By Trudy Parolin
Let’s face it, Canadian winters can be exceptionally difficult for most of us on the best of days. The -17 windchill factors, the blowing snow, ice, the feeling of being cold, and then of course those gloomy days. It affects us all in so many ways. I think we had a whopping 3 days of sunshine in all of February, and for most of us, that was challenging enough! Our winters tend to make us want to live like the bears and just hibernate until the nicer weather is here again.
Unfortunately for us, the longer we remain inactive, we tend to lose muscle mass and gain fat which makes the re-introduction to exercise and movement, much more challenging. Unless of course, you actually take the time to exercise from the inside comfort of your home, but, ohhh that TV has some pretty darned good shows on! Maybe after this episode I’ll throw in one of my exercise videos…. Oh, ok, I’ll start tomorrow…..
It is so easy to fall into that sedentary lifestyle where you’ve had a rough day at work or with the kids, and you just want to relax, and it is so tough start to move again…..Trust me, I know.
In just two weeks of physical inactivity, those who are usually already physically fit, will lose a significant amount of their muscle strength (as indicated by new research studies).
In that relatively short period of time, young people lose about 30 percent of their muscle strength, leaving them as strong as someone decades older. Meanwhile, active older people who become sedentary for a couple weeks lose about 25 percent of their strength. So imagine if you have spent 3 months inside the house over the winter, the likeliness of muscle loss is relatively good, and it takes about three times the amount of time you were inactive to get your strength back….
This year, I started walking with my parents. You’ll be surprised just how many muscles you use by walking – the arms to move and balance you, the back and abs to hold you up, the glutes for stability and the legs for movement. The joints may seem a little stiff from inactivity, but they will thank you once you start them moving again! My parents and I started with 6x a week (once daily) walking – not far mind you, we were all just starting out after all – we started with a walk around the block for a week, and then increased to twice around the block for another week. Doesn’t sound like much right? Well, for those who have been inactive for some time, I can promise you, this is a great way to start!
The first thing you want to do is make the promise to yourself that you will designate a certain amount of time to YOU each & every day. This is probably THE biggest step! In life, we become so busy and can always find something else to focus on and ‘get done’, putting ourselves secondary or even last to everything else. We need to put ourselves first.
So take baby steps, and keep in mind that every little bit helps. Most people never regret getting physical activity, but they do regret it when they don’t. Physical activity improves your strength,
muscles, bones, and coordination. It improves your quality of life, making it easier to do simple things like walking up a flight of stairs, tying your shoes, or sleeping. Exercise also has many psychological benefits: It helps you feel better about yourself, improves your mood, and allows you to better cope with stress.
Walking is one of the best, and simplest, weight-bearing activities you can do. Dancing is an alternate form of walking that kicks it up a notch. Some other good non-weight-bearing activities include water aerobics, swimming, riding a stationary bike, lifting hand weights, and doing stretching exercises. And don’t discount activities such as house cleaning, gardening, and washing the car, all of which qualify as physical activity. Whatever activity you choose, go slowly and start by warming up your muscles with simple movements such as marching in place and swinging your arms.
Simple tips to help get you going:
- Attitude is everything: “I think I can, I think I can.” Believe in yourself, and know that every little it will add up to big results over time.
- Set realistic goals. Start by walking 5-10 minutes a few times per week then build on your success.
- Don’t think all activity has to take the form of an actual workout. Little things have big impact! Park further from the mall doors, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- If you can tolerate weight-bearing activity, strap on a pedometer and leave it on throughout the day. Strive to take more steps each week.
- Schedule mini-breaks of 10-15 minutes of physical activity throughout the day.
- Only do as much as you can handle comfortably. If you have physical limitations, check with your doctor before starting any fitness routine.
- Turn on some tunes. Listening to music can get you going.
- Enlist the support of a buddy. Being active is always more fun with a friend.
Trudy Parolin R.M.T, (Registered Massage Therapist & Reiki Master/Teacher) C.R.R. Canadian Registered Reflexologist)