#stayathome

Now, more than ever, it is important to take good care of ourselves: mentally, energetically, spiritually, and physically.

My personal approach focuses on The Six Pillars of Health according to Deepak Chopra. One of these pillars involves movement, which is good not only for our physical health, but also our emotional health: helping us deal with stress.

Our local gyms have closed, but I have been able to continue to stay active at home. Today, for example, I dusted off my PlayStation 3 and pulled out my EA Sports Active 2. Personal training in the comfort of my own home.

What movement can you incorporate today?

There’s Always Something…

you can do.

Another rainy day here, but I’m not complaining. The trees, plants and grass really need it. Last year we couldn’t sit out on our covered deck because of the smoke from forest fires. Yesterday, I sat outside and read while listening to the rain: so soothing. While the weather may have prevented me from taking my daily, outdoor walk, it didn’t stop me from getting some exercise and having a lot of fun.

I’m sure that I have already mentioned that I am a fan of Jessica Smith’s workouts. This 30-Minute Latin Spice Walk is low impact and it doesn’t require a lot of room to do. Give it a try!

Yoga Therapy

Over five years ago, a good friend introduced me to Jill Miller and Yoga Tune-Up as a way to help alleviate my chronic neck and shoulder pain. She gifted me my first set of therapy balls, which you can see have been well used.

Jill is offering a free Three Day Tune Up: 3-Day Tune Up Mini-Program. You can choose an area to focus on, and will have a video delivered each day. You don’t need therapy balls to participate (although they are fantastic). A couple of tennis balls and a sock will do.

 

N.E.A.T.

While the title of this post might lead you to believe that it will include more information about the benefits of decluttering, I actually want to discuss non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT. NEAT refers to any exercise you do throughout the day outside of formal exercise. When looking to lose (or maintain) weight, we often focus on eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and managing stress; however, NEAT is also a big piece of the puzzle.

You might spend an hour a day in the gym, and seven or so sleeping, but what you do the other sixteen hours of the day has a huge impact on your energy expenditure (calories burned). If you have an active job (you’re a fire fighter, construction worker or server), you probably don’t have to worry about your NEAT; but if you are more sedentary, you may want to give it some thought.

I spend a lot of my day sitting or standing in front of a computer, and at the end of the day (after I have driven home), it is so tempting to just sit and watch some television. I have to be really conscious about increasing my NEAT. That is one reason that I purchased a Fitbit. Mine is a basic model: the Flex 2 (affiliate link), but it does everything I need: tracks steps and reminds me to take at least 250 steps each hour. It also allows me to track my sleep, food and weight.

A common recommendation is to aim for at least 10,000 steps a day if you are looking to lose weight. When I reach my goal, my Fitbit buzzes and puts on a little light show for me, which I never tire of. If you are interested in a tracker, there are lots of options at different prices.

There are many other ways to increase your NEAT:

  • taking your dog for a walk
  • gardening
  • vacuuming
  • cycling to work
  • dancing during commercial breaks…

What can you add to make your life NEATer?

A Strong Core

A funny thing happened while I was doing my cardio yesterday (low impact, step aerobics). A few minutes in, I noticed this strange sensation in my midsection. It took me a moment to recognize what it was…. My core muscles had engaged: all by themselves, without any conscious effort on my part! Not only that, but they stayed engaged for the entire workout.

Strength training has become a regular (three to four times a week) part of my self-care routine. While I certainly would like to look toned in my tank tops and shorts when the sunny weather finally gets here, now that I am in my fifties, my reasons for including it have changed. This is especially true when it comes to strengthening my core.

Our core muscles are the central linking point between the lower and upper parts of our bodies, and, in the long run, they can determine the quality of our daily lives. I want a strong core so that I continue to live my BEST life for many, many years to come.

Here are a few beginner exercises to get you started:

TRX

In December, I gifted myself a TRX (Total-body Resistance eXercise) trainer (affiliate link). This fitness tool is made from durable, high quality nylon. I first encountered it on a business trip. The hotel I was staying at had a fully equipped gym, and while I was on the treadmill, I watched a trainer working with a client on the TRX. After they left, I decided to give it a try. Although I only did a few squats, I was hooked.

Here’s why I LOVE my TRX:

  • It is portable. I can take it anywhere. It weighs about 2 pounds, so it will definitely be in my suitcase when I head off for vacation.
  • It doesn’t take up much space (to store or use). The photo shows my TRX set up in my mud/laundry room, which is about 8 by 8 feet, and I have no trouble working out. When the weather gets nicer, I will be able to move outdoors.
  • It is great for all levels. I can keep advancing by adding balance and movement.
  • It works the entire body, and the core is constantly engaged.
  • It allows me to keep my alignment right. I struggle with a regular squat, but can get lower user the TRX while maintaining the correct form.

