Columnists :: Holistically Speaking
Fight the cold
Wednesday Sep 22, 2010
Dear Holistically Speaking,
I need some advice about exercise when the weather gets colder. I’m not really a couch potato, but I am exercise-challenged. Where do I start? There are so many choices - yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, zumba - the list goes on and on!
What should I consider in making a choice???
You’re right! There are many paths to consider in choosing a form of exercise. Now that it is Fall, it’s a great time to get outside and move. But as the weather gets colder, many of us have challenges keeping up our routines. Here are some guidelines to consider:
• Movement is important throughout our lives -do what appeals to you. Combine exercise with other activities you enjoy, like taking a walk to look at the leaves in the Fall, or riding a stationary bike while watching your favorite TV show.
• There are different types of exercises, including aerobic, stretching, core strengthening, weight training and balance. In the course of a week, do a bit of each to meet your body’s needs.
• Aerobic activity (such as running, walking, jumping rope, dancing, swimming, or bicycling) increases your cardiovascular capacity, and is important for your heart and circulation. As the weather gets colder, these activities can be the first to fall off. Get good outerwear and boots if you want to be active outdoors - "there is no such thing as bad weather-only inappropriate clothing." Or, incorporate more short bursts of indoor activity - like climbing stairs quickly, dancing in the kitchen to your favorite upbeat music - when the weather turns colder. Sitting in a straight backed chair and "marching" in place for 10-15 minutes can get your heart rate up while you’re watching TV.
• Stretching and core strengthening activities like yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi, are important for maintaining the body’s flexibility and functionality. There are many good DVDs at your local library for these activities, geared to all levels of experience. Some moves can be adapted to do in your office chair - like pulling your belly button into your backbone, or squeezing your buttock muscles.
• Weight training uses weights or resistance during exercise repetitions to build and maintain muscle tone. It is also helps women over 50 reduce the risk of osteoporosis. If you don’t have weights at home, resistance bands are a good substitute, and can be adjusted for your strength level.
• Balance exercises aren’t often mentioned, but are especially important as we age. Try brushing your teeth while balanced on one foot, then the other. If that isn’t challenging enough, try it with your eyes closed (be careful not to fall!)
To stay motivated, find a buddy who is at about the same level as you. If you’ve got a yoga studio or health club in your neighborhood, start there. Besides having the benefit of an instructor and a routine, you may enjoy the camaraderie of other folks taking a class with you. If you live in an area where you feel comfortable walking, find a friend who can go with you - it’s a great initiation into movement. Keep fun and safety in your mind as you explore what moves you!
If you’re a shy person and prefer to do exercise in private, there are many types of DVDs and videos that may be useful for you. If you have a Wii system, try one of the exercise programs such as skiing or yoga.
It’s important to talk with your health care provider before you start a new program, especially if you’ve had injuries or health concerns. Make sure that you inform your exercise instructor about any health issues. Knowing your health history and any kinds of challenges you face can be important in setting out on a successful exercise program.
Benefits of regular exercise include improved sleep, increased resistance to disease, control of blood pressure, regulation of the appetite, improved quality of life, and stabilization of blood sugar. There’s every reason to do it!
In Asian medicine, the idea of "stagnation" is an important concept in health. Whenever energy stops circulating freely, we run the risk of developing "stagnant energy" or "stagnant blood". This is the source of many ailments and disorders, so practitioners of Asian medicine, like acupuncturists, would always work to move the dormant or stagnant "qi". By incorporating movement and exercise into your health regimen, you make a positive contribution to your own health and wellness.
Good luck finding exercise that you like!