercise #2: Side Step and Hold
Perform 3 reps slowly and 3 reps quickly
This pattern works your movement from side to side.
How to do it: Stand with your feet wide apart, knees slightly bent and chest lifted. Bend your knees and hips slightly into a small dip. Press through your feet to come up on your right leg, bringing your left leg in to meet your right and balancing on the ball of your left foot. It’s okay to drag your toes.
Pause, then step your left leg back out to starting position. Repeat the movement to balance on your left leg. That’s one rep. Continue alternating side to side. Do three reps slowly and three reps quickly.
Make it harder: As you bring your feet together, lift your moving foot off the floor instead of balancing on the ball of your foot.
Exercise #3: Side Step and Rotate
Perform 3 reps slowly and 3 reps quickly
This pattern works your rotational movement.
How to do it: Stand with your feet wide apart, knees slightly bent, and chest lifted. Step your right leg out to the side. At the same time, raise your arms to chest or shoulder level, and rotate slightly to the left. Let your eyes follow your arms.
Pause, then bring your feet together and return to starting position. Repeat the movement, stepping your left leg out to the side and rotating slightly to the right. That’s one rep. Continue alternating side to side. Do three reps slowly and three reps quickly.
Make it harder: Bend your knees more to challenge your leg and glute muscles. You can also extend your reach more.
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