Move Well & Age Gracefully

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Exercise keeps us physically fit so that we can go about our daily life with more ease. Its effects go way beyond the surface; they extend to other areas of the body as well.

Exercise helps to:

• Build a stronger immune system. Aerobic/endurance exercises such as brisk walking and dancing improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system, helping your body to overcome infections and viruses more easily plus lessen recovery time from illness and injury.

• Create stronger bones for better balance. Strength training exercises like lifting weights and using resistance bands can increase muscle strength to help combat the loss of bone density. Balance training helps to activate deep stabilizing muscles so that they become more resilient to stress and are able to absorb weight and impact better.

• Reduce the risk of degenerative diseases such as dementia, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. Exercise keeps the mind’s cognitive functions active and strengthens motor skills.

The idea of working out can feel overwhelming, but don’t sweat—yet!—every little bit helps:

• Physical activity can be social time. Get your family or friends to be active with you and when available look for group activities or classes in your community.

• Start slowly and listen to your body. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain or unnecessary strain. Learn to work with your body and find an activity you like.

• Minutes count. Plan to increase your level of activity 10 minutes at a time: walk wherever and whenever you can, carry your groceries home or take the stairs instead of the elevator

Practice mindful movement when you exercise to improve your potential for moving well as you age. Consider The Squat, a simple exercise that most of us know and in fact practice every day when we move from sit to stand or stand to sit. A squat builds strength in the hips and legs, which propel us through our day and also work to get us up and down off the toilet. You can incorporate mindful movement principles by:

1. Using proper technique. Sounds boring but proper technique allows you to perform an exercise without causing pain or strain. While a certified trainer can help, you can also watch yourself in the mirror. For example, when performing a squat, as you bend your knees watch that you sit the hips back, like you’re taking a seat back on the toilet, and watch that your toes and knees point in the same direction.

2. Activating your core muscles, a group of four muscles that include the diaphragm, deep abdominal, deep spinal and pelvic floor. Try using the Core Breath, a specific way of breathing that incorporates your core muscles. When performing the squat, breathe in as you bend your knees, sit back and envision the two sitting bones spreading, allow the ribs to expand and breathe out as you stand up envision the 2 sitting bones and deep abdominals gathering.

3. Include a balance challenge. Try standing on one leg and avoid breath holding. Many people find that focussing on a point in the near distance will help but once you master this move then try to balance and allow your eye gaze to expand into the periphery. When performing a squat you can practice lifting one leg up as you stand up or try placing one foot (or both) on something unstable like a mini-exercise ball or balance trainer.

Physical activity plays an important role in maintaining your health, well-being and quality of life. If you are unsure about types and amount of physical activity consult a health professional to find out what’s appropriate for you.

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