The 4 Best Exercises That Work Wonders

4 little moves that work wonders. Like you, Alison Sweeney doesn’t have time for a workout every day. But he’s mastered short exercises that still make a huge difference. Feeling great starts here.

DO YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF slouching in the car? I do, all the time. I’ll be at a red light and realize I’m fully hunched over the steering wheel. My trainer taught me a workout for these moments: I sit up and use my abs to support my torso. This little exercise reminds me how much my core affects everything I do, and it has a huge impact on my posture. That’s not the only way to improve how your body works—here’s how to make everyday life better with a simple exercise or two.

Fitness maven Alison Sweeney is the executive producer and star of Christmas at Holly Lodge, premiering December 3 on Hallmark Channel.

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CARRY HEAVY GROCERIES

I used to think I needed to build up my upper-body strength to carry my kids when they were little or schlep heavy shopping bags from the car. But it’s actually your abs and quads that are doing most of the work. Now, before I shower, I do a series of abs workouts. My favorite moves are Pilatesstyle crunches: I lie on my back with my legs up and bent at the knee in a table position, then crunch my torso to my knees for two sets of 25. This strengthens my core and reminds me to engage it when I have to pick up something heavy.

WALK COMFORTABLY IN HEELS

It actually takes real calf-muscle strength to stabilize your upper body so you don’t look wobbly as you walk in heels. To prep for a big night out, I do 15 calf raises with each leg. Also, I stretch my calf and quad muscles on the stairs—just put your toes on the edge of a step and sink your heel down below it. Stretching helps strengthen muscles and get them used to certain motions so by the time you’re ready to step into your heels, your calves will carry you with confidence.

LOWER YOUR STRESS

When there’s a lot on your mind, it’s smart to start moving. As you elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, you release endorphins that help relieve your worries. I like to run when I’m stressed, but when I don’t have time, flowing through a Sun Salutation ending in Child’s Pose is a great five-minute break in my day. Watch the Morning Yoga Flow on REDBOOK’s YouTube page to learn a Sun Salutation, then get into Child’s Pose by kneeling with your knees apart and bowing forward with your arms extended behind you.

FALL ASLEEP QUICKLY

If I haven’t done enough physical activity during the day, I find it hard to sleep at night: It’s like my legs aren’t finished moving! I prevent that annoying feeling by putting a resistance band around my ankles and taking 10 steps sideways, then back again, keeping my knees slightly bent. Do this a couple of times before bed, like I do, and you’ll feel more at ease and ready to sleep once your head hits the pillow.

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