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The best workout to help you accomplish 5 common health goals

Whether you vowed to get more sleep or tone your muscles — here’s the workout that will help you get there.
Female athlete lifting dumbbells in gym
If adding definition to your muscles is your main fitness goal for the new year, focusing your efforts on strength training is the way to go.Cavan Images / Getty Images

Choosing a goal for the new year is only step one of the resolution process. The next step is figuring out how to actually get there. What actions will you take to start making progress towards accomplishing your goal?

Often people set out with the best of intentions, but the wrong plan of attack, and find themselves back at square one after a month or two.

To help you start seeing progress sooner (and increase the likelihood you actually stick with it), here are some suggested workouts with proven results. Whether you want to get better sleep this year or finally show off your arms in 2021, here’s the exercise that will help you get there.

Want to banish stress or sleep better? Do yoga

I became a yoga instructor after falling in love with the peace, calm and self-acceptance that a yoga practice brought into my life. Just one yoga class a week helped me get off of my anxiety and sleep medication. It truly was transformative for my anxiety and stress levels!

Of course, always speak with your doctor if you are on medication, but if you’re feeling stressed or anxious and want to banish those feelings in the new year, yoga is a helpful tool. Mindfulness, a key aspect of yoga, plays an important role in stress reduction and the practice helps our body release tension.

Increased stress also contributes to disturbances in sleep, so yoga can help to combat both. Research shows that a consistent yoga practice can improve quality of sleep in adults with insomnia, and decrease the anxiety and stress that affects our sleep. So if you find yourself lying awake at night with racing thoughts, try committing to a consistent yoga practice, even if it is just a few minutes each day.

Want to tone your muscles? Start strength training

If boosting your strength and adding definition to your muscles is your main fitness goal, focusing your efforts on strength training is the way to go. Lifting weights, performing body-weight exercises like squats and pushups, or resistance training with bands are all types of strength training that you can experiment with.

If you go the dumbbell route, make sure you find the weight that is right for you. If you aren’t currently lifting any weights, start with 5 pounds. You can also modify body-weight exercises, like starting with modified pushups or wall pushups, to ensure you can maintain proper form.

Once you feel like you’ve built up enough strength, you can up the intensity. Increase weight or repetitions, or transition out of using modifications on body-weight exercises. In doing so, you’ll safely build up your strength and see (and feel) the results in your muscles.

Want to build endurance? Commit to a walking plan

Sick of getting out of breath chasing your kids or grandchildren around? Or wish you could keep up a conversation on a socially distanced walking date? By increasing the amount of time you spend walking, you can begin to improve your endurance over time.

I suggest walking 30 minutes, 5 days a week. If this isn’t realistic, start with 3 days a week. The upside to a walking plan is that you’re burning calories while also keeping your heart healthy with cardiovascular fitness, so if you’d also like to lose weight, you will be working towards that goal as well. (Not to mention that walking can be a great meditation, and can help combat stress and boost your mental health.) Once you start completing your walk with ease, try picking up the pace or increasing the distance to continue to make improvements in your endurance.

Want a stronger core? Do Pilates

Strengthening your core makes you stronger overall, but it also helps with stability, muscle endurance, balance and posture. There are plenty of fun ways to work towards a stronger core that don’t include endless crunches. Pilates is one of those workouts.

Before I became a Pilates instructor, I fell in love with the workout because it fixed the back pain that I’d struggled with since I was 11 years old. The deep abdominal work helped my body became more stabilized and I learned to move with proper form. So if you’re in pain, I also recommend Pilates as a way to work on joint mobility and strengthen your core so that you move in a safer way.

You can begin to explore Pilates techniques by adding a twist to your ordinary core workout with some new moves. Traditional ab exercises, like crunches, are refined in Pilates to ensure you’re doing the exercise while engaging your deepest abdominal muscles. Other moves to add to your core routine: boat pose, bird dog and Pilates 100s.

Want to lose weight? Combine all of the above!

If you’re looking to lose weight and are ready to commit to a workout routine consistently, try a combination of all of the above. Losing weight isn’t just a result of intense cardio; a well-rounded workout routine focused on flexibility, core strength, endurance and muscle tone will help your body burn calories more efficiently and develop muscle — meaning you will lose inches and fit better in your clothes.

These tangible signs of progress serve as great motivation to stay committed to your exercise routine. Not to mention that mixing things up with different types of exercise keeps things interesting and prevents burnout or boredom.

An easy way to start is by alternating between cardio, strength-training and yoga or Pilates. Add on a core circuit on days when you have extra time. Remember: You can work the smaller muscles in your abdominals every day!