As we spring ahead into day light savings, into longer hours of sunlight and warmer weather, many people also plan to move ahead into action. Spring is the season of rebirth and awakening. It is also the time for many to follow through with New Year’s resolutions of exercise, losing weight, improving health and quality of life.
Trees and flowers begin to bud, the birds song returns, the animals come out of hibernation and life scintillates with vibrant new energy.
Our bodies feel this stirring as well, do they not? So why not take this opportunity of natural movement within and use it to our advantage. However, rather than springing ahead into some extreme exercise commitment that may not last, why not inch ahead slowly and with moderation into success.
As a health professional I can speak to the medical importance of movement within the body. Movement is vital for the integrity of the organs, musculo-skeletal and nervous system, the immune system and more. Yet how much movement is enough? Well, this depends on the specific outcome you want to achieve. If weight loss is the goal than enough cardio vascular exercise to burn fat calories and affect a change in metabolism is necessary. This varies per body type, weight, resting heart rate etc.
If a general improvement in overall health is your desired outcome which may include having more energy, less fatigue, improved digestion, detoxification, increased strength or flexibility, improved sleep and enhanced immune system than a world of options of movement opens up for you. The type of movement, choice of exercise and the amount- including duration and frequency, can vary greatly from a very little to hours.
Now, if your reason to spring into action is to decrease pain you are wisely on the right track. Yes, movement is a powerful remedy for pain reduction. Ironically when we are in pain the tendency for most people is to splint because initially it hurts to move. Unfortunately as inactivity becomes a habit the factors that cause pain and dis-ease grow. Right movement for the type of pain becomes more essential in this case, and seeking the support of a physical therapist or movement health specialist may be indicated.
The good news concerning all our various reasons to begin some form of exercise is that a little movement goes along way. Particularly in the beginning, a commitment to a small regular amount is the key. A 15 minute daily movement of the body can increase circulation, metabolism, blood flow, respiration, flexibility and energy. Just 15 minutes can do all that, and everyone can find 15 minutes. We all know the old reasons for not moving: not enough time in the day, too many other tasks on the to do list, too tired – particularly after work, too tired to get up earlier, poor sleep etc.. We blame kids, work, family, weather, pain, fatigue and stress.
Stop blaming and start taking responsibility for your health. Exercise (even a little) has been cited to reduce stress, pain and fatigue! Begin to nurture your physical body and notice how much more creativity is available for work and how slowly there is even a greater sense of enthusiasm and vitality that can be shared with family. And perhaps of most importance is that you can teach your kids how to maintain health through your example and actions.
If you have been a couch potato for a long time, okay long – long time, then start with 5 minutes. The secret to progress, commitment and change is first to begin! Then simply add 1 minute to your routine every day or each time that you exercise. Who can’t add 1 minute? Think about it, in just 20 days you will be up to 20 minutes. Perhaps after you have reached 30-45 minutes you can add a different challenge in very small increments to keep you moving in the right direction.
Another key to success is to pick a movement/exercise that you enjoy, or think you would enjoy. Exercise can be fun, and there are many activities that count as exercise and that move the body for creating health and well being. There is Yoga, Pilates, walking, aerobics, light weights, swimming, Tai-Chi, tennis, fitness training, walking the golf course, jogging, Feldenkrais, stretching, martial arts, dance class, Qigong, kayaking, bicycling, basketball, playing outside with the kids and so much more. There are exercise shows on TV and tons of videos at the library, bookstore or on-line.
Remember, only 5 minutes to start, or 15. Then, add only 1 minute longer each day. Only one minute and you are on your way to maintaining or creating well being and health. Create a regular time in your schedule and commit to 3-5 times a week. We are creatures of habit, this is particularly true for the body. So regularity and scheduling helps to create success and a good habit.
The natural movement of the season makes it easy to spring into action, now!
Kimberly DelVecchio, Licensed Physical Therapist, is the director of
Integrative Physical Therapy in Clifton Park NY, a comprehensive physical therapy clinic specializing in manual therapy and movement health.
IPT: 1 Barney Rd. ste 120, Clifton Park NY 12065. (518) 373-0735. www.InspiredTherapy.com