Posts Categorized: fitness

Move Your Body

Exercise is recommended for everyone

Exercise.

Land sakes, it’s like a DIRTY WORD, isn’t it? There’s so much angst and anxiety, social tension and expectation piled into that one word that it hurts to even ponder it. Which is a real shame because, exercise? It’s really good for you. Yes, you. All of you. Pretty much without exception. In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and use the S-word: To keep it in good, working condition for as long as possible, you should find ways to regularly move, groove, and exercise your physical form.

There are studies – oh, are there ever studies – that talk about how fat people can be fit and thin people can be less fit, and we can argue all day long about the finer points of those studies. But let’s not. Let’s instead focus on the fact that – aside from the physically fragile, infirm, and extremely elderly – exercise is recommended for everybody. That doctors, nutritionists, fitness instructors, wellness coaches, scientists, and experts of all stripes want EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US to incorporate regular movement into our lives. They don’t care how much or little we weigh, how old we are, what we do for a living, if we’re differently abled, pregnant, or woefully uncoordinated. They want us to exercise because it keeps our systems strong, keeps our bodies in good repair. There are no studies recommending sedentary life or advising the avoidance of exercise.

And those experts? They also don’t care if we’re new mothers, working multiple jobs, suffering from depression, facing new or difficult physical challenges, or any number of other factors that may make exercise seem even more difficult, daunting, and chore-like. They still point out that cardio is good for our hearts and lungs, and women are more likely to suffer from heart disease. They still remind us that weight training is especially important to women because we lose bone density with age. They may even gently suggest that regular exercise can help with mood and stress levels.

And here’s the thing: Exercise doesn’t have to mean three sweaty hours in a humanity-packed gym. Exercise doesn’t have to hack a giant chunk off of your already-scarce free time. Exercise doesn’t even have to be “exercise!” Think of it this way: Make sure you move your body – vigorously and enthusiastically – a couple of times each day. Forget exercise, just move. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Park further from your destination and get a little walk in. Do some wall push-ups. Go out dancing on Saturday night instead of hitting a bar or restaurant. Bench press a toddler and watch her giggle with glee. Plank or do a few sit-ups during your favorite TV shows. Check these recommendations if you’re facing a physical challenge or healing from an injury. Exercise can be a burden, but movement can be easy and fun. It can! No, I’m serious, you guys. And besides all that, it’s a key component to long-term self-care.

How do YOU incorporate movement into your life? What’s your favorite way to move your body? I’d love to hear about some non-traditional exercise options!

Image courtesy ian

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Guest Post: LynnAnn Covell on Fitness Options

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:

* * * * *

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.

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Already Prettypoll: Olympic Athletes and Body Image

This topic was inspired by an e-mail from reader Natalie:

I would love to hear your take on the impact of the popularity of female Olympic athletes on body image. I personally find watching women in the Olympics empowering – there are so many different “ideal” Olympic body types, from swimmer to gymnast to distance runner to weight lifter, and they’re all beautiful and powerful and awe-inspiring. None of them look at all like the bodies of most models or actresses, and yet they are much more incredible than the bodies we are regularly told are “ideal.” I tend to feel badly about my own body after seeing too many images of models or actresses, but I feel the opposite while watching Olympic athletes. They are a reminder that beauty, power, and talent come in many forms, and make me appreciate my own, much less athletic body.

I will admit that traveling and work have interfered with my ability to catch more than a passing minute or two of the games myself, and certainly don’t feel qualified to speak on behalf of others. So I’d like to hand it over to you:

Does watching women compete in the Olympics impact your own body image? Positively? Negatively? A bit of both depending on the circumstances? Do you feel inspired to push yourself athletically? Intimidated to see how skilled these women have become? Happy to see bodies that fall outside the socially sanctioned ideal being praised?

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