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Archive for April, 2010

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Life has really changed at my house.  It seems like yesterday I was bundling up to walk Bandy in the frigid darkness and writing about winter walking.  Instead, summer came early at my house.  We’ve had temperatures in the 80’s for the past couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to the return of normal temperatures in the 70’s for the next few days.  And, unlike last year, it has been sunny and dry. 

We’ve had the perfect weather to tackle outside projects around the house and yard and I’ve been working like crazy.  So far this year I have weeded all the flower beds and painted 2 sides of my foundation.  (I’m on the 20 year plan with this foundation painting.  I figure if my house could go the first 50 years with a bare foundation then I didn’t have to be in too much of a hurry.  I did the first side about 11 years ago.  Now, I only have the back side of the house to go.  Maybe if this weather holds out I can get that done before the mosquitoes invade my yard.  If not, I have about 8 years to meet my personal deadline J). 

I would guess in the last 3 weeks I have spent about 20 hours bending over, bending down, pulling, twisting, bending up, bending down, and pushing.  It was tricky trying to paint from the ground up while standing in a bed of irises about to bloom.  I felt like I was playing twister!

And you know what?  I’ve not had one sore muscle…not in my legs or arms or back or neck.  I found this a little curious because I remember last year once the rain stopped and I could get out in the garden, I was uncomfortable pulling weeds and digging and planting.  I remember my knees hurting and my back aching.  I had to lean my knees on a padded pillowy thing for goodness sake.  I remember thinking if this is how I feel at 42 how will I ever garden when I’m 50 or 60.  

I’ve spent some time thinking these past few weeks as to why I haven’t had any discomfort or pain this year.  There has to be a reason, right? 

I’ve come up with two possibilities…qigong and walking.  

Qigong is “a form of traditional Chinese mind/body exercise and meditation that uses slow and precise body movements with controlled breathing and mental focusing to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and overall health.”  

As you may know from reading Is Walking Enough (Part 2), I’ve been doing a short qigong routine for about 9 months now.  It took me a few weeks to get the hang of it and remember the sequence without referring to the pictures.  This qigong sequence of 6 movements seems to stretch most, if not all, of the major muscle groups.  I do these stretches every morning.  It feels great and it doesn’t take a lot of time to complete – about 12 minutes.  Doing these stretches every day has increased my normal range of motion and has increased my overall flexibility.  It is nothing now to bend down and reach and stretch because my body has been training to do this daily through qigong!  

I also think that walking soon after finishing these tasks helped my body recover quickly.  Like taking a hot shower after exerting yourself, I think that walking soon after my tasks gave my allowed my body to move and stretch and stop the soreness or stiffness that might have occurred had I just sat down and watched TV after I finished working.

Have you been working hard in the yard or house, playing tennis, running or riding your bike after a winter of little activity?  Are you calling on your body to move more than normal now that the weather begs for outdoor activities?  Have you noticed stiffness or soreness and wish you had a way to minimize these side effects of the weekend warrior?  If you want to prevent post-warrior pain and soreness, give qigong and walking a chance…a hot shower won’t hurt either.

What home projects or fitness activities have you been working on or have planned for the Spring?  Do you ever feel sore or pain from your work or fun?  Let us read all about it in the comments.

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One of my co-workers was talking about her grandma ‘Mimi’ recently.  Ms. Mimi lived to be 104 years old.  She never exercised a day in her life.  Instead, she never stopped moving.  She was always ‘doing’ and rarely wanted to sit down to take a rest. 

Today our ‘advanced’ society makes it very easy to develop lazy habits.  Do you sit most of your day in an office job?  Do you ride to work in a car or public transportation?  Do you mow your own lawn?  Do you clean the gutters, wash the windows, iron the clothes, or prepare three meals from scratch?  See where I’m going here?  Many of the activities our grandparents performed as their way of life aren’t done anymore.  We outsource our chores, a meal goes from bag or box to plate in 5 minutes and we surf through hundreds of channels with a click of a finger.  Today’s way of life allows us to move less and less during our days if that is what we choose to do.

But there is a big downside to all of our conveniences…we burn less calories every day and, over time, we gain weight.  One way to stop this process is to get moving!  Even if you don’t like to exercise you can make a habit of moving more during your day.  

Back in 2005 we heard about the ‘losing weight through fidgeting’ study conducted by researcher Dr. James Levine at the Mayo Clinic.  The study compared two groups of ‘couch potatoes’ that included a lean group and an obese group.  The participants were considered couch potatoes if they didn’t exercise.  The study monitored the daily movements of the two groups and determined that the lean couch potatoes moved at least 2 hours more throughout their day.  During the 2 hours of extra movement, the lean couch potatoes burned 350 calories more, per day, than the obese couch potatoes.  These extra movements can add up to10 to 30 pounds a year.  After the study, Dr. Levine stated that “the amount of this low-grade activity is so substantial that it could, in and of itself, account for obesity quite easily.” 

What this means for you is that increasing your activity level can help you fight weight gain even if you don’t formally exercise.  Think back to your grandparents again (or great-grandparents if you’re really young).  It’s unlikely that your grandpa went to the gym to workout or that your grandma headed to a daily jazzercise class.  Instead they probably took care of their home and yard by doing all the chores their self.  And because they had fewer conveniences back then, it took a lot more effort and time to wash clothes, cook or mow the lawn (push mowers!) then it does today. 

