Let’s Talk Fitness: Maintaining independence through movement

Welcome to Let’s Talk Fitness, a community conversation where we encourage and inspire each other to lead more active healthy lifestyles. I am your host Renee Reed, a fitness coach, personal trainer and boomer, who refuses to slow down and act my “age.”

Today’s conversation is about Maintaining Independence Through Movement. I hope you enjoy it.

We humans place a high value on independence and yet the majority of us fail to do the one thing that can help us maintain our independence — we fail to be physically active.

Humans need regular physical activity to maintain long-term health and vitality. Our ability to move not only allows us to take care of ourselves and our offspring, it is essential to our independence.

It’s In Our Genes

The human genetic code has functioned to support physical activity for survival throughout most of our existence. Mankind’s physical mobility is what allowed getting food, escape from predators and hostile neighbors and environments. Genetic movement ability allowed us to explore, build and expand civilizations.

With the exception of those who are physically active for a living or avocation, modern human activity has dwindled to all time lows. There is little need to move, or so we believe. As a result, that same genetic code that sustained our survival may now be working against us.

To function well, the human body requires regular physical activity yet with the increase in sedentary lifestyles, many find it difficult to sustain health and subsequently long term independence.

The Movement Continuum

As infants we learn to move, first parts of our body, then the whole. Our brain, nerves, muscles, cardiac and other systems develop and work together. We see or hear something and turn our heads, reach our hands out, touch and explore, grab on and pull. We roll over, crawl, stand, walk and eventually, run to get what we want.

During childhood, our energy seems boundless. We move with enthusiasm, developing our body and mind through play involving our whole being. We become stronger, faster, more coordinated and social through organized physical activities. As we progress through school, often our physical activity diminishes and we sit to learn, watch TV, play games, read and interact with electronic devices. Poor postural habits begin to affect our bodies and some gain unneeded fat. An alarming number of modern children are developing “chronic” (lifestyle) conditions, previously thought to affect only adults.

As we move through adulthood, our lives are filled with obligation, tension and not always healthy diversions. We become even less active. For many, sitting has now affected our posture and muscle balance. Some muscles become shorter, tighter, while others are longer and weaker. Many of us have gained extra weight and/or developed conditions that require medications. For many the risk of premature death has increased. A common reason we give for not being more active is lack of time.

During our senior years, the risk of falling is a concern and we tire more easily. Most of us spend much of our time doing things that require little physical activity. For many, balance has diminished, arthritis is present and muscles and bones are weaker. A majority has acquired health conditions, some several. Some of us now require assistance for activities of daily living and physical chores. A common excuse for not exercising is fear of injury.

Our Best Choice

In the beginning and towards the end of life, most humans require some level of physical assistance. Babies have no choice and need parenting to live and grow.

The majority of chronic conditions that are forcing adults into expensive care facilities can be attributed to prior lifestyle choices. Excluding accidents and illness beyond our control, most adults have the option of healthy lifestyle choices.

The best choice we can make is regular physical activity. Doing this one thing can mean better health and happiness and a longer, more independent life.

Our Worst Choice

According to the World Health Organization, Sedentary Death Syndrome (sitting syndrome) is now the third leading cause of premature death.

Despite all of the evidence that we need to do otherwise, we humans continue to opt in to sedentary lifestyles. Subsequently, large numbers of us will die prematurely and for the most part, our deaths will not be easy and swift. Well ahead of the final day, our sedentary induced conditions will take over our bodies, control our movements and steal away our independence.

Numerous research studies and simple observation, indicate that if we are to remain healthy and mobile, we must be physically active.

There is a direct correlation between physical activity and independence. The more we move our body, the healthier we can be. The healthier we are, the more independent we can be.

None of us want to lose our independence, yet so many of us do too little or the wrong things to maintain it. We arrange our lives to avoid doing the very things that might help us stay strong and take care of ourselves for longer. We move to homes that have no stairs. We choose activities where we can sit. We park near the store entrance or drive a few blocks to avoid walking. We watch our grandchildren play, instead of joining them. We live with pain and diablement because we are afraid of having surgeries that can repair our damaged joints.

Some of us make these choices only after our health has declined and we no longer have the ability or confidence to take on physical challenge. Many of us have the option to be more active yet choose not to do so and it is to you that I say …

Get Moving

To remain independent we/you/I must move our bodies regularly. To prevent or reverse (you can) physical decline, it is necessary to move the whole body regularly.

Does this mean you need to join a gym, start lifting weights or go running? Not at all.

The goal of this article is not to make you feel you must spend money to be healthier. Nor should you jump into lifting heavy loads or high intensity activities right away. There is much you can do without going to a gym or hiring a professional trainer. If you feel you need guidance or prefer to workout in a formal environment then by all means join a gym or studio or hire a private trainer.

I’m all about guided movement, personal training and going to fitness classes. But the truth is, you can get a lot of benefit on your own and without professional help.

There is much you can do by simply adding more movement to your life.

So how do we get moving?

It’s simple -just start moving any way you can and work up to as often as you can. Walk. Swim. Garden. Ride a bike. Climb some stairs. Pick up and carrying little kids, dogs, groceries, flower bedding, etc.

If you have a medical condition or suspect such, consult your physician before you try to exert yourself beyond low intensity activities.

Moderate-to-low intensity activities are the type where you can still talk and breath fairly easily while doing them. You can get a lot of benefit from moderate-to-low intensity activity. Please don’t feel that you must go out and practically kill yourself to get a health benefit.

Ideally, the activities you choose will benefit your muscles and cardio respiratory system. The following are a few of the guidelines provided by the Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Avoid inactivity: Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any physical activity gain health benefits.
  • Do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise. Or do an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Do aerobic activity in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and spread activity throughout the week.
  • Increase aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity for more extensive health benefits. Alternatively, do an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.
  • Do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that are moderate- or high-intensity and involve all major muscle groups for full-body health benefits.

Whatever you do, move your body! It’s the only one you’ve got so you might as well keep it in tip-top-shape.

Let’s Talk Fitness is sponsored by 6 Movements Fitness Studio, located in Firdale Village Shopping Plaza in Edmonds.

Call 206-546-6683 or visit 6movements.com to learn more about low impact progressive intensity training options.

Know someone with or have your own fascinating fitness story and want to join the Let’s Talk Fitness conversation? Send topic proposals, stories, comments or questions to talkfitness@6movements.com.

— Sponsored by 6 Movements Fitness


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