Qcitymetro fitness writer Sondra E. Z. Hines demonstrates how to do a pushup using a bench, which works well for those without a lot of upper-body strength.
Sondra E. Z. Hines
Sondra E. Z. Hines

The arrival of summer means longer days and a spike in outdoor activities. For some, it also means getting into swimwear.

If the very though gives you pause, take heed. With regular exercise, a sensible diet and commitment to fitness, you can work toward being the best you ever. That is, if you’re willing to take the plunge.

Here are five tips to get your started. (Before starting any exercise program, first check with your doctor.)

Squats — work leg muscles; quadriceps (front legs), hamstrings (back of legs) and calves. Squats also work glutes (rear end) and stomach muscles

• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. In a neutral position, keep your knees centered over your feet.
• Slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles — lowering until you reach a 90-degree angle. Breathe in as you lower, breathe out as you return to starting position.
• Repeat 15-20 times, for 2-3 sets.

Training Tip – Wall squats work equally as well, especially if you are a beginner. Be sure to practice correct form for either versions (see photo)

Push Ups – albeit challenging for many women, pushups aren’t just for men. I like this exercise because it targets six muscle groups –biceps (front of arms), triceps (back of arms), deltoids (shoulders), pecs (chest), abs (stomach), and glutes (rear end).

• Start in high plank position. Place hands firmly on floor, directly under shoulders
• Lower your body, keeping back flat, a neutral neck and until chest grazes the floor
• Slowly push back up and aim for 8-10 pushups

Training Tip – If upper body strength is a challenge, push-ups can be performed on the knees or by using a bench (see

Dead lifts – like squats and pushups, dead lifts can be completed by men and woman. This exercise works the back, legs, rear end, arms, deltoids (shoulders) and trapezius (muscle over back of neck and shoulders)

• Hold two dumbbells (or barbell) at your side. Keep arms straight and knees slightly bent.
• Slowly bend down at the hip joint (not the waist) and lower the weights below knees without rounding your back (which should remain straight).
• Keep the spine neutral with a natural low-back arch and shoulders down.
• Keep weight close to the legs (almost touching them).
• Squeeze the glutes to pull yourself up quicker than it took to bend down. Example; four seconds to bend down and two seconds to pull up. Aim for three sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Training Tip – Use a lighter weight if you can’t comfortably perform this exercise from beginning to end, and don’t round your spine.

Exercise – With warm weather, now is ideal for outdoor activities — walking, tennis, swimming, etc. Or stay inside for dance-based fitness, such as line dancing or Zumba. Whatever you choose, the more you move, the more calories you burn!

Diet – No matter how much you squat, do pushups, lift or move, it’s worthless if you aren’t eating properly! Choose seasonal, colorful, vitamin-enriched foods. They also make the best snacks. One of my go-to salads is a combination of mixed greens, carrot slivers, strawberries, cranberries, tangerines and glazed walnuts. A yummy meal that is nutritional and quick.

Enjoy your summer.

Until next time, I wish you wellness and joy!

Fitness expert Sondra E. Z. Hines, is a AFAA certified Group Fitness Instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. A former Adjunct Professor, she has 15+ years’ experience in the health industry, presenting at local, regional and national events.  A freelance writer, her column is published each Wednesday on Qcitymetro.com. Follow her on Twitter

Sondra E. Z. Hines is an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. A former adjunct professor, she has 15-plus years as a fitness instructor...