We all know any kind of movement is good for us.
We do, don’t we?
(Can’t hear you at the back of the class!)
At this time of year especially, articles, tweets, tv programmes, Instagram memes all shout at us to get our bodies moving.
Just in case you’re still in any doubt or denial, here is a list of proven benefits:
- it gets the heart pumping
- improves circulation
- builds muscle and bone which improves balance – especially important for those of us no longer in the first flush of youth
- builds strength and stamina
- creates endorphins which improves our mood, helps us feel better and therefore helps diminish those January blues and even depression.
- makes you feel more alert and energetic
- aids mental clarity, making us more productive and creative at work and home.
- helps prevent lifestyle diseases like Type 2 diabetes through better control of blood sugar levels
- helps keep our weight in check – if we also keep an eye on what we eat.
- helps keep joints mobile and flexible
So, now you really do know that exercise is good for you, you can’t claim ignorance as your get-out clause!
But don’t worry, this post is not about going all out on the crossfit machine or hefting eye-watering weights at the gym. It’s all about movement and fun!
At this time of year, when the Christmas season is over, we feel overfed and lethargic, Spring is in the air and many of us start making plans to go to the gym, start running or take a zumba class.
Trouble is, in the cold months, our resolve can soon start dying a slow death. It’s cold, wet, dark, and miserable. The woodburner or the tv and a glass or cup of something warming are far more attractive. All that money spent on gym fees or trendy neon fit-wear may as well be flushed away for all the use we make of it.
Unfortunately, many of us have also had negative gym experiences or are old enough to remember the torture of school PE classes: being made to run cross-country in freezing conditions wearing t-shirt and shorts, inadequate footwear and with little or no preparation, the booming voice of the wrapped-up PE teacher in our ears decrying our efforts and urging us on, drill-sergeant style. (Anyone who has seen the film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ will know what I mean!)
It’s also often difficult if not impossible for many of us to embark on formal exercise regimes due to having small children or sick family members or because we have physical problems of our own or simply can’t afford the expense. So we accept that’s how it has to be and get on with it, skipping over all the articles we see urging us to move more and diverting our eyes from all the pony-tailed, fitbit-wearing runners dashing past the window.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. No more guilt at being a trainer-free home-bod.
Hooray! you shout.
Hang on, you’re not getting off that easily! You still have to move about, just not in a gym or on the road.
Here are some tips to get it all jiggin’ about:
- Your home can be your gym and everyday items your equipment. Little or no expense, warm environment (less chance of injury), relative privacy (though maybe not privacy from your relatives 😉), win-win situation. Your stairs can be your step-exercise, bottles of water or tinned goods your weights, your cd player your zumba instructor.
2. You can even incorporate exercise into your everyday activities.
And no-one needs to see you doing it!
According to the BBC programme ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor,’ * a group of people over 40 – and therefore losing muscle, I think the oldest was 67 – incorporated exercise into their daily activities. Over a month on average they gained 3% more muscle, 12% more muscle strength, 13% more muscle power and 4% more grip strength.
So how did they do it?
Visit the website to see in detail, but basically:
- squats and standing on one leg while brushing their teeth
- heel-raising while washing-up
- lunges while vacuuming
- arm curls with juice cartons or tins
- wall presses.
You get the picture.
I would add to these:
- using the stairs as often as possible
- doing step-ups, and also hanging your heel off the edge of the step to stretch your calf muscles and tendons
- standing up from a chair and sitting back down without using your hands during advert breaks while watching tv or sitting at your desk
- doing a walking circuit of your home as often as possible
- in an upright chair with arms, press down on the arms and raise your bottom from the seat for as long as is comfortable
- even on your commute, on buses, trains or planes, you can raise alternate knees, toes and heels (maybe not in a car – unless you’re a passenger!)
- on fine days, take a turn around the garden, up and down your driveway or around the block, look up at the sky, the trees, the birds, breathe and smile!
Exercising needs to be fun too or you’ll never stick to it. Here comes the Jumpin’, Jivin’ an’ Jiggin’ About bit! (At last!)
3. One piece of exercising equipment I would recommend investing in if you can manage it is a rebounder. You don’t have to jump like an Olympian!
Rebounders are not trampolines. They are not as springy and provide more resistance. And kids please note: don’t even attempt to do somersaults! Parents please note: children should always be supervised because they *will* attempt to do gymnastics!
NASA-approved, this method of exercising is accessible to most people if you start off slowly and simply, just gently bending your knees then graduating to lifting your heels and low bouncing before trying anything more energetic.
A couple of rebounding sessions a day exercises all parts of the body, gets your lymphatic system moving – strengthening your immune system and clearing out waste and toxins – and makes you feel more alive.
And it’s great fun.
Kids naturally love trampolining and this is great for getting them to exercise during the winter months when they can’t use the one in the garden. It tempts them away from their screens for a while which is always a good thing. Even the smallest members of our family make straight for it when they come for a visit. They are great family fun. (Again, children should always be supervised).
The Juicemaster website* sells various sizes of rebounders, the smaller ones fold up and have a carrying case. I can vouch for their quality and endurance.
4. Just dance like no-one is watching!
With or without a partner, dancing with reckless abandon is the best way to forget your worries and feel alive! Put on your favourite music, the one you like singing aloud to at high volume and just go for it! (see video below).
You can jig about when you’re in the kitchen – my regular readers will know that I often like to attach a YouTube track to accompany my recipes – or when you’re cleaning or tidying up, doing the ironing, doing a bike repair (one for you K and S!😉). I have even seen my neighbour doing her ironing to the accompaniment of reggae music in her back garden in the summer, not caring a jot if anyone saw her.
In general, whatever your age, state of health, fitness or finances, any movement is better than no movement.
(I realise there are certain health conditions where this may not be appropriate).
5. Many of us, especially older people, get stiff joints and cold legs from sitting. While reading, doing the crossword or watching tv, you can raise your knees and heels up and down, rotate your ankles and wrists, stretch out your fingers and make a fist, walk about during the ad breaks even if it’s only to get up and make a cup of tea. Clench alternate groups of muscles and release. Do shoulder rotations.
My husband exercising on a borrowed rowing machine in the garage with a broken arm. He also used one of those stretchy bands that physios use which come in different levels of flexibility.
Do what you’re able and what you enjoy – with your family, friends or on your own. Walk, cycle, laugh, sing – they all exercise your body inside and out.
6. Oh, and btw, apparently, exercising is more effective in burning fat if men exercise on an empty stomach and women after eating. (I can hear all the women cheering from the gallery!)
Ps Whatever form of exercise you do, be sure to warm up and stretch first, and ease into it – it won’t do you much good if you pull a back muscle or sprain an ankle in your first session!
PPs If you have any concerns about whether or not you should follow any of the advice above, please do talk to your doctor.
*Trust Me, I’m A Doctor – you can watch on BBC iPlayer
(Thanks to Clive at Take It Easy for putting me on to these guys!)
Copyright: Chris McGowan