As we spring ahead into daylight savings and into longer hours of sunlight and warmer weather, many people also plan to move ahead into exercise. 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 bird’s 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, musculoskeletal 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 cardiovascular 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 very little to hours.
Now, if your reason to spring into action is to decrease the 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 stop moving because 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 many reasons for not exercising: there is not enough time in the day, too many other tasks on the to-do list, too tired – particularly after work, and too tired to get up earlier, poor sleep, etc. We commonly blame kids, work, family, weather, pain, fatigue, and stress.
Yet you can 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, kids, and life. Notice how a regular bit of exercise produces a sense of enthusiasm and vitality that can be shared with family. Perhaps 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, 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 that creates health and well-being. There is Yoga, Pilates, walking, aerobics, lightweights, 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.
Remember, only 5 minutes to start and work your way up. Add only 1 minute each day and you are on your way to maintaining or creating 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 help to create success.
The natural movement of the season makes it easy to spring into action, now!
Copyright © by Kimberly DelVecchio, PT
Kimberly DelVecchio, Licensed Physical Therapist, is the owner of Integrative Physical Therapy in Clifton Park NY, a comprehensive physical therapy clinic specializing in orthopedic health issues. IPT: 1 Barney Rd. suite 120 Clifton Park, NY 12065.