Some gentle options to get moving
By Jan Roberts
In the previous blog post, we talked about the importance of physical exercise, both by building up a sweat (aerobic) and by building up your muscle (anaerobic). But if you don’t feel inspired to hit the gym or hit the running trail yet, there are other options that can be less intense but still put you on the path to better fitness.
Yoga may be better suited to your temperament than running, cycling, swimming or pushing weights. Yoga promotes calm and well‑being (a huge benefit if you’re a real stress-head), and gives a number of other readily measured benefits, including improved circulation and better delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to all organ systems. Many yoga poses are relatively simple. There are complex poses, of course, but you can work towards these poses at your own pace. You should never do anything you can’t do, and good instructors will never encourage you to try any pose until you’re ready.
There are good books and DVDs if you’re a yoga beginner, but you’ll get maximum benefit from going to a class where an instructor can watch you closely and correct your postures. Just keep in mind that a little practice done every day will be more effective than a longer session done only once a week.
What about Pilates?
Originally called “contrology”, Pilates was the brainchild of Joseph Pilates from Germany. Joseph’s father was a prize-winning gymnast and his mother was a naturopath, so Joseph understood from an early age that modern lifestyles, poor posture and inefficient breathing were some of the major causes of ill health. But it was his time in an internment camp during World War I that gave birth to his famous method. He insisted that everyone in his cell block engage in daily physical exercise, and rigged springs to the beds to enable even weak, injured and bed-ridden inmates to exercise using resistance. Pilates Reformer, a form of Pilates that uses a machine with pulleys to allow for resistance training, was born!
Today, along with the Reformer machine, Pilates studios offer an array of equipment that might seem intimidating to the novice, but regular use of these machines confers benefits difficult to achieve elsewhere. Much-loved by ballet dancers, embraced by elite athletes, wonderful for rehabilitation, Pilates is particularly geared to improve flexibility and strengthen and tone your core: your abs, pelvic floor, lower back and more. These are the muscles that keep you stable, balanced and safe on your feet at any stage of life, but which become ever more important as you get older. Pilates also ensures that muscle strength is balanced on both sides of your body.
Some sage said it … and my own prescription for better health is less paperwork and more running barefoot through the grass. The reason for less paperwork should be pretty obvious, running barefoot less so. But grounding yourself to the earth, sometimes called earthing, has real health benefits. Put simply, it puts you in direct contact with the earth’s health-boosting energy. Interestingly, it’s an activity that every living thing does instinctively, but many humans today walk infrequently on the earth so have lost touch of this important part of being connected.
For grounding to work, be aware that your bare feet need to touch the ground. Good grounded surfaces include a sandy beach, grass (preferably moist), bare soil, concrete and brick (as long as they are not painted or sealed) and ceramic tile. Leather-soled shoes also allow you to stay grounded with the Earth. Also be aware that the following surfaces will not ground you – asphalt, wood, rubber and plastic, vinyl, and tar or tarmac.*
I hope I’ve encouraged you to get moving, stretching, or just standing on the ground to connect to the earth. There are many ways to feed your body and soul! Exercise, in whatever form you choose, is about helping your body stay strong and carry you through your life. Everyone’s body is different, so do listen to your own body so you choose fitness activities that make sense for you. Most important, be kind with yourself if you don’t meet your goals right away. It’s more important to just keep moving every day, so you always stay on the path to better fitness.