Exercise One Day At A Time
by Nancy T. Angelini, LMT, Clinical Herbalist
If you’re an exercise enthusiast, then getting into motion is second nature to you. It takes little effort to throw on your sneakers and gym togs and work up a sweat. For those who experience exercise intolerance from a heart condition or feel worse after exercise, then this information might be better suited to your situation.
It is “in plain view” to extol the evidence-based health beneﬁts of daily exercise, given the human body was designed to move every day. For those who feel worse after they exercise and complain that it takes them days to recover, hearing about a high intensity exercise program may engender feelings of anxiety. Exercise can reduce symptoms of mild depression, but if you have mild depression it might feel nearly impossible to overcome the initial inertia in order to apply the medicine of exercise. You may have had an injury or surgery and still ﬁnd yourself uncomfortable even after the obligatory physical therapy, which started the process of some movement, but insurance ran out before you were completely rehabilitated.
Take Your Medicine
There are real reasons why people ﬁnd themselves loathing exercise. However, ﬁnding a safe and effective way around whatever is limiting you moving your body every day is the ﬁrst and most important step in taking the medicine of exercise.
Examine and identify what is limiting you from moving your body. Is it your emotions? Then assign a friend who will encourage you gently to get up and walk around the house and maybe go up and down the stairs once or twice a day. That’s exercise. The mental and emotional roadblocks can be as difﬁcult to overcome as pain or other physical shortcomings. Walking is one of the best movements we can engage in. Getting outside for a walk is even better for your entire being. If the weather is poor, you can walk around the mall and this is still counted as beneﬁcial exercise.
Do you feel worse after a workout? Then start with just 10 minutes of gentle movement, such as walking, Tai Chi or Yoga. Stay at 10 minutes for a week and then increase to 15 minutes. As you age, it is important to remember that you need to rebuild your tolerance to exercise slowly and in small stages. Add ﬁve to ten minutes on a weekly basis. You will feel better overall, and your body will adjust its tolerance to the level of exercise gradually and without too much discomfort. After you work up to sustaining 30 minutes of continuous movement, then you can start to increase the intensity of the movement — or not — if you are enjoying yourself and are experiencing beneﬁts.
Is it that you experience pain and limitation in your joints or muscles as soon as you start to exercise? One of the best ways to exercise while managing body pain is to take a walk in a pool. Being and moving in water is miraculous for those who have chronic, intractable soft tissue or joint pain. If a water class is currently beyond your ability, it is worth asking if you can hang out in the back of the class (in the pool) and just walk or move your arms for 10, 15 or 20 minutes. The water will act like a gentle massage and the buoyancy will take pressure off tender joints.
Don’t Overdo It
Believe it or not, pain from exercise causes the wrong kind of stress to your body, especially if you are over 30 years of age. Make sure you do not overdo it during your ﬁrst week getting back into motion. This is a very important part of bringing exercise back into your life. If you have too much post exercise discomfort or fatigue, your nervous system, especially the part of your brain called the Amygdala, will register that whatever you are doing is not good for you. This can sabotage all your efforts. Stay comfortable for the ﬁrst month to six weeks and your central nervous system will stay calm and not inhibit the continuation of your new-found movement program.
The reintegration of movement and exercise into your daily life can have wonderful beneﬁts. Daily exercise can support healthy emotions, brain function such as memory and cognition, functional movement assisting in performing daily activities of living, cardiovascular and respiratory maintenance, as well as being a source of pleasure.
Take it easy and integrate this marvelous medicine, one day at a time, for long-term health and enjoyment.