Think of what you want to experience in your life. Build a life around healthy living to open up opportunities and possibilities. Instead of looking at weight loss as your purpose for exercise and eating healthy, shift your thought process to a lifetime of wellness. Moving your body matters, here’s why:
Do you feel sluggish? Do you feel fatigue late in the day?
Movement for as little at 20 minutes, three times a week can increase your energy level. This improves your focus and helps you get more done in a day. Even better news, movement can be anything you enjoy and at a moderate level. If you experience a busy, stressful week- high intensity exercise can often leave you feeling more exhausted. This shows that more is not always better. That is, exercise smarter, not necessarily harder in this case.
Are you one of those people who lays in bed at night and can’t fall asleep?
Or do you fall asleep for a few hours only to wake up and and stay up? Well, exercising for 10-20 minutes most days of the week improves your quality of sleep. Pay attention to those days you exercise and see how your sleep patterns change. Since sleep impacts several things, monitor your energy level and mood the next day as well. Speaking of mood, we know that exercise improves our mood and even helps with depression. While exercise is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re sad or tired, it could be the best thing for you. Exercise releases chemicals and endorphins that impact your brain causing an improvement in mood. Again, the good news here, any physical activity such as gardening, walking, bike riding, and even dancing helps.
Does your back feel stiff in the morning?
Do your knees creak going up and down stairs? Do you find it increasingly difficult to get up off the floor? Appropriate movement can help you feel better. All this movement in turn helps develop stronger muscle and bone resulting in a decrease in aches and pains. Remember your heart counts as a muscle so it gets stronger too! Imagine the positive impact on blood pressure and heart disease.
Be active. Move! Strive to be the healthiest version of yourself possible; one step at a time and one day at a time. You’re worth every minute!
Just after Thanksgiving, I came across a 30 day fitness challenge designed to get anyone, at any fitness level moving: 30 minutes of walking for 30 days. I figured that committing to something as simple as walking could only be a good thing. I was right!
My doctor has often said that walking is the best kind of exercise I can get. Walking regularly is one of the best things you can do for your wellness. It can help prevent heart disease, mitigate blood sugars, and combats obesity and depression while strengthening your body. Just speak with your family doctor and follow their suggestions on how you might begin a walking program. If you need materials to help get you started, Leslie Sansone is a big advocate of fitness walking. You can find many of her book and DVD titles at hclibrary.org. Until then, I’ll share with you what I did.
In order for me to complete this challenge, I had to have a plan. I made walking a priority in my day. I set aside enough time for warming up, walking, and cooling down. My shoes and clothing to walk in were always ready no matter the weather. My water bottle, cell phone, and inhaler (I’m asthmatic) were always with me. When I walked alone, I told someone when and where I was going for my walk. I did everything I could to ensure I would be able to achieve my goal. After all, 30 days of walking 30 minutes was a healthy, attainable goal.
#2 GET SUPPORT
Support meant letting people know this was a goal of mine. I asked friends to walk with me and check-in to ensure I completed my daily walk. This was great because I was building a network of support and accountability. Let’s just say, I leaned on my husband a lot. I essentially told him that no matter what excuse I came up with would only hurt me in the end. That is, not completing this challenge wasn’t an option. Thanks to him and others, I was able to do it!
#3 DO IT
Finally, I just started walking. Without judgment or additional pressure. I warmed up by walking to my starting point on my planned route; set my timer for 15 minutes and started walking. When the time was up I would turn around and start my timer for 15 minutes back. At the end of the 30 minutes I walked from my starting point to my front porch to cool down and I did some easy stretching. I varied my route daily so it would never get boring and I’d have some hill variations in my walk too. I have gotten to the point where I can walk a good while at a decent pace where I can’t hold a long conversation, but can answer with a word or two.
Some days were easier than others. Believe me, the days that were miserable were the greatest when I got back to my house. My reward was that feeling of accomplishment- never giving up. My results are not that surprising. I feel better, my clothes fit better, and my posture has definitely improved. Now that my 30 days are up, I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m going to do what I can to ensure a minimum of 30 minutes of walking daily because it’s the easiest and best thing I can do, 30 days at a time.
According to research done by Running USA, about 17.1 million people participated in running events in 2015, about 57% of those female and 43% male. With the start of the new year, many of us look for new workout ideas, to start something different or to restart something old. For many, this includes a running or walking program. Sometimes it’s the “I want to run a marathon before I turn (insert age)” or a search to experience that runner’s high. Regardless the reason, finding the right program with appropriate progress and balance can be difficult.
Before you start out to become a runner, do a little self-analysis. When did you last run or walk with any regularity? Do you have any ankle, knee or hip issues that might resurface? What other workouts do you do throughout the week or month? The process of building a foundation focusing on form and safely adding miles often gets overlooked with running and walking programs and people start to aggressive.
If you’re just beginning (or restarting) your journey, start slow and give yourself time to build up both duration and miles. Allow a few weeks to get your body accustomed to the movements of running. Set aside three days each week and go out for 20-30 minutes with a combination of running and walking in an interval format. Don’t worry about distance for now.
