If you’re trying to amp up your fitness routine this year, don’t think you have to spend every day in the gym. Instead, give your legs a serious workout with one of these fun activities.
According to The Globe and Mail, researchers in Sweden and at Ball State University in Indiana compared two groups of men who were healthy and capable of completing a vigorous exercise test to exhaustion. The one difference between the two groups? One group was composed of lifelong cross-country skiers, while the other group of men did no formal exercise beyond that required for daily living. As one would expect, the skiers were in better shape than the non-skiers, but what was really impressive was the degree to which this was the case. The skiers actually had twice the cardiovascular and muscular fitness of the untrained men. The Globe and Mail went on to report that, when compared to previous studies of lifelong endurance athletes in their 80s, the results showed that skiers were about 40 per cent fitter — supposedly due to the full-body workout provided by cross-country skiing. Although it might look like it’s primarily your legs working, just about every muscle comes into play to get and keep you gliding through the snow. So rent or buy a pair of cross-country skis, find a trail near you, and get moving!
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As the founder and owner of Ballet Espressivo — an adult ballet and dance school — Donna Greenberg works regularly with dancers of all ages and experience levels. She explains that not only does ballet work the legs, but it also prevents injuries, develops core strength, engages the body and the mind at the same time, increases concentration and improves alignment, balance, posture, flexibility, coordination and circulation. And if all that isn’t enough, it also “tones and elongates every part of the body,” she adds. Think it’s too late for you to jump into a ballet class? Not so! Greenberg affirms that most of her students are non-professionals and range in age from 18 to over 60. Most important, she points out that ballet isn’t only an opportunity to strengthen your legs as well as the rest of your body; it’s about more than that. “You learn to appreciate the process and the enjoyment of being healthy and strong and building your body and quieting your mind from things that shouldn’t matter,” explains Greenberg. Now that is a beautiful notion we can’t wait to experience more of!
Hockey is often considered our country’s sport, but how many of us regularly hit the rink? If it’s been months or years since you last laced up your skates, it’s time to change that! Best Health reports that not only is skating good for toning the larger muscles in your legs, bum and core, but it’s also good for the small stabilizer muscles around your hips, knees and ankles that don’t tend to get much of a workout in everyday life. Skating also happens to be a great way to burn calories and boost your cardiovascular fitness. So whether you want to start a hockey game with friends, make up dance routines à la Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir or simply skate around in circles with your family, make time to hit the rink. Simply do an online search for indoor or outdoor skating rinks in your city, find one near you, and enjoy!
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At-home strength training
Some days you’re tired, it’s cold outside, and you just can’t motivate yourself to get to the gym or your favourite activity. But you can still get in a great leg workout wherever you are. Certified health coach and fitness instructor Angela Simpson of Eat Spin Run Repeat put together this killer leg workout routine that can be done at home, at work or wherever else is convenient. Angela recommends doing a light five- to 10-minute warm-up to get your muscles prepped, such as brisk walking, jogging on the spot or whatever you like. Then, “Do the following moves circuit style, pausing to rest for one to two minutes at the end of each round. Complete three rounds, then stretch out,” she explains. And of course, don’t forget to pump your favourite tunes to keep yourself motivated.
with toe touch
Ten reps each side. Stand tall with shoulders back and core engaged. Shift your weight onto your left foot, and lift the right slightly off the floor. Hinging at your hips and keeping a long spine, perform a single-leg deadlift on the left side, lowering your fingertips to touch your left toes as you extend your right leg back, parallel to the ground behind you. Return to the starting position slowly, but don’t let your right foot touch the ground. Continue for all 10 reps, then switch sides.
4-point squat jumps
Ten “boxes.” Stand with a slight bend in your knees, feet just outside of shoulder width apart. Lower yourself down slightly to gain momentum, then hop forward, and land in a squat. Land as softly as possible, then immediately hop again, this time to your right. Hop for a third time as you jump back, then once more as you hop left and land in a fourth squat to complete a box. Continue until you complete 10.
rear leg extension
Twenty total, alternating sides. Face a set of stairs or a chair. Keeping hands wherever they feel most comfortable, step up with your left foot. As you stand on top of the chair or step, extend your right leg behind you slightly. Don’t worry about lifting it too high, but just enough to feel a squeeze in the glute muscles. Lower that right foot back down to the ground, and step your left foot down. Repeat, this time leading with the right leg.
Rear lunge with knee lift
Ten reps each side. With hands on your hips, lunge back with your right foot. On the way back up to standing, bring that same foot forward, keeping a 90-degree angle at your knee and lifting your knee up toward your chest. Repeat, doing your best to not let your right foot touch the ground except for in the low part of the lunge. Complete all reps before switching sides.
Ten regular, 10 super slow. Take a wider-than-normal squat stance, and point toes slightly outward. Place your hands either behind your head or on your hips. Squat, keeping your weight on your heels and ensuring your knees don’t move any farther forward than your toes. Keep torso upright, core engaged and spine tall.
What workouts will you be doing to stay fit this year? Let us know in the comment section below!