Aging Well: Movement

One of the things I am passionate about is age well. For me, that means doing what I can to reduce my risk of chronic disease and cognitive decline, move with ease, create a community, and continue to have relevance and meaning in my life.

It all sounds great, but the question my clients ask me is what do I need to do to make this all happen. Sometimes I refer to it as “doing all the things”, which includes habits like eating a supportive, anti-inflammatory diet, getting enough sleep, moving throughout the day, exercising, managing stress, spending time outside, continuing to have passion around work and/or other projects, and building and maintaining relationships and community.

Over the next few newsletters, I will be sharing some strategies and resources on some of these important inputs. Today I would like to talk about movement. Movement is top on my mind these days because of some changes I recently made in my own life.

Over the last six months, I moved away from my morning yoga practice and started spending much more time hiking and biking. The weather was good and I could do these activities with friends. After my exercise time, I would come home, sit at my desk, and I noticed that my legs grew tighter and tighter. I would stand up from working at my desk or sitting on the couch and hobble around for a few minutes until I could straighten up.

I felt like I was aging! While I was exercising daily, it was not enough. I needed more movement during my day. Sitting so long without stretching and moving was producing pain. I started doing some stretching and helped as long as I kept doing it.

I decided to see what else I could do to help mitigate the problem. I shifted my desk to a standing desk and put a couple of props under my desk to encourage me to move more during the day. I have a lacrosse ball