Wake up at 6:00. Breakfast, chores, and out the door by 8:00. Work 9:00 to 5:00. Drive home and pick up food by 6:00. Collapse in front of the TV at 7:00. Berate yourself for not going to the gym again at 9:00. Bed by 11:00. Rinse and repeat.
With a schedule like this one, it’s no wonder we don’t have the energy to drag ourselves to the gym. After spending the day taking care of others and putting out fires, we’re depleted and need to rest and recharge—something lifting weights and running a marathon never seem to manage. Here are five exercise programs you can do which rejuvenate both your body and mind.
1. Tai Chi
Don’t give me that look. Tai chi is far more than something to practice in a park with a bunch of eighty-year-olds. Practitioners link movements and deep breathing together in one fluid motion, creating a low-impact meditative state of exercise. The Mayo Clinic has cited benefits ranging from decreased stress to increased energy, strength, and stamina.
Yes, you knew this one was coming. Yoga is practiced around the globe for its multi-faceted focus on exercise, breathing, meditation, relaxation, and connection to others and the environment. But not all forms of yoga are created equal. Much like martial arts, there are numerous specialties from Anusara for beginning practitioners to vinyasa for fluid motions accompanied by a musical playlist.
3. Qi Gong
The Chinese practice is exceptionally low impact and composed of repetitive movements, much like Tai chi. However, qi gong focuses not only on physical movements but also purposeful movements of your chi or life energy. Like acupuncture, the flow of chi in qi gong helps clear blockages that cause physical and mental stress. Roger Jahnke, OMD et. al. even found the practice resulted in less bone density loss in women and a significant reduction in blood pressure for most participants.
Originally designed to rehabilitate injured soldiers in WWI, Pilates improves strength, flexibility, and concentration. Each pose is held for a time, requiring intense focus to stabilize the muscles. The nature of the exercise helps align your spine, improving posture and preventing musculoskeletal injuries. At the same time, the focus required for the practice has shown to help with improved memory and increased neural activity.
Relatively new compared to the other options in this list, Gyrotonics was originally designed by the professional dancer, Juliu Horvath, in the 1980s. The practice uses multi-directional, circular movements to promote mobility and spine alignment without compressing the joints. Each movement is synchronized with a breathing pattern to increase focus, clarity, and aerobic endurance. Not only is this practice great for your joints, but it also gives you a greater awareness of your own body.
Each of the systems above come in various difficulty levels from absolute beginners to professional athletes. So, while you may feel that a triathlon is out of your reach after a long day of hunching over a desk looking at TPR reports, exercise that feeds the body and mind might be just the ticket.