Flexibility is a crucial component of any healthy and active lifestyle. With increased flexibility comes a wider range of motion and increased resistance to injuries. You’ll also get more out of your workouts, as your muscles will move more freely whilst straining less to perform dynamic movements.
Many people overlook the importance of cultivating flexibility, but it’s incredibly beneficial to our overall physical wellbeing. So if you’re leaning towards the stiffer side of life, here are 14 stretches and poses to increase your flexibility.
Possibly the most comfortable and enjoyable pose on the list. Child’s Pose provides a gentle hip opening, whilst giving a slight stretch to the lower back and glutes. It’s also highly a relaxing posture, so great after a long day at work.
This one targets the lower back. You may be surprised at how inflexible you are to begin, especially if you don’t have a supple spine. But over time, and with gentle practise, you’ll find the bend getting deeper and deeper. The trick is to take it slow and avoid straining.
In a sense, this is like Bow Pose on your knees. It’s considered slightly easier to perform, and there are several variations to make it gentler on the back. So if your spine isn’t too flexible, Camel Pose could be a better place to start.
Another good hip opener. In Cobbler’s Pose gravity does most of the work, so it can feel quite passive and pleasant. Though it may be particularly difficult for those who struggle to sit with an erect spine. In that case, one variation is to sit on a folded blanket or block. Alternatively you can also place a block under either knee for extra support.
Eagle Pose is slightly more advanced and difficult to master, and can feel very strong in the shoulders. However, for your discomfort you’ll be rewarded with an excellent hip and shoulder, and upper back stretch. And if the full pose is too much, you can try a seated variation instead.
For many people, attending a physical yoga class isn’t always a convenient or suitable option. Whether it’s due to financial constraints, inconvenient timings, or just an aversion to practising in front of others, in-person yoga simply doesn’t work for everyone all the time.
And when that’s the case, there’s no better place to turn than the endless educational resource that is the internet. In recent years, yoga channels have become enormous on YouTube, with the current most popular channel (Yoga With Adriene – notice how many videos from this channel feature in today’s list) boasting a huge 11.1 million-strongsubscriber base at the time of writing.
But what the incredible popularity of the genre also means is that the variety of yoga videos to choose from is seemingly infinite. And with so much choice, it really can be difficult to narrow down the selection.
So, in an attempt to solve that problem, we’ve gone with the age-old strategy of simply settling with the most popular. Here, then, presented in order of most-to-least views, are the 14 current most popular YouTube videos that appear under the search term “yoga routine”.
Note: there were a couple of ‘kids yoga’ videos in the results that we opted to leave out, and we weren’t able to feature one of the routines due to copyright.
15 Min. Full Body Stretch | Daily Routine for Flexibility, Mobility & Relaxation | DAY 7
54 million views
Yoga For Complete Beginners – 20 Minute Home Yoga Workout!
45 million views
10 min Morning Yoga Full Body Stretch
30 million views
Day 1 – Ease Into It – 30 Days of Yoga
29 million views
Morning Yoga Workout ♥ Better Than The Gym | Strength & Stretch
25 million views
10 minute Morning Yoga for Beginners
24 million views
Total Body Yoga | Deep Stretch | Yoga With Adriene
21 million views
10 min Full Body Cool Down Stretches for Recovery & Flexibility
19 million views
15 Min Daily Yoga Routine for Beginners (Follow Along)
16 million views
Yoga Morgenroutine für Anfänger | Den ganzen Körper Dehnen & Mobilisieren | 10 Minuten
16 million views
Note: you might struggle with this one a bit unless you speak German…
Yoga For Neck, Shoulders, Upper Back – 10 Minute Yoga Quickie – Yoga With Adriene
15 million views
Bedtime Yoga | 20 Minute Bedtime Yoga Practice | Yoga With Adriene
14 million views
Wake Up Yoga – 11 Minute Morning Yoga Practice – Yoga With Adriene
14 million views
Yoga For Hips & Lower Back Release | Yoga With Adriene
12 million views
Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Relief – Yoga With Adriene
Spinning: the indoor workout where you get on a bike and pedal until you’re sore. Chances are you’ve heard of it before. But you might not know why it’s such an effective activity.
To some people, spinning sounds like nothing more than 40 minutes of hell-on-wheels. But it’s an incredibly beneficial exercise, and can be great fun to participate in.
