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Movement is Medicine

How do you feel about exercise? Does it come easy for you or do you struggle with energy and motivation? Studies have shown that people who make exercise a priority tend to lead fuller lives, get sick less often, have more stamina, and tend to gain less weight. Bob Anderson, author of “Stretching” writes, “Many recent studies have shown that active people lead fuller lives. They have more stamina, resist illness and stay trim. They have more self-confidence, are less depressed, and often, even late in life, are still working energetically on new projects. Medical research has shown that a great deal of ill health is directly related to lack of physical activity.” He goes on to say, “We now realize that the only way to prevent the diseases of inactivity is to remain active-not for a month, or a year, but for a lifetime.”

The great thing is you don’t need a costly gym membership, a trainer, or even a lot of expensive equipment. For example, walking has been referred to as the “fountain of youth”. Being outside in the early morning, even before the sun rises, is so invigorating. The cool air gets your blood pumping and listening to the birds sing can put a smile on your face and get your day off to the perfect start! Something as simple as stretching is beneficial if you experience achy joints or stiffness in the morning when you wake up. Stretching can reduce muscle stiffness, help with coordination giving you freer and easier movement, increase range of motion, help prevent injuries, make strenuous activities such as running, skiing, tennis, swimming, and cycling easier as it prepares your body for activity, and can help maintain your current level of flexibility so that as you age, your body stays limber. Even cleaning your own home is good physical exercise. Think about vacuuming, stepping up and down on a step stool, squatting to pick things up off the floor…all of this is good for you! Now, what you use to clean your house is an entirely separate blog!

One thing to remember is that exercise is not meant to be a punishment to you or your body. I personally don’t believe that working out in a gym for hours on end is required in order to get the positive rewards you can get from gentle exercise. Research shows that as we age, long, strenuous workouts can increase cortisol levels, often referred to as the “stress hormone”, which can actually cause some women to gain weight instead of lose.

One suggestion I have to make exercise easier is to make it fun. Do what you enjoy, just move your body by walking, dancing, hiking, tennis, volleyball, softball, Pilates…whatever you do, just do it consistently. There are plenty of things you can do to get moving. Additionally, there are community sports for adults just like they’re available for kids. Playing in community sports not only gives you the exercise you need but can also bring meaningful relationships, which is very important, too! The key is to find a way to consistently get exercise into your routine without making it feel like drudgery. Start out slow and steady and increase week by week, taking small incremental steps and before you know it, you’re going to create a life-long healthy habit! Let me know how it’s going for you!

Anderson, B. (2000). Stretching (Revised ed.). Shelter Publications.

Icassatti Corazza, D., Scbastiao, E., Valle Pedroso, R., Andreza Almeida Andreatto, C., Gomes de Melo Coelho, F., Gobbi, S., Teodorov, E., & Ferreira Santos-Galduroz, R. (2013, March). Influence of chronic exercise on serum cortisol levels in older adults.

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