The 5 workouts Harvard researchers want you to be doing

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Chances are you’re doing at least one of these regularly already. 

Photos: Instagram @jesinta_franklin, @laraworthington

According to Harvard, there are certain workouts that blitz all the others when it comes to effectiveness.

A new health report released by Harvard Medical School suggests ditching running for these five other workouts that have less impact on your joints and digestive system.

According to I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, these alternatives offer multiple benefits, ranging from weight loss to increasing muscle mass and bone strengthening to heart health. And the best thing, you can achieve results by committing to just 30 minutes a day.

“Research shows that just a half-hour of moderately intense exercise a day can improve your health and extend your life,” the report says.

Even better, none of these activities involve running. Knowing we don’t have to pound the pavement to see results is enough to send us into fitness fervour.


This is “the perfect workout” according to Harvard’s Healthbeat newsletter. Jumping in the drink works almost every muscle in your body but at the same time it’s practically injury-free thanks to the water’s buoyancy. Swimming regularly for at least 30 minutes constitutes the type of aerobic exercise that wards of depression and reduces stress, while toning muscles and improving your heart and brain health.

Tai Chi

This Chinese martial art, developed in the13th century, is a graceful combination of flowing movements. Incorporating a high level of focus and deep breathing, the technique is purposely meditative. Because it allows practitioners to move at their own pace, it’s accessible to all age and fitness levels. Lee says it’s “particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older.”

Strength Training

Whether you’re using free weights, bands, boxing gloves or your own body weight, strength training is about creating resistance against gravity. The key is to up your reps if you’re using light weights, and lower your reps when employing heavy lifting and resistance. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is another way to get results from resistance training. Results include stronger bone density, increased metabolism and reduced body fat.


Don’t underestimate the power of walking. Just 30-minutes at a patient pace can boost your memory and reduce the blues. While 20 brisk minutes could increase your life span by years. It’s the ideal way for those leading a sedentary lifestyle to introduce exercise on the daily. Harvard suggests starting with a 10-15 minute stroll and building up to 30 or 60-minute at-pace walks.

Pelvic Floor

Kegel exercises as they’re known Stateside help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles – including the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum – in both men and women. Keeping this area in check as you age is majorly important to ward off age-induced weakening that’ll cause more than the occasional, ehem, accident. Other factors that weaken these muscles include surgery, pregnancy, childbirth and being overweight. This exercise involves squeezing the muscles you’d use to hold your urine. Hold for at least three seconds, release and repeat 10 times. Need we mention these contractions also improve your sex life! You’re welcome.

Former elite gymnast Lauren Hannaford takes you through the exercises to do in order to improve your flexibility fast.

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Fitness | body+soul

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