As we get older, it’s more and more important that we pick exercises that are not only meant to get us in shape, but also help us maintain the strength, flexibility, and functionality of our bodies. That means taking into account things like our joint health and our postural alignment so that we can avoid muscle and bone damage, pain, and discomfort. Of all the exercises out there to choose from, the simple squat is one of the most useful for older women.
The simple squat is an exercise that can be done using just your own body weight, and it’s packed with benefits that will make you want to practice them everyday. This exercise is low-impact, meaning that it won’t put an excessive amount of pressure on your joints and cause pain. In fact, the squat works the muscles around your hips, knees, and lower back, providing these areas with extra strength and support — which is so important as we get older!
Squats help to tone a few key muscles on the body. For one, they strengthen the quadriceps (upper thighs), the hamstrings (back of the thighs), the glutes, and the hip flexors, which is a group of muscles extending from the lower back and around the hips. Squats also work the muscles around your lower back, helping to stabilize those vertebrae and relieve pain that can come from sitting for long periods of time.
And last but not least, squats secondarily target the core, helping to tone the rectus abdominis (think the “six pack”), obliques (muscles along the side body), transverse abdominis (abs that wrap around the torso), and the erector spinae — the group of muscles that run along the left and right of your spine that help keep your back straight and your posture upright.
It’s hard to believe that one workout move can do it all, but that’s what makes the squat such a perfect exercise to practice regularly. At first, you might find it difficult to get through a few of them, but with regular practice, you will quickly notice an increase in the overall strength in your body, along with more energy and less pain!
To practice a simple squat, follow these instructions.
- Begin standing with your feet hip distance apart, or a little wider than hips distance. Make sure that your hips, knees, and toes are all facing forward.
- On an inhale, clasp your hands in front of your chest, doing your best to keep your lower back straight and your chest lifted, bend your knees and lower down, extending your butt backward as if you are going to sit back into a chair. Come down about half way.
- As you lower, try to keep your knees above your ankles (don’t let them reach passed your toes) with most of the weight in your heels.
- On an exhale, push back up to standing. That’s one rep.
To start practicing squats, begin by performing three sets of five to fifteen reps. If this feels easy for you, you can do your squats while holding dumbbells in both hands at shoulder height, extending your arms up overhead as you lift back up. This will give you an added arm and shoulder workout! We promise that with a little practice, you’ll feel stronger and healthier in no time.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.