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Fitness: An Empty Nest Can Be the Perfect Setting to Get in Shape

older woman doing yogaMothers sometimes say that it's hard for them to get in their daily 30 minutes of exercise because they spend the majority of their time juggling a career and taking care of a house full of kids. Well, now that the chicks have flown the coop, you have the space and time to get fit right in your own home.

Expensive gym memberships are hardly necessary, and you don't even need to buy extensive amounts of equipment to perform certain activities at home. Moreover, exercise need not be boring.

For example, there are no teenagers around to roll their eyes at you if they come home to see you dancing in the living room, right? Take advantage of this! Dancing burns tons of calories, keeps you flexible and can benefit the heart and the brain with its mood-enhancing effects. You can even multitask by putting on some good music—as loud as you want—and shimmying and shaking while you clean the house.

Yoga has been touted for centuries as an effective way to build strength and flexibility. The mind-body practice is also perfect for minimalists, because all you need is some snug but not tight clothing, a mat for stability and perhaps a few props, like foam blocks or straps. There are a number of instructional programs both on television and DVD. However, it may be a good idea to take a couple of beginner's courses before trying yoga at home, because the guidance you get from a teacher can help you avoid strain or injury.

Going back to the basics of strength training—think push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups—is a great way to stay fit because you probably already know how to practice good form, because these were often the cornerstone of physical education classes in the 1960s and '70s. There are also modern variations you can use with these.

For example, this twist—literally!—on the sit-up works the oblique abdominal muscles as well as those located centrally. Get in your starting position, with your back on the floor, knees bent in front of you and arms wide behind your head. (Remember to keep your elbows out, otherwise you're cheating.) As you bring yourself up, gently twist to one side, bringing your right elbow toward your left knee, and alternating sides each time you sit up.
And remember that regular exercise can help prevent bone loss, especially weight-bearing exercises like weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, stair climbing, tennis and dancing. Now that the children are gone and the house is yours to use as you'd like, get moving and take care of your health.

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