Miriam Nelson, PhD, one of our Lluminari experts, suggests a few minutes of strength-building exercises every other day. Month 1:
Five Minutes of Chair Squats Stand in front of a chair with your back to it, feet slightly farther than hip width apart, toes pointed out slightly. Cross your arms over your chest and lean forward a bit from the hips. Pulling your stomach in and keeping your back straight, lower your butt onto the chair. Pause. Stand back up into your original position, keeping the same posture.
Five Minutes of Sit-Ups Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your ears at the base of your skull. Focusing on the ceiling, use your stomach to slowly lift your shoulders, neck, and head one to three inches off the floor.
Week 1: Do two sets of five chair squats every other day.
Week 2: Do two sets of five chair squats and sit-ups every other day.
Week 3: Do two sets of ten squats and two sets of five sit-ups every other day.
Week 4: Do two sets of ten squats and sit-ups every other day.
Back Extensions Lie facedown on the floor. Extend your left arm straight over your head with your palm on the floor; keep your right arm down along the side of your body, palm faceup. The tip of your nose should touch the floor so your neck and spine form a straight line. Slowly and simultaneously, lift your left arm, chest, and right leg off the floor about four or five inches (keep your chin slightly tucked and look at the floor). Pause for a breath. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Do five reps and switch sides, lifting your right arm and left leg.
Toe Stands In sneakers, stand a foot away from a wall or behind a sturdy chair, feet about 12 inches apart. Rest your fingertips lightly on the wall or chair for balance. Slowly, counting to three, raise your heels off the floor as high as you can. Stay up there on the balls of your feet for another count of three. Slowly lower to starting position.
Week 5: Do two sets of ten squats and sit-ups, plus two sets of five back extensions on each side (20 all together).
Week 6: Add two sets of five toe stands.
Week 7: Do two sets of ten reps of the squats, sit-ups, and back extensions on each side, plus two sets of five reps of toe stands.
Week 8: Do two sets of ten reps of all four moves.
Modified Push-Ups We're talking your basic push-up but—not to worry—with knees on the floor.
Step-Ups Stand facing a staircase with your left foot on the first step, leaning slightly forward from the hips (don't bend at the waist). Pulling up and forward with your left leg, bring your right foot up to the step; tap the toes of your right foot on the stair, pause for a second, then step back down. Keep your left foot on the step until you complete all reps; then switch sides.
Week 9: Do your established routine—two sets of ten reps of squats, sit-ups, back extensions, and toe stands. Add two sets of five push-ups.
Week 10: Do the above plus two sets of five step-ups on each leg (20 reps altogether).
Week 11: Do two sets of ten reps each of squats, sit-ups, back extensions, toe stands, and push-ups, and two sets of five reps of step-ups.
Week 12: Do two sets of ten reps of all six moves.
So far, the strength routine includes six moves every other day. "Now it's time for some weights," says Miriam Nelson, PhD, director of the Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Tufts University. Add two moves with three- to five-pound dumbbells (use more weight if this is easy) for your arms.
Biceps Curls Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands down at your sides holding the dumbbells, palms facing in toward your legs. Keeping your elbows gently pressed against your sides, bring your forearms forward and up until the weights are at shoulder height with palms facing in toward your body. Lower back down.
Overhead Presses Sitting in a chair while holding the dumbbells, bend your arms so the weights are in front of you at shoulder height, parallel to the floor (the inner ends should be just in front of your shoulders), palms facing forward, away from your body. Now slowly press the dumbbells up until your arms are straight. Don't lock your elbows, and don't aim for exactly above your head; the weights should end up slightly forward. Pause, then lower.
Week 13: Do your established routine—two sets of ten reps of squats, sit-ups, back extensions, toe stands, push-ups, and step-ups. Add two sets of five biceps curls.
Week 14: To the above, add two sets of five overhead presses.
Week 15: Do two sets of ten reps of the first seven moves, plus two sets of five overhead presses.
Week 16: Do two sets of ten reps of all eight moves.