First, exercise is beautiful — there are so many benefits to getting your move on beyond the one goal you may have started with.

And secondly, exercise shouldn’t be only goal driven to be enjoyable, but depending on your life stage and lifestyle factors (such as age, disability, or environment), there could be specific routines that can serve you and your body better.

For example, if you’re prone to falls, you may want to focus on mobility routines rather than diving into HIIT.

But how do you know if it’s the right one for you?

Well, start here. We’ve picked out several methods and paired them with priorities or top-line concerns you may have. Whether you’re looking to follow doctor’s orders or want to feel stronger, here’s what works.

As you get older, it’s important to stay active (or get active, if you’re not already). If you’re realizing your body isn’t bouncing back as it used to and want to tone it back in-shape — so an off-day won’t derail your energy — mobility and flexibility is key.

Numerous studies have been done on the effects of physical activity on the aging process, and all of them came to the same conclusion: the more active you’re able to remain as you get older, the better off you’ll be.

Mobility routines to try:

Inactivity as we age can contribute to loss of muscle mass and bone density, loss of agility, and increased body fat. However, even 30 minutes a day of brisk walking can help with those issues and many more, including:

  • lowering blood pressure
  • increasing balance
  • increasing mobility and flexibility

Wanting to lose weight or needing to isn’t a bad thing when it comes to loving your body — but be careful with how you build out your goals.

Weight loss as a goal can be more harmful than letting it be a side effect of readjusting your diet, lifestyle, or exercise regimen. Instead of considering exercise as the only route, think of it as a stepping stone amongst others.

That’s why we caution against starting with extreme programs that require daily commitment, especially ones that focus on quantity of moves rather than quality.

Find a workout routine that balances weight training and cardio.

More muscle mass increases your BMR (base metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn simply by existing) to aid in decreasing fat. But — it can weigh more than fat, so don’t give the scale too much credit to your progress. Instead, focus on your health and how you feel.

Healthy ways to burn calories:

At-home option: Aim for moderate weight lifting three times per week and combine with cardio exercise such as brisk walking, cycling, and running once a week.

When you have a condition like anxiety or depression, wanting to do the “right” thing — or anything — can be hard.

If thinking of exercise as “good” adds more pressure, try to separate the two. When it comes to the depressed brain, exercise is neither good or bad — it’s just a thing to do.

And if you can manage to get up, head to the gym or outdoors for a HIIT session.

The goal is to focus on aerobic exercises, which can ease anxiety and depression symptoms while increasing the size of important parts of the brain like the left hippocampus, which is responsible for memory storing.

If high-intensity cardio sounds exhausting, focus on any movement that still gets your heart rate up. Due to the release of endorphins that occurs when you exercise, it’s likely that you’ll feel better no matter what, even if it’s slower.

Many doctors recommend exercise to those with mental health issues for this reason, and evidence of its efficacy is encouraging, though not guaranteed.

Exercises to try for an endorphin-kick:

In general, there’s no one single workout program that can best combat conditions like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. The best workout you can do is, sometimes, just getting out of bed.

And that’s a win too! Slow progress is still progress and you can slowly set goals from the bed to the gym.

If your idea of building muscles has been shaped by Instagram, body-building competitions, or someone else’s rules, throw them out. Start from scratch.

Muscles do amazing things for our body and maximizing their potential brings on a lot of benefits.

Even though you burn more calories during cardio, muscle is all about the long-run. More lean muscle increases your metabolism, and the benefits don’t stop there.

A study in 2009 found that men with more muscle decreased their chances of dying of cancer while another newer study suggested that increased muscle mass can help with insulin sensitivity.

Simply put, the best way to build muscles is to partake in weight training.

Workout plans for gains:

This doesn’t mean you’ll need to be able to deadlift 150 pounds (and you definitely should start much smaller than that), but you should only be choosing weights that are challenging but not impossible — and you should never be in severe pain from lifting.

If you’re a beginner, starting with a single set of 8 to 12 reps twice a week should be enough for the first month. From there, you’ll notice yourself getting stronger and your ability to lift increased.

You can’t alter your natural body frame (unless it’s through surgical and some nonsurgical methods) but you can target certain areas and build the muscle there to get the changes you want to see.

The workouts for toning are going to be different from muscle building or weight-loss focused routines.

Instead of evening out your workouts, you might refine particular areas to increase muscle mass. When it comes to reducing body fat, remember you can’t target either. The key to that is eating balanced, moderate meals (without damaging your relationship with food).

While you don’t have to have any special qualifications or meet any particular goals for size or weight loss before starting a sculpting program, you should ensure you’re well hydrated and well fueled before beginning, just as you would with any other workout.

Targeted workouts:

Keep in mind, there’s no one form of exercise you can perform that will tone your entire body. Instead, you should focus on separate exercises to target the specific areas you’re looking to sculpt.

For instance, taking barre or Pilates classes can help with overall toning, while activities like lunges help your legs and glutes, and squats boost your core strength.

Which of these work best for you depends on what your individual fitness goals are. It’s also important to find an activity you actually enjoy performing so that it feels less like a chore and allows you to have a great time while carving out the body you’ve always wanted.


Jennifer Still is an editor and writer with bylines in Vanity Fair, Glamour, Bon Appetit, Business Insider, and more. She writes about food and culture. Follow her on Twitter.