Jane Brody, writing in the New York Times, recently posted an excellent article on how poor posture and slouching can have ill effects on your body and state of mind. Posture Affects Standing, and Not Just the Physical Kind (Originally published: N.Y. Times, December 29, 2015, N.Y. Ed., p. D5).
A well-rounded self-care plan includes four components: physical, mental, emotion and spiritual. In our last post, we discussed diet and nutrition aspects of the physical component. In this installment, we will address another part of the physical component: exercise.
The studies supporting the benefits of exercise are proven and endless. Finding an effective exercise plan should be based on several factors.
One easily overlooked factor is age. What you called exercise when you were 20 may not suit you at 40. It is important to educate yourself on the many different types of exercise routines as they relate to age. A good example of this is that as humans age there is an increased need for exercise modalities that build muscle tissue due to age-related atrophy of muscle groups. A smart weight-lifting program not only helps rebuild muscle mass but will also increase strength and enhance balance.
Another important reason for finding routines that are more appropriate to your particular age group is that it can significantly reduce your chances of injuring yourself. For some, running can increase the chances of injury if they are exploring aerobic exercise routines, whereas cycling or swimming are routines that create less stress on the joints of the body. As well, including flexibility modalities in your plan can significantly help you not only to avoid common injuries, but enhance movement, balance, endurance and overall self awareness. Some modalities to consider are gentle yoga routines, Hanna Somatic Education and Feldenkrais techniques.
Another key ingredient to add to your plan is variety. It is important to engage your body in as much movement as possible. The human body is designed to move. The more we move in healthy ways allows us not only to build endurance and strength, but also enhances coordination. Explore exercise routines that engage not only your core muscles but also find routines that challenge your fine motor skills. Walking, swimming, tai chi, various forms of martial arts and outdoor sports such as kayaking and hiking can provide a rich diversity of movements that lead to better health.
Recent research has conclusively shown that regular exercise routines that safely allow you to bring your heart rate to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate create new long term memory. At that rate your heart and brain releases a protein BDNF. “It serves as ‘Miracle-Gro’ for the brain, fertilizing brain cells to keep them functioning and growing, as well as spurring the growth of new neurons.” Ratey, John J. Spark: The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York: Little Brown & Co. , 2008. 276. Print.
Yes, certain forms of aerobic exercise can make you smarter! The more types of movement you expose your body to also allows the part of the brain that coordinates movements,the motor cortex, to create rich new neural connections which then leads to higher levels of proprioceptive intelligence. In other words you move better and sense your world more intelligently. I highly recommend Dr. Ratey’s wonderful book, Spark, for more information on how the brain is positively influenced by exercise.
It’s important. It’s vital to have an exercise program that fits your specific needs within the context a self care program. What adds to the importance is that you have fun. Yes, make this fun! As you consider and choose from the various exercise routines that will benefit you the most, allow yourself to define these activities as your play time. Researchers are now showing that when activities we engage in are defined as playtime, these activities allow our brains to become more complex, responsive, skilled, socially adept and flexible which in turn builds complex, socially adept, skilled and responsive human beings. In other words, when you consider your exercise routines as play, they not only benefit you overall but the community you live in. It’s a winning formula!
Next time, we will talk about the mental component of your self-care plan. If you would like more information about exercise and how it can help you feel better and move better, please feel free to contact me.
We all know on a very private level that it is essential we take care of ourselves. It is important to how we engage life on a daily basis. It is important to how we see ourselves in the world. It is important to how we age. If you live long enough you will age–it’s just a part of the agreement–but what’s optional in that agreement is how successful we each will do it.
In any endeavor that ends in success, it is vital that you have a series of goals that are achievable. Having these goals allows you to mark your progress. Having these goals also can insure that you will stick with whatever self care regime you decide upon. Let’s explore what some of those goals can look like, so that taking care of your self becomes an art.
When you create a piece of art there are elements or components that you use in order to create it. An effective self care plan needs to have certain elements or components to become a work of art. Let’s keep it simple and suggest that your self care plan can have four components.
The first is a physical component! The next element is mental. A third element is emotional and the fourth is spiritual.
The first part of a well-rounded self care plan is the physical component which addresses most or all of our biological needs. It includes ways of eating, what kinds of foods are best for you, and what foods do you like best. It also includes exercise and the frequency of your exercise routines. It includes ways of eating and what kinds of foods are best for you. Most importantly, what foods do you like best.
Your diet and nutrition
There are effective ways of eating that we each can engage in, that allow us to feed and heal our bodies optimally. A diet suitable to your personal needs can help relieve lethargy, upset stomachs, and other discomforts. For some, eating three meals per day at designated times, works best. For others, skipping a meal, as long as you are receiving the proper amount of nutrition can be another option. Some of you may prefer eating a series of small meals over the course of your day. In choosing your best course, pay attention to how you feel, as you try one of these methods or a combination, or one you have discovered on your own. A key is to allow your pattern of eating to be efficient, easy and fun! Yes, fun!
What foods we choose to consume is vital to how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. Have you ever eaten something that did not agree with you? How did you feel about you and your world while in that discomfort? Do you have allergies or sensitivities? Do some foods make you feel bloated or gassy? Choosing the right food groups is essential to an effective self care plan because the foods you eat definitely can affect your sense of well-being, your energy level, and your health.For some this may be a daunting task, but don’t let that stop you. There is a wealth of information available to help you make right choices. A Google search is a place to start, but check these out, too: Healthline.com and webmd.com.
It is important to have a variety of foods in your daily diet because this insures that your nutrition is effective for you. Each category of food offers your body specific elements that keep you healthy. The five groups of foods are fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. How you combine these groups is based on individual taste. I say this because choosing what you eat based on what you prefer allows you to stick with this aspect of your plan when challenges arise. Another consideration, is food allergies, so if you have one you will avoid those foods. In this scenario it is a good idea to speak with a professional and educate yourself thoroughly about your condition. Be open to seeing food not just as a source of nourishment but also as a way to gain more knowledge about yourself. Some nice information can be found at the US government’s website, ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Another resource is a wonderfully written book on food titled, Eating On The Wild Side: The Missing Link To Optimal Health by Jo Robinson.
There are many diets available to us that allow us to explore the realm of food. By diet I don’t mean a way to lose weight. If you choose the right way of eating for you, over time you will achieve a level of happiness with your weight range. What I mean is a way of eating that gives you energy, great nutrition, and a greater sense of your self. Some ways of eating, are the Mediterranean diet, the low glycemic diet, a low fat diet or Paleo diet. There are many ways available with excellent research behind each. Some websites to explore are webmd.com/glycemic-index-diet, paleodiet.com, 4yourtype.com.
The key again is to make it fun and have it fit your particular lifestyle. Be imaginative and look beyond what you are already “just doing.” Create a space for your nutritional habits that is unique to you, just as you would when you are creating a work of art. That way food can become a welcome part of your daily routine that helps you feel better and move better.
In my next entry, I will be discussing exercise. In the meantime, if you would like any more information about today’s discussion, please drop me a line.