So keep reading to learn why spinning makes for a great all-round workout.
What is spinning?
First of all, a quick explanation of what spinning is. Simply put, spinning is indoor cycling performed on a stationary bike. It can be done alone or in a group, at home or at the gym.
Spinning classes are led by instructors, who will take participants through a (usually quite rigourous…) routine. One of the major differences between spinning and regular cycling, aside from the fact that one is stationary, is that you can’t coast on a spinning bike. This means you’re using your muscles for the majority of the workout.
Other than that it’s all quite straightforward: jump on your bike and pedal!
Spinning is social
One of the main non-physical benefits of spinning is that it’s a social exercise. Of course, there’s always the option to buy a stationary bike and do your spinning at home. But it can be quite expensive, so more often that not people tend to opt for the gym.
In a spinning class, you’re working with a room full of people. With this comes a real feeling of community. You’re all in it together, working towards the same goal, sweating and panting together!
Taking cycling as an example. Some people may find it much easier to cycle as part of a group than on their own. So right away there’s less motivation required to actually get up and do the exercise. However, the accountability of being part of a group (that sense of guilt you may feel when you miss a lesson) is motivation in itself.
The overall effect may be that getting yourself to a spinning class is much easier than getting out on your bike by yourself.
You’ll push yourself
Spinning is intense. No matter what level of fitness you’re at when you enter a class, it’s always going to be a push, and you’re always going to feel the burn. But this is what makes it such a great exercise.
Cycling is non-stop. Your legs are constantly moving. And when you increase the resistance, you’re going to pedal harder. Add an instructor into the mix, who’s constantly encouraging you to keep pushing yourself, and you can’t help but get a great workout.
The physical benefit of all that pushing? Well, when spinning, you could burn up to 600 calories in just 40 minutes.
It’s low impact
Less pressure on the knees or joints makes spinning the perfect exercise for those who struggle to run or engage in other high-impact activities. And regardless of your physical capabilities, it’s always good to incorporate low-impact workouts into your exercise routine.
The result is that your risk of injury from spinning is much lower than that of other, more high-impact activities. And your joints will suffer much less over time.
You’re legs will look nicer
One thing that can’t be denied: spinning is great for the legs. Just like squats and lunges, regular spinning will tone and strengthen your legs and greatly improve lower body strength. And one advantage that it has over bodyweight leg exercises is that the resistance can be altered, so you can increase the difficulty whenever you feel like a bigger challenge!
It’s suitable for everyone
There may be an instructor in the room, but it’s not a requirement for you keep up with them. One of the best things about spinning is that if you’re feeling fatigued you can lighten the load. Instead of cutting your workout short and hitting the changing rooms early, you can keep going but just at a lower intensity.
The same goes for how hard you pedal. There’s no pressure to keep up with anyone in the room. The idea is to push yourself and do what you’re capable of doing. So it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting on the bike next to a veteran long-distance cyclist. You’re both going at a pace that suits your current fitness levels.
This means that even beginners can go the distance and endure a full-length spinning class.
Spinning classes are easy to find
Spinning is popular, there’s no doubt about that, and with popularity comes accessibility. Almost anywhere you go you’ll be able to find a spinning class nearby. And if not a class, then at the very least you’ll be able to find a spinning bike. So it doesn’t matter if you’re travelling away on business, visiting friends in a new city, or just looking for a fresh environment to exercise in. It’s a safe bet to assume that wherever you can find a gym, you can find a spinning class.
It’s stress relieving
As with all forms of cardiovascular exercise, spinning can really help to relieve stress and clear your mind. When we engage in something so physically intense we’re almost forced to think about nothing else. Even if what we’re focussing on might feel unpleasant (the burning sensations and fatigue), we’re still distracted from everything else.
So a spinning class may be 40 minutes of thinking “why am I here, this is awful, I want to get off”. But it’s also 40 minutes of not thinking about work, or what happened to us earlier in the day, or all the things we have to do later on. It’s just spinning. And at the end of the session, when we get off the bike red-faced and drenched in sweat, we find that it comes with a sense of calmness and serenity. And we can often carry this with us throughout our day.
There’s no adverse weather
Unlike its outdoor counterpart, an indoor bike has a roof over it. This means that spinning isn’t at the mercy of the temperamental British weather. So whether it’s raining, snowing, hailing, or blowing gale force winds outside, your spinning bike awaits, warm and dry.