While you’re building your foundation, pay attention to specifics with your form. Position your body in a slight forward lean from the ankles, not a bend at the hips. Try to keep from bouncing up and down to minimize the stress on your lower body. Hold your head and chest up and swing your arms forward and backwards letting your fingertips lightly brush your ribs. Be careful to not cross your arms in front of your body. Finally, pay attention to your breathing and be sure to not hold your breath and keep a steady rhythm.
Once you get through several weeks of consistent training or if you started out with a little bit of a foundation, start planning for your event or mapping out your goal for miles. Use an app such as Map My Run on your phone or a device like the FitBit to check in on your miles. On your next outing, track the miles on your normal route to determine your baseline. From there, maintain a three day a week program and build by adding between 0.5 – 1 mile per week on at least one of your runs. If it feels difficult at any mileage level, stay there until you feel comfortable moving on.
It takes time to create that foundation so don’t rush the process. If you want to run an event over 10 miles, give yourself several months to slowly build your routine. If something starts to hurt, pay attention and back off if needed. In addition to running, be sure to add a day or two of cross training, especially strength exercises to balance out your running. Take time to enjoy the process, stop and smell the roses and vary your routine to see places and experiences only your feet can take you.
[Editor’s Note: Always consult your doctor before starting any kind of diet or exercise program.]
I have often heard in both videos and in person that the hardest part of yoga is showing up to your mat. I have to say from experience that this is most certainly true. Yoga is just as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one and once you make it to your mat, the journey begins.
Yoga is a relatively new practice for me. I started in April 2015 and have been drawn to it’s benefits ever since. I love yoga for many reasons. The fact that it’s the only exercise I’ve genuinely enjoyed is a noteworthy part of it but there’s so much more to it than the physical aspect. I also use my yoga practice as a time and place for reflection. I have discovered an immense amount about myself by showing up to my mat every day and letting my thoughts arise naturally. I work through problems and questions when I am doing yoga whether it’s a huge personality trait that I’m trying to understand, a pattern in my thinking/behavior, or just something that bothered me earlier in the day. I get to have the time and space to really “sit” with my thoughts and explore what they mean. This allows me to trace back to the root of “why?”
I’m a rather busy person and can find it difficult to balance work and relationships while also finding quality time for myself. Yoga is the one thing I am sure to do for myself every single day whether it’s for five minutes or an hour. The time itself is such a powerful force because it’s for me and only me. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
The discipline is another very appealing part of the experience. Learning the proper posture/foundation of each pose and flow is extremely rewarding- especially when you have those little “aha!” moments where something so little finally clicks for the first time. It’s empowering.
Yoga challenges my body, mind, and spirit all at the same time. This might sound overwhelming but it’s a surprisingly welcome experience that I am truly thankful for. Yoga has shown me how important it is to take care of myself and has become an incredible outlet to relieve stress, lower anxiety, improve depression, and build strength (just to name a few.) Yoga is a very individual experience. Even when I am in class surrounded by other contorting bodies, I am very much alone in my experience and what it means for me as cleansing energy fills the room.
I recently experienced a random wrist injury and my first thought went immediately to my practice and how it would change my abilities. I felt broken, upset, and annoyed. How could I possibly continue to make improvements with a hand that I can’t apply any pressure to? Of course, this happened right as I was about to master a pose that I had been working on for a year. I thought that this setback would diminish everything that I had worked so hard to achieve.
Instead, I was forced to ask for advice from my yoga instructor and learned several modifications (some of which were more difficult physically than the original). I did more standing yoga and decided to use this time as an opportunity to work on my balancing poses. I didn’t want to stop my practice. While I have no idea when my hand/wrist will get better- I can still experience yoga in a meaningful way. Not to mention, I was able to work through why this setback upset me so much. Yoga truly is more than just a physical exercise. Whether you’re a beginner, expert, senior, pregnant, curvy, or injured– there is a type of yoga for your body and skill level. With that part figured out, all you have to do is show up to your mat and explore your mind. Namaste.
Editor’s Note: Please consult your physician before starting an exercise program.
Do you feel like you’ve spent quite a bit of time over the years “restarting” your fitness program? Are you discouraged with a lack of results? Have you repeatedly told yourself you will work out more, only to continue with the same habits? This article will require a little doing on your part but, in the end, you will design a program that fits your schedule, gives you options, and builds opportunities for a lifetime of health.
The biggest struggles with physical activity in our society come from the idea of movement for weight loss and many people view it as a negative. Before starting your routine, be clear with your “why?” Why is exercising important to you (not why scientific research says!) and what do you want to accomplish or be able to do? Be very honest with what makes this important. Think through all the reasons way beyond losing weight. Is it more travel, kids, grandkids, chronic pain, preventing illness, etc. Also, what stopped you in the past? Was it an injury or vacation or frustration? What do you see as you take this journey? How do you visualize your life changing? These answers guide your journey.
