Healthy Holidays Challenge: Cardio and Core Power Combo
Time is tight during this busy time of year. But you can reap the advantages of these powerhouse moves in just 10 minutes.
The holidays have a way of throwing even the most dedicated health enthusiast off their game. Not this year! All month long, follow along as SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Shannon Thigpen unwraps our best tips for staying healthy, happy, and, yes, even calm during this busy time of year. Check in here and on our Facebook page for new activities to try. Here’s to your healthiest, happiest holiday season ever!
When it comes to the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, the research is clear, according to the American Heart Association: You’ll see lower risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and type 2 diabetes. Also, you’ll improve bone health, have fewer symptoms of depression, and even boost your sleep quality.
Similarly, the advantages with strengthening your core — the muscles around your trunk, including your abs — can give you better mobility, improved balance, and more ease in everyday activity.
Want the best of both? Try a combo workout. Here are two of the top advantages for bringing these two powerhouse fitness strategies together.
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Cardio & Core Power Combo Benefit #1: Better Fat Function
“Doing a full-body workout that includes cardio and core options can be a major way to get all the benefits of each,” says SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Shannon Thigpen, who created today’s 10-minute Healthy Holidays Challenge routine.
You also may improve your body composition along the way — even if you don’t lose any weight. For example, a 2022 study in The Journal of Physiology found that if you start or continue exercising, that alters fat at a molecular level in a way that changes how the fat works in your body.
Instead of being a source of health risk, that fat can become metabolically healthy due to changes in the size of the fat molecules due to exercise.
What can “healthy fat” do as a result? According to the National Institutes of Health, fats help regulate energy throughout the day and help absorption of key nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat also plays a role in immune function and basic metabolism efficiency — an attribute that comes in handy during the holidays, when you may be eating more than usual.
All of that means you don’t need to lose weight or fat to boost your health. Exercise can kick off the process of turning unhealthy fat into a more valuable resource for physical function instead. Plus, this can happen at any age.
A 2022 study, comparing to young men to older men, showed that those in the latter group who were active had metabolically healthy fat cells — healthier, in fact, than young men who are more sedentary.
Cardio & Core Power Combo Benefit # 2: Improved Overall Health
Adding core work into a cardio routine can do more than change your fat cells and provide better balance — although those are important results.
Stronger core muscles also are associated with lower incidence of:
- Back and shoulder pain
- Falls and stumbles
- Poor posture, which can lead to headaches and neck pain
Falling, in particular, becomes a bigger concern with weakened core muscles, along with chronic low back pain that might limit activity even more.
When factors like that are in play, there can be a ripple effect that goes beyond mobility. You might experience trouble sleeping, low energy, weight gain, and even symptoms of depression and anxiety — which are strongly associated with low back pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Thigpen says all of that means core strength is essential when it comes to supporting your health on multiple levels.
How the Cardio & Core Power Combo Works
The good news is that you don’t have to do a long, complicated sequence to target core muscles and support cardiovascular health.
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“Even marching in place, with a chair nearby for balance if you need it, is an example of firing up your core while raising your heart rate in a healthy way,” Thigpen says.
This 10-minute routine features moves like side shuffles and alternating feet tap-outs. Best of all, the moves can be done while seated in a chair, if you prefer.
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 (including osteoporosis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
“Just 10 minutes of focusing on a full-body workout with some cardio and core elements can be enough to keep you going strong, especially if you stay consistent and do it every day,” Thigpen says.
Bonus Challenge: Take a SilverSneakers LIVE Cardio & Strength (Express) Class
This 15-minute class explores short cardio and strength segments to build overall endurance. Weights and tubing are recommended but not required. View the schedule and RSVP here.
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