This is great for staying motivated, as it’s all too easy to call off an exercise session due to poor weather. But when you’re protected by gym walls and central heating, excuses are much harder to come by!
Fancy a spin at spinning?
Why not get down to Jesmond Pool and Gym and have a go at spinning? Take a look at our timetable for the latest class listings.
The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week for adults aged 19-64. And with “brisk walking” included in the list of suitable exercises, it’s an excellent way to whittle down that quota.
Walking to and from work, round the block, or going out for a post-dinner stroll. The beauty of walking is that it’s relaxing and comes without the fuss of other activities (i.e. you don’t have to worry about warm-ups, warm-downs, and changing your clothes).
Lots of people feel like they don’t have enough time to dedicate to extended periods of walking each day, but often it’s just a matter of priorities. Waking up slightly earlier, reducing the time we spend watching TV, or minimising our social media browsing, can free up precious minutes and hours that we can put towards healthier pursuits.
In the words of Steven Wright, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” So if you’re not getting in those steps, maybe it’s time to reconsider your relationship with walking. And to help you along the way, we’ve rounded up some top health benefits of a good old fashioned stroll.
Walking could combat Alzheimer’s
According to Cyrus Raji, a radiologist at the University of Pittsburg, “In cognitively normal adults, walking 6 miles a week instead of being sedentary was associated with a 50% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk over 13 years. . . [and] in people with MCI [mild cognitive impairment], walking just 5 miles a week reduced brain atrophy and cognitive decline — by more than 50%.”
Improves mood and increases mental sharpness
There’s been a lot of research conducted into the relationship between mental health and physical exercise. And many authorities agree that regular exercise does have a positive impact on our psychological states.
Dr. Michael C. Miller, member of the Department of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, puts it in simple enough terms, “There has been a lot of debate about whether exercise is helpful for mood and it turns out that it is.”
Miller says that “in some ways, exercise at a certain level can actually be, for some people, the equivalent to taking an antidepressant.”
The NHS also cites exercise as a means of alleviating symptoms of depression. According to their website, “Regular exercise can boost your mood if you have depression, and it’s especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.”
The key with exercise, however, is to stay motivated. Which is why walking makes such a good choice. For most of us, it’s much easier to build up the will power to go out for a 40 minute stroll than it is for a 20 minute run. So if you make walking a part of your regular exercise routine, chances are good that you’ll be able to stick to it.
It could help you sleep better
A study comparing two groups of women, one of which walked 4,000 steps a day and the other 10,000 steps, showed that on average the women who walked more rated their overall sleep quality as better than those who walked less.
Another study, this one focussing on dog owners, showed that those who walked up to 9,961 steps per day slept on average 53 minutes longer than those who only walked up to 5,247 steps.
Walking may reduce the risk of several other diseases
Bupa says, “Some research suggests that (expending the same amount of energy) brisk walking is just as effective as running for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.”
It tones the legs
Looking for that extra push on leg day? Go for a brisk walk! Walking, especially in hilly areas, is a great way to strengthen and tone your legs.
The scenery you’ll take in on an outdoor walk can also make a nice change from the four walls of your local gym. This can really help you to stay motivated, and offers a more casual (but still very effective) way to work out.
How to walk: a quick guide
Incorporating more walking into our lives doesn’t have to mean setting aside an hour a day to go hiking. There are lots of ways to get in our daily steps without having to make any major changes to our schedules. Here are a few simple and easy ideas for a more walkable lifestyle:
– Set aside some time on your lunch break to go for a short stroll.
– If it’s close enough, walk to the corner shop instead of driving.
– Where possible, use stairs instead of lifts and escalators.
– Instead of meeting friends and clients in a café, try organising “walking meetings”.
Get a dog! Or, if a friend or family member has one, ask if you can take it out on a walk now and then.
The FIT Formula
You can also use the FIT Formula (which we first discovered at arthritis.org) to help you figure out your perfect walking routine. It stands for frequency (how often), intensity (how fast), and time (how long).
Frequency: arthritis.org recommends walking at least 3 to 5 times per week, for as long as you feel comfortable.
Intensity: the aim here should be to increase your heart rate and breathing whilst still being able to keep up a conversation.