We have to compensate for the fact that we sit for a huge amount of our day as we commute to work, sit at a desk at work, and frequently come home to a sofa or another desk.  If we don’t increase our activity levels during the parts of our day we can control, then we will gain weight. 

So how can you increase the activity in your day?  There are endless ways but here are some to consider:

  • Walk to your mailbox instead of driving up to the box.
  • Park as far away as you can from your job, store, etc.
  • Pull the batteries out of the remote control.  You will have to get up to change the channel
  • Mow your own lawn
  • Cook from scratch
  • March in place or walk around when you brush your teeth
  • Spend part of your lunch break walking and take walk breaks during the day even if you are only taking the long way to the copy machine and bath room
  • Walk while your children are at ball practice or dance lessons
  • Spend 15 – 30 minutes each night cleaning your house from top to bottom (windows, baseboards, closets…everything).  Make a checklist for each room in the house with activities you can complete in your 15 – 30 minute timeframe
  • Plant a flower, herb and/or vegetable garden
  • Spend 15 minutes every night decluttering your house
  • Do something active with your children every day like throwing a football or frisbee, playing tennis, flying a kite, playing hopscotch or jump rope, blowing bubbles
  • Walk around your yard or neighborhood every morning or evening 

Your goal is to add movement throughout your day, every day.  Try this.

Post a list at work of all the ways you can increase your activity level:

  • Stand up and move when talking on the phone
  • Walk around the floor or office frequently during the day
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park in the ‘far away’ spots
  • Walk during part of your lunch or other breaks

Try to do everything on your list everyday.

Try this.  Make a list every day before you leave work of the activities you want to accomplish when you get home, such as:

  • Walk the dog
  • Play with kids outside 15 minutes
  • Wash, fold and put away a load of laundry
  • 15 minutes decluttering kitchen junk drawer

These tasks will keep you up and moving and will burn many more calories than sinking into the comfy sofa at the end of your day.  Making a list keeps you on track and helps you stay focused.

In today’s world we are moving far less than the generations that came before us.  Today there is an easy way to do every chore.  The easiest way of all is to outsource the daily chores that we used to do.  While it may make our lives easier, the easy way out results in our moving less and less and this can lead to weight gain for us all.  Take a moment today to think how you can live a more active life, burn a few more calories each day, and maybe lose a few pounds in the process.

Do you think you have a more active life than your grandparents?  Do you exercise most days?  If not, do you try to add extra movement to your days?  I’d love to hear more in the Comments.

For more ideas to increase your daily activity level, read this article about the ‘fidgeting’ study which includes a sample active day.

 

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We’ve heard it all before…we should exercise every day.  We’ve heard the studies that say regular exercise will reduce our risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, etc.  No matter how much we want to exercise, we never follow through with the promises we make to ourselves to hit the gym or to make it to a yoga class.  Or maybe we do make it to a class or go for a jog but then we just can’t seem to stick with it – we can’t get into an exercise groove.  Our job, children, family and friends all need our attention, our money and/or our time.  We still think about exercise…mainly that we are not exercising…and this makes us feel guilty and stressed.  Our thoughts of all the exercise we should be doing, but aren’t, become overwhelming and we give up – sometimes before we start.  Is the thought of getting fit stressing you out and pushing you to inaction? 

But hold on a minute.  Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.  And you don’t have to overwhelm yourself with all that you think you should be doing.  Instead, plan out what you can do in 15 minutes a day.  You can gain important health benefits in just 15 minutes of exercise each day.  Each time you complete a 15 minute session it will add up until you have hours of fitness under your belt.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Your 15 minutes of something will add up to 1 hour and 45 minutes of fitness each week or 4.5 hours of fitness each month.  That’s pretty impressive if you are doing less than that now.

So what could you do during your 15 minutes of fitness?  Consider alternating each day between an aerobic session and a strength training session. 

Week 1 walk for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  

Week 2 complete a strength training session on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

Don’t think for a second that you need to have a gym membership or own an expensive piece of equipment for this 15 minute fitness program.  One of the best aerobic activities you can do for your self is to walk.  Walking 15 minutes 3-4 times each week will provide you with a number of health benefits.  Check out One Activity that Can Change Your Life for more information about the vast health benefits of walking. 

It is possible to create a strength training program at home with no equipment.  Using your own body weight as resistance you can do push-ups, sit-ups, squats, core exercises, dips, etc.  Use your 15 minutes of strength training to complete some light stretches, 10 push-ups, 25 sit-ups, 20 squats and 6 dips.  In one month, this will add up to 150 push-ups, 375 sit-ups, 300 squats and 90 dips each month.  See how these small incremental efforts add up to big time numbers?  Check out this previous post on weight training if you want to incorporate free-weights or you are looking for some other strength training exercises.

No matter what your situation, a fitness program is within your reach.  Don’t become paralyzed by unrealistic expectations.  Just commit to 15 minutes a day and alternate between an aerobic program and a strength training program to start your fitness program.  The most important thing you can do for your health today is to commit to a daily routine that you complete everyday no matter what.  A 15 minute commitment is do-able for everyone.  No excuses.  Make your 15 minute fitness program a habit and you will reap the health benefits guaranteed.

Do you ever become overwhelmed with your fitness goals?  Have you ever stopped exercising because you felt like what you were doing didn’t make a difference?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

 Next Post:  Do You Have Lazy Habits?

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