I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a fitness expert.

I am a 57 year old woman who has never felt more healthy and fit in my entire life. Five years ago, at 52, I weighed about 80 lbs. more than I do now. I felt much older, with stiff joints and back aches and no energy. And don't even ask about clothes!

My goal was not just weight loss, but to get healthier. I did not "go on a diet," I did not count calories or carbs. I made lifestyle changes, a little at a time. I tried to eat healthier and move more. You can do this, too. You can make changes to look, and more importantly, feel healthier and fit. You don't have to be overweight to be unfit. You will feel a difference in strength, energy, stamina and flexibility. I'm talking to you, men, too!

I can tell you how I did it. Not everything I do will be right for you. Through posts about my progress; tips and ideas about nutrition and exercise; links to sites I like and find helpful, I hope to inspire others to get fit and healthy and encourage a community of support and an exchange of ideas. And have a little fun on the way! Much of our information will be about local Cape Ann sites - walking and bike routes, gyms, types of exercise, yoga studios, good buys on healthy food - but Guests and commenters from anywhere are welcome as well.

Okay, I know you all want to know. Right now I'm wearing a pair of Levis - size 8. A comfortable size 8!

Twenty year old daughter:
"Mom, why are you wearing my clothes?"
Mom: "Because I can!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

So You Hate to Exercise

You've read it all before: the benefits of regular physical activity. Maybe hearing a first person report confirming the benefits will motivate someone to get moving. These are just some of the ways that I feel better. A healthy diet and weight loss have also bolstered the effect of many of these life improvements.

Jump-starts the immune system, thus helping to reduce the number of colds, flu, and other viruses.

Absolutely! I can't remember the last time I had a cold. And as I wrote previously, my seasonal allergy symptoms have been greatly reduced.

Reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity.

With a strong family history of the above, so far so good for my age. Related conditions that I did have - poor circulation, lower leg swelling and blood pooling, restless legs - all gone.

Keeps joints, tendons and ligaments flexible, which makes it easier to move around. Increases your energy and endurance. Every physical thing you do becomes easier.

I can't even begin to tell you. This is SO huge. Nearly every thing I do every day - from going down the stairs first thing in the morning to getting in and out of the car to grocery shopping - is easier because I'm in better shape.

Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints and alleviates back and joint problems.

When your bones, muscles and joints are strong and healthy, they support each other and everything else in your body. 30+ years ago I suffered a crushed vertebrae in a snowmobile accident. I healed okay, but was plagued with back pain if I stood too long or was seated at certain angles. I could only sleep on my side - not on my back - and often needed a pillow under my knee for support to prevent backache. Strengthening my core muscles, and losing weight, has eliminated that back pain. Completely.

Contributes to your mental well-being, relieves stress and anxiety. The production of endorphins (feel good hormones) is increased through exercise.

No doubts there!

Helps you sleep better.

I can't personally attest to this one - sleeping in general has never been a problem for me (once I got comfortable). But it is a well-documented fact.

Enhances coordination and balance and improves posture.

Another absolutely! I don't have perfect posture today, but compared to the "debutante slump" I've had all my life, my current posture is a drastic improvement. Better posture also helps with back and other aches. I feel more coordinated and balanced, but some people might argue that one. :)

Gee - writing all that makes me realize what a mess I really was! I didn't know how bad I felt until I felt so much better. Maybe pain from an old injury is not something you just have to live with or those aches aren't age-related, something you just deal with. Reverse the curse - or at least give it a try.

But, but .... you hate to exercise. Reframe your brain and get rid of the hated word, "exercise." Find a physical activity that is fun and enjoyable for you.

Go for a walk, go for a swim, put on some music and dance, do some aerobic activity that you like. Find something you look forward to doing. Try different things until you find something - or a couple of things to do on alternate days. Do it with enough oomph to get your heart rate up. Sure, things like gardening and housework (some of my own favorite "but I got plenty of exercise doing ...." excuses) will burn calories, but it's not just about burning calories. It's about getting healthier, feeling stronger and having more energy. You want to crank up your metabolism, get your heart rate up steadily, and strengthen your muscles to get full body benefits.

I tried running because, well, because runners look so fit! Sometimes I work in a little (very little) running during a walk. I watch runners and how they make it look so effortless. Maybe I need running lessons; I wonder if I don't land on my feet correctly. Whatever it is, I haven't found it enjoyable.

I tried a spinning class. Once.

I was using a bicycle for transportation for a while. I did enjoy that, until I took a bad spill and ended up with an arm cast, gravel embedded in places you don't want to know about, and major bumps and bruises. I did get back on the bike for a while, but didn't enjoy it so much.

Walking - brisk walking - works for me. I like being outdoors - getting outside has a lot of benefits itself. There's something mentally cleansing about being active outside. Walking is free and you can do it most anywhere, any time. It doesn't require equipment or preparation time. It's something you can start out with slowly and gradually increase distance and pace. If you feel like you're getting bored with it, simply changing your route can make it feel fresh.

Find something that works for you.

These days I do less distance walking (I still incorporate walking into my daily activities), but have added a variety of aerobic exercise and a lot of strength training. I didn't get into that until a few years ago, after I had lost a lot of weight and built up my strength and confidence with walking.

Do you have a physical activity routine that you'd like to share? Are you a runner or swimmer or cyclist who would like to offer advice on how to get started? Let me know - I'd love to have guest contributors share ideas and information with readers.


Laura Dow said...

Hi Cathy,

Thanks for a great blog! I am looking forward to following and participating and, hopefully having the same results as you have had. I have a suggestion for something new and different in aerobic exercise - Zumba! Well, it's not that new but it is different and really fun, especially if you like to dance as I do. I have taught dance to children and adults for many years now and about eight years ago I fell in love with yoga at Yoga for Health on Main Street. Janet Garrison is an inspiring teacher and when she asked me to teach a dance class at the studio I was thrilled. We wanted to offer something upbeat that would challenge not only your body but your brain as well. Zumba has really fit the bill. There is only one class per week on Thursday evenings at 6:00 pm. Drop ins are welcome and the cost is only $10 per class. I take time to teach the steps that we do so that no one feels lost or frustrated. I am not a kid and I have pounds to burn myself so, believe me, you will not be intimidated at this Zumba class! Teaching has been great motivation for me to get moving more and I love seeing how much fun students have in class while working their butts off! The music, with Latin and international rhythms is fabulous and the routines are challenging but not over the top. Dance to fitness!

Cathy said...

Hi Laura,

Thanks for the information. I found a video on Zumba (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5Hxw_Jf2B4) and it looks like a blast!

It's great to let readers know about the different health/fitness/exercise options around town.

Keep in touch on the blog and maybe I'll meet you at a Zumba class soon!


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