Time: according to the same advice, 30 minutes to 1 hour should be the ultimate goal of a regular walking routine. However, this doesn’t need to be a starting point. Building up to those intervals is also fine, starting with whatever feels right. Whether it’s five or ten minutes a couple of times a day, whatever gets you motivated and walking is the perfect place to start.
From the blurb: “In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker Frederic Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us.”
From the blurb: “In the wake of her mother’s rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America – from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, and into Washington state – and to do it alone.”
From the blurb: “In the company of his friend Stephen Katz (last seen in the bestselling Neither Here nor There), Bill Bryson set off to hike the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world. Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing tics, the occasional chuckling murderer and – perhaps most alarming of all – people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.”
From the blurb: “Walking upright on two feet is a uniquely human skill. It defines us as a species. It enabled us to walk out of Africa and to spread as far as Alaska and Australia. It freed our hands and freed our minds. We put one foot in front of the other without thinking – yet how many of us know how we do that, or appreciate the advantages it gives us?”
From the blurb: “From those perilous first steps as a toddler, to great expeditions, from walking to work to trekking to the North Pole, Erling Kagge explains that he who walks goes further and lives better.”
Moving towards better health
There are lots of ways to keep fit and active, and, of course, walking is just one of them. If you’d like to learn more about how exercise can make us healthier in general, take a look through our blog. Or, as a starting point, why not read about How Exercise Can Improve Memory.
Tai Chi and Qigong are two wonderful Chinese exercise systems. Powerful yet gentle, they have been practised for centuries by millions of people in order to improve overall physical health and mental wellbeing.
In our last post we discussed some of the reasons why practising Pilates is good for you. This week, sticking with the same theme, we thought we’d offer some resources for anyone looking to develop their understanding of the practise and go a little deeper.
So we’ve compiled 6 books on Pilates that we think could really help to expand your knowledge of this wonderful form of exercise. We hope you enjoy!
From the blurb: “Pilates is the new fitness phenomenon with hundreds of studios now opening up across Britain. The devotees include Madonna, Uma Thurman, Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Anniston. This book offers an at-home guide to the pilates method, giving a whole new body within 30 sessions.”
Who it’s for: home practitioners and those looking for a book with good visual instructions.
In short: an excellent book filled with clear photographs and easy-to-follow exercises from a renowned Pilates instructor.
From the blurb: “Using the body as the ultimate fitness vehicle and taking inspiration from yoga, dance, and strength training, Pilates transforms bodies in record time. This title guides readers in every step (and leg lift…) of the way. From basic mat moves to the right foods that fuel a lean, toned figure, it is suitable for beginners and experts alike.”
Who it’s for: those looking for a large and diverse workbook with lots of variation.
In short: a thorough and fun guide to Pilates, crammed with hundreds of exercises.
From the blurb: “Part biography, part history, and part memoir, “Caged Lion” untangles for the first time Joseph Pilates’s opaque life story and the perilous journey of his exercise program known the world over as Pilates.”
Who it’s for: those interested in the history of Pilates and the life of its founder.
In short: a fascinating look at the man who created one of the most famous exercise regimens in modern history.
From the blurb: “Stretch yourself at your own pace with tailored programmes for beginner, intermediate and advanced level. More than 50 exercises are demonstrated with clear photographs and annotated with expert advice showing you exactly what to do and what not to do. Written by a pioneer of the Pilates method, Alycea Ungaro brought the first mat Pilates classes to New York nearly 20 years ago.”
Who it’s for: those interested in developing and deepening a home Pilates practise.
In short: a practical, functional, and helpful guide to the Pilates method, written by one of its early pioneers.
Pilates for Beginners – Katherine Corp & Kimberly Corp
From the blurb: “No matter your fitness level–whether you’re in great shape or have never set foot in a gym–learning to do Pilates means going back to the basics. Teaching you core Pilates exercises and easy sequences, Pilates for Beginners is the ultimate starter guide to confidently practice Pilates at home.”
Who it’s for: those just starting out with PIlates.
In short: a simple and accessible introductory guide to practising Pilates.
From the blurb: “With detailed descriptions, step-by-step instruction and stunning full-colour anatomical illustrations, this title takes you inside the exercises and programmes that tone the body, stabilise the core, improve balance and increase flexibility.”
Who it’s for: those looking to learn more about the anatomical side of the Pilates method.
In short: an interesting dive into the physiological aspects of Pilates, revealing how and why the movements affect our bodies.