Make your day harder?
Life is hard enough without making it any harder, right?
Yes and no.
Yes, because we already have plenty on our plate with work and family and other responsibilities. If anything, making life easier would seem to be the goal.
On the other hand, there is good rationale for making our day more physically challenging, not less. Within certain limits, of course.
While it makes sense to reduce the workload in most areas of our life, when it comes to demanding more of our body, the opposite may be true.
Generally, the goal for the sedentary folks among us ought to be one of increasing physical activity, not reducing it. In the pursuit of this goal, we can improve the quality of our life in measurable ways.
We know (and science confirms) that engaging our muscles on a regular basis helps slow the pace of aging and improve our vitality in the process.
Even though our physical capacity is bound to diminish over our lifetime doesn’t mean we can’t be proactive in slowing and, in some cases, reversing the slide.
One fact of life is that we start to lose bone density and muscle mass in our 30s and, as we do, our strength and coordination and balance can suffer.
Multiply these losses over many decades and we all know what happens to us in the later years.
An accelerated version of this is demonstrated by astronauts in the weightless environment of space. In one NASA report, we’re told that “astronauts experience up to a 20 percent loss of muscle mass on spaceflights lasting five to 11 days.”
Were it not for the gravity we must overcome every time we move throughout the day, we’d waste away to nothing in no time.
The best way to counteract our tendency to weaken as we age, is to employ our muscles as much as possible, ideally in weight bearing activities.
You know what they say: use it or lose it.
This does not mean we need to join the gym and start pumping iron. Although, if you’re inclined to do so and enjoy that stuff (I don’t), it can be a great way to accomplish what we’re talking about here.
For the rest of us, there are an infinite number of ways to make gravity our friend without spending a nickel.
As a health coach, I’ve had many clients who have become quite creative in how they’ve increased their physical activity.
One client simply fills up plastic containers of various sizes with water and uses them for her weight workout every other day.
For the rest of us, using the resistance of our own body weight is all that’s needed.
Pushups and squats and lunges and other traditional exercises, even in a modified version to meet your particular level of fitness, may not be sexy, but they can be done just about anywhere anytime.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Body-weight training can be as effective as training with free weights or weight machines.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/body-weight-training/faq-20147966
So, the message here is that there are things we can do to stave off the atrophy which stalks us all. It requires deliberate effort and is best done frequently.
Make this the year of more steps, more stairs (if you are able) and being resourceful in using gravity to help you stay strong and energized.
Finally, here’s a link to a clever 4-minute YouTube video by Dr. Mike Evans of Toronto who encourages us to spend more of our day doing what might seem to be counterintuitive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whPuRLil4c0&t=15s
Wishing you a healthy and prosperous year ahead!