By: Beverly McKechnie
Certified Health Coach
If asked, in the twilight years of your life, what is most important to you? What would your answer be? Would it be wealth, possessions, security, family, friendships? Almost certainly, health would be one of the top answers. Some would believe that poor health and pain are just a part of the aging process. Yet, some achieve optimal health and continue to live meaningful and active lives well into their eighties and nineties.
But how does one achieve optimal health…eat healthier, lose weight? Those answers are correct but only part of the equation. Optimal health requires the development of several healthy habits to replace unhealthy habits. Those healthy habits will be the focus of this column in the coming months.
Since summer, with its longer days, sunshine and warm temperatures is a time of increased activity for many people, physical activity will take the ‘healthy habit’ spotlight this month. For some who are starting or thinking about starting on the path to a healthier lifestyle, the very idea of exercise may conjure up fear and trepidation. But exercise or physical activity does not have to be intense to be beneficial. In fact, exercise alone is ineffective for weight loss and can be dangerous to those who are seriously overweight. For instance, if someone who is carrying an extra fifty or more pounds and has been sedentary starts jogging, lifting weights or doing circuit training, they may incur back, neck or knee injuries. Those activities may also put additional stress on an already overworked cardiovascular system and have serious consequences. It is always wise to consult your physician before starting any exercise program and consult professional trainers to guide you if you are in poor physical shape.
However, there are many ways to ease into movement and make it a healthy habit in your daily life. If you analyze the many little movements that make up your day, you can start putting them to work for you. It may add up to more caloric burn than you would get in a regular exercise session because it goes on all day long. For example, just sitting up straight burns more calories than slumping in a chair and it tones core muscles. When doing a sedentary task at your desk, get up occasionally and walk around. If at work, use the restroom at the far end of the building instead of the closer one. You have probably heard of a few of these tips: taking the stairs instead of the elevator; parking a distance from work or shopping instead of cruising around until the nearest parking place opens up. But how about putting away your electric appliances and hand grinding your coffee, hand mixing your batter, hand washing your car? Use your imagination and you’ll come up with even more ways to expend energy. Dance, anyone? You don’t even have to have a partner; just put on some music and move.
When you are ready to increase your activity or desire a more structured exercise routine, there are a variety of things to choose from. Several parks and shady residential areas in Eagle Point, White City, Shady Cove and Trail provide pleasant places to walk. The great thing about walking is that it doesn’t require membership or equipment …just a good pair of shoes and, hopefully, a walking partner.
I recently took a water aerobics class at the Cascade Pool in White City. Swimming and water aerobics are wonderful ways to get a tremendous workout without impacting joints and backs. Yoga can be modified for almost any age group or physical condition. Classes are offered by Sandy Dennis, Inner Wisdom Yoga, in Shady Cove and Eagle Point. Eagle Point boasts two health clubs, Superior Athletic for both genders and Shape N Up Women’s Fitness. Martial arts are taught in White City and Eagle Point at Fabian’s Karate and Upper Rogue Tae Kwon DO, respectively.
As you begin to move, you may want to track your progress. A couple of handy tools that might be worth the investment are a heart rate monitor and a pedometer. A heart rate monitor helps you aim for fat burning or aerobic target zones. Many models let you analyze data via your computer. Pedometers come in all price ranges. A very popular brand of late is the FITBIT. It not only tracks your activity but tracts your sleep and links up to a computer program as well.
So if you have been putting off activity, promising yourself you will start Monday, but Monday after Monday comes and goes, just start small. Pick one movement to add today. Repeat it tomorrow and when you are ready, add one more. They will become habits by repetition, healthy habits.