This post was inspired by an e-mail from reader Beth. She wrote:
I would love to hear about some resources for people who are trying to get physically fit, yet may have some circumstances which means they just can’t go “bust a move” like everyone else. I do a lot of yoga but need cardio badly, and walking doesn’t fit all that great into my schedule (or, currently, climate). I have knee tenderness and scoliosis (30% curve that starts at the base of my spine, so my lower back can be wonky). Everything I check out seems to be made for people who are younger and/or can do exercises I can’t do; you’re not really even given ways or examples to build up to something. I think this really hits at diversity and health–for people who really want to try to get healthy, it’s hard to find good resources unless you’re already really into it.
Since this is a question that I felt ill-qualified to tackle on my own, I enlisted the help of a pro. LynnAnn Covell is a senior fitness specialist at Green Mountain at Fox Run, and I worked with her during my visit there. She was SO FABULOUS at customizing exercises and workouts for those with physical challenges, while simultaneously reinforcing the idea that “your pace is THE pace,” and I knew she’d be the perfect person to tackle Beth’s question. Here’s her response:
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Fitness Soul Search: Finding Your Cardio Match
It is an exciting and hopeful moment when you find a physical activity that works for you and your body. One that feels good. One that feels right. When you’ve decided after a period of being sedentary that you want to get moving again, you might need to try several things until something clicks and you want to keep doing it. But, the number of options when you have schedule or physical limitations can be … well … limited. So, you might need to get creative.
When time is getting between you and your fitness, one solution is to break down activities into shorter increments. At Green Mountain at Fox Run, one of our favorite quotes is, “Something is always better than nothing.” If your schedule prevents you from taking a one-hour class or going for a longer run or walk, think about breaking the activity down to, say, three times/day for 10 minutes each. It all counts!
Another solution when time is scarce is to incorporate more movement into your “everyday life.” No class or fancy equipment necessary. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you typically drive to the store, try walking. Instead of watching TV with the family after dinner, play a game of badminton instead. You can even find inventive ways to fit strength training into your daily routine – like at your desk or while you are on the phone.
When physical limitations are your primary concern, there are more cardio options than you might realize. First, the classes where you think you might have to “bust a move” and therefore might bust your knee, may be able to be modified for you. Let’s say you want to try Zumba®, but are afraid that it’s just going to be too much for your body. Talk to the instructor before class, let her know what you are dealing with, and ask if she can show you modifications for your knee, hip, shoulders, etc. If she can’t, then move on to another class or another instructor.
Also, consider new activities where there is much less impact on the joints, like swimming or aquatics. Or, how about using an exercise ball? Not only can it remove pressure from the knees, but it can also support the lower back. FitBALL® offers several beginner DVDs that you can try at home, including one I recommend for under-active adults. Of course, you should ask your physician before you try any new workout.
Lastly, don’t forget about online resources in your fitness soul search, where you can learn from others who found what worked for their bodies and their lives. Some of my favorites include Curvy Yoga and MizFit Online.
LynnAnn Covell is a senior fitness specialist at Green Mountain at Fox Run, a retreat helping women find health and their healthy weights since 1973. LynnAnn was named one of SpaFinder’s Spa Professionals of the Year in 2011 and 2010.
P.S. Since LynnAnn was too modest to mention it, I will. The Green Mountain blog, A Weight Lifted, often has tips, suggestions, and occasionally videos that can be helpful to those who face workout challenges.
Image via The Big C.