The TRX can be used to help improve sports performance, lose weight, gain strength, rehab an injury (I am using it for my shoulder), and more. While I would recommend having a trainer take you through the first time, this is an excellent video for beginners from BodyFit by Amy.

Weight Gain and Menopause

Most of my friends and I have reached this stage of our lives. And while we may laugh about foggy brains and hot flashes, we are a little less amused by the weight gain, especially on our tummies. This change in body fat storage is so common that it is referred to as “menopause belly”. It is more than just an inconvenience, as we struggle to zip up our pants. It is a health issue as it involves intra-abdominal fat, which is linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

While hormonal shifts may play a role, they are not solely responsible for weight gain during menopause. We do have some control over how much belly fat, and fat in general, we gain as we age. In our 50’s, our bodies aren’t as metabolically active as they were in our 40s. We tend to lose muscle mass, which decreases the rate at which the body burns calories. For many there is also a slow decline in activity level without any modification in diet. All of this can lead to weight gain.

The bottom line is we need to increase our exercise level and more closely monitor our diet to maintain our premenopausal body fat level. 

By simply adding a little more exercise and watching my portions, I have been able to lose close to 20 pounds. I have so much more energy! I believe that my best years are ahead of me, and I plan to be ready to enjoy every one of them.

Start Small and Do It Your Way

I have chronic neck and shoulder pain. This has certainly been exasperated by poor posture (hunching over my computer keyboard). I have worked to resolve this by using a standing desk. I have also been including strength training (working on my back, shoulder and abdominal muscles) to help with my posture. One thing I have not been doing frequently enough, even though I know it is important, is stretching. I am VERY inflexible. I have wanted to include yoga to help with this, but even beginners’ classes have been challenging and have often left me feeling worse than when I started. Is there such a thing as a pre-beginners’ class? It turns out there is, sort of….

During a recent search on Youtube (my main source for free exercise videos), I came across chair yoga. I have begun incorporating it into my routine, and I am really enjoying it.

I love that I am able to do a modified downward dog (first picture) to open my chest and shoulders. I have trouble with the regular dog, often leading to more neck and shoulder pain, rather than less. Eventually, I may graduate to beginners’ yoga, but right now I am “starting small and doing it my own way”.

If you’d like to give chair yoga a try, I highly recommend this video. It was developed by the therapists in the Chronic Pain Service at Toronto Rehab, Rumsey Centre. It takes only 25 minutes, and remember, moving everyday is one of the best ways to manage (or prevent) pain!

A Hallowe’en Workout

While you may already be getting some extra exercise this evening walking your little superhero, unicorn, or vampire around the neighbourhood, or running up and down the stairs to greet them at your door, I thought I’d share this fun, ten minute Hallowe’en themed cardio circuit from spark people.com with you. It will burn off a few extra calories, but don’t think that means you can freely sample all those treats both during and after the event. Two of those fun-sized Snickers bars (my personal weakness) would take about 45 minutes of strength training or an hour of hatha yoga to burn off, and three Kit Kat bars (a very close second) would mean 20 minutes of running or walking at a moderate pace for an hour. 

 

Strength Training

Most of us have a favourite go-to exercise. For me, it is almost anything cardio: step aerobics, Zumba, walking…. I’ve recently added aqua aerobics to my list. I love to start my mornings with movement and music. For my daughter, on the other hand, strength training is her first choice. Although I’d rather be dancing, I make sure I include strength training (two to three times a week) because I am aware of its many benefits, especially for a woman in her fifties.

According to an article in Global NEWS, regular strength training (two to three times a week) can…

  • boost metabolism and fat loss
  • keep bones strong and healthy
  • regulate insulin and lower inflammation
  • improve posture, sleep, mood and energy levels
  • improve strength and endurance
  • improve balance and reduce the risk for falls
  • boost confidence

 

When my motivation is flagging, my daughter reminds me that I am creating permanent Spanx that I don’t have to wriggle into in order to look and feel good in my clothing.

You don’t have to go to a gym to do strength training, although you might want to initially work with a trainer to ensure proper form and have a program created for you. I have exercise bands and free weights in my house. There are lots of excellent videos on Youtube. I really enjoy Jessica Smith. Coach Nicole’s videos are also a great place to start.