Now the action steps. Write down the days of the week, starting with Sunday (or whatever day begins your “week”). Then, fill in activities that you do regularly such as work, school, meetings, kids practices, date night, Church, etc. Using this as a framework, figure out your unscheduled time where you can fit in exercise. Busy days where you know exercise would be pretty much unrealistic and don’t schedule a workout! Be realistic in how many days you will actually exercise and for how long each day. For example, 4 days per week for 30-45 minutes total.
Now you know your personal “why?” for exercising, your schedule for availability and the frequency and duration. Now, what physical activities do you enjoy? It can be anything such as aerobics, walking, square dancing, swimming, lifting weights, biking, etc. Look at your schedule and see where specific activities fit. Is there a class you can take, a friend you can do things with, or an available fitness center. Start plugging in specifics and leave room for flexibility.
As with any well laid out plan, things happen – LIFE as we call it! Two big things that derail fitness programs are vacation/missed week and injury. How do you work around these? Starting with vacation, plan unstructured, planned active movement time while you’re away and schedule your workouts for when you return before you leave. Sometimes life gets super busy and we miss a week – it’s okay, pick right back up and revisit your WHY? from earlier. Use friends and family to help you stay accountable.
Injuries prove to be more challenging. Differentiate between injury and hurt. If something just hurts, move your body anyway. Try something less intense or change things around for what feels best. If you end up with a real true injury, many times you can work around it. For instance, if your knee hurts, switch to exercises that strengthen the upper body and work from the floor. Make changes and seek a professional to help you figure this out.
Exercise is something you will do for the rest of your life. Ultimately you only answer to yourself, make it a priority. Don’t accept excuses. Take responsibility for your actions. Seek help from positive influences in your life throughout your journey. Positive encouragement helps! Find your formula and realize that it is a continuous process that constantly changes. Start now!
I rejoice when the weather is warm enough to swim! Swimming is one of the most healthful ways to exercise, and is broadly enjoyed by people of all ages, from babies to the aged. People can get into the pool and enjoy themselves so much that they don’t even know how much beneficial aerobic (heart-pumping) exercise they’re getting.
Aerobic exercise itself has important health benefits: it reduces harmful inflammation linked to many diseases; lowers stress; lowers blood pressure; strengthens muscles (including the heart), and can even help smokers to quit. In fact, swimming is one of the most highly-recommended types of aerobic exercises, according to Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed. D. In addition, it’s one of the best exercises for older adults, as it’s easy on the joints.
Most swimmers in Howard County don’t have access to natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, so we swim in the neighborhood pool, kindly supplied by Columbia Association, one of the neighborhoods in other towns, or by a private owner. The water in these pools needs to be carefully maintained for cleanliness, because the people splashing around bring bacteria into the standing water of the pool. The operators of these pools add chemicals to the water. Without chlorination, health risks would prevent our swimming in a pool.
Most pool operators maintain water cleanliness with chlorine-based chemicals, then test the water for the correct balance of pH (acid-alkaline balance) and chemicals several times throughout the day. Although several alternatives to chlorine exist, each has a disadvantage, including a substantial differential in price. So additions of chlorine seem to be the default choice for water cleanliness.
But chlorine use has its side affects: it’s drying to skin and hair, and may make swimmers’ eyes redden and burn. Some some people are undeniably allergic to chlorine; some people suspect chlorine of causing serious diseases of the respiratory tract or even cancer; but research on these serious side effects is not conclusive.
But (sniff) what’s that sharp smell? Smells like too much chlorine!
Actually, that smell is the result of inadequate amounts of chlorine. Here’s the science: molecules of chlorine combines with molecules of nitrogen or ammonia being thrown off our bodies (organic matter). This is what smells bad. Whenthere is more chlorine in the water, the chlorine can do its job and the odor should be minimal. It’s inadequately-chlorinated water that is most irritating to the skin and eyes, and may be implicated in swimmer’s ear, a common ear infection due to constantly-wet ear canals and bacteria in the water.
And why is the water so cloudy? It’s due to any combination of these events: particles forced out of the water by imbalanced water, poor filtration or sanitation, or heat. Hot days can contribute to cloudy water.
Unless there are other health-related risks, the health benefits, fun, and social value of swimming far outweighs the disadvantages posed by chlorine. One of the rites of summer is swimming, especially out of doors on a hot Maryland day.
The Center for Disease Control’s Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming go into depth on ways to keep everyone healthy when in the water. The most important and easiest of these include:
- Staying out of the water if you are ill, especially illness of your digestive tract. Also stay out of the water if you have a cut or other break in your skin. Being aware of potential water-borne problems.
- Showering before you swim to rinse off the organic materials on your skin. This way, you won’t be contributing to what the chlorine as to break down.
- Regular bathroom breaks for children and adults are crucial. Urine, after all, in another organic material.
- Protecting yourself with eye goggles, an after-swim shower, shampoo, and body moisturizer.
- Questions to ask the pool operator: “Are chemical levels checked at least twice per day, or more often when the pool is heavily used?”, “What is the latest pool inspection score?”, and “Has the pool operator completed specialized training in pool operation?”Have a great swim!