Just Keep Moving!
“One of my absolute core beliefs is that when it comes to health and wellness, exercise is by far, one of, if not the single best, most effective lifestyle change you can make and one of the most powerful tools to improve your health as well as your quality of life.”—Dr. Noah Greenspan DPT, CCS, EMT-B
I’m fortunate because I’ve been moving my whole life! But, after my lung cancer surgery, I knew I needed guidance. How fortunate that I discovered Dr. Noah Greenspan’s Ultimate Pulmonary Book. The chapter on exercise and the Pulmonary Wellness Boot Camp saved me!
The COVID-19 Pandemic has disrupted our lives. We must, however, stay motivated to move. “Social distancing shouldn’t hinder your physical activity—work out at home, use the environment as your playground, get creative. Staying active can help take your mind off the pandemic and help alleviate the stressors at this time,” says Rondel King, MS, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Health.
According to Zhen Yan, PhD, a top exercise researcher, regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a major cause of death in patients with the COVID-19. Yan’s research studied an antioxidant known as “extracellular superoxide dismutase” (EcSOD), which hunts down harmful free radicals, protects our tissues and helps prevent disease. Our muscles naturally make EcSOD and its production is enhanced by cardiovascular exercise.
April is the American Heart Association’s Move More Month, and is part of their Healthy For Good™ movement. The program inspires people everywhere to make lasting changes in their health and their lives, one small step at a time. The AHA website provides virtual ways to keep moving. Their resource guide helps you find fun activity challenges you can do at home and virtually with groups of friends.
Walking is a must!
You can be active in a lot of ways, but walking is one of the easiest! And it has a lot of benefits. Research has shown that walking at a lively pace gets your heart pumping and can improve your cardiovascular pulmonary fitness. Just aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Three 10-minutes sessions of brisk walking will get you to your goal.
Just 150 minutes a week helps you:
- Think, feel, and sleep better
- Reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and several types of cancer
- Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Increase your energy and stamina
- Improve mental and emotional well-being and reduce the risk of depression
- Improve memory and reduce the risk of dementia
- Increase your bone strength and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Prevent weight gain
Four Major Types of Exercise
Most people tend to focus on one type of exercise and think they’re doing enough. It’s important to do endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility exercises to get needed benefits.
Endurance or Aerobic Training
Endurance activities, often referred to as aerobic, increase your breathing and heart rates. They help keep you healthy, improve your fitness, and help you perform the tasks you need to do every day. Build up to 150 minutes of activity a week that makes you breathe hard. Physical activities that build endurance include:
- Brisk walking or jogging
- Yard work (mowing, raking)
- Climbing stairs or hills
- Playing tennis or basketball
Strength or Resistance Training
Strong muscles help you stay independent and make everyday activities feel easier, like getting up from a chair, climbing stairs, and carrying groceries. Keeping your muscles strong can help with your balance and prevent falls and related injuries. You are less likely to fall when your leg and hip muscles are strong.
- Lifting weights – Try to do strength exercises for all of your major muscle groups at least 2 days per week, but don’t exercise the same muscle group on any 2 days in a row. If you’re just starting, you might need to use 1- or 2-pound weights, or no weight at all. You can use common objects from your home, such as bottled water or soup cans. Use light weights the first week, then gradually add more. Use proper form for safety. To prevent injury, use smooth, steady movements. Avoid “locking” your arm and leg joints in a tightly straightened position.
- Using a resistance band – Resistance bands are stretchy elastic bands that come in several strengths, from light to heavy. You can use them in some strength exercises instead of weights. If you are a beginner, try exercising without the band or use a light band until you are comfortable. Add a band or move on to a stronger band when you can do two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions easily.
Having good balance is important for many activities we do every day, such as walking and going up and down the stairs. Balance exercises help prevent falls, a common problem as we age. Many lower-body exercises improve your balance. These include Tai Chi, Qigong, Pilates and Yoga.
Good flexibility promotes healthy muscles and joints and helps maintain a good range of motion. Participating in a regular stretching program increases circulation to the muscles being stretched, which helps your circulation.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”—Albert Einstein
In The Joy of Movement, Kelly McGonigal, PhD describes the scientific reasons why moving is good for us and why our body is designed to enjoy it. Here are 3 exciting lessons from the book:
- The “runner’s high” comes from any type of physical exertion and is a protection against anxiety and depression. Endocannabinoids are chemicals in our brain. They decrease pain, improve our moods and activate positive neurotransmitters such as dopamine and endorphins.
- The addictive effect of exercise is powerful and only has positive side effects unlike drugs. Physical exertion is so addictive that it activates our brain’s reward system. If you have n exercise habit and need to quit exercising you might go through withdrawal.
- Exercising outside in nature has a powerful effect on our mental health. Nature can fill us with wonder, give us a sense of belonging and make us more alert. “Green exercise” creates positive changes in our mood and outlook.
It’s up to each of us to make something positive come from the COVID-19 disruption. I suggest you use this time to create healthy exercise habits!
Resources to help you Just Keep Moving!
- The Fit Body – Deborah Spector, Health Express
- The Ultimate Stretch Workout – Deborah Spector
- Can’t Take 10,000 Steps a Day? Do This Instead – Kaitlyn Chamberlin, The Healthy
- Walking – Why Walking? Why Not! – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition – Department of Health and Human Services
- Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability– National Institute on Aging
We would love to hear your plans to Just Keep Moving!
Stay safe and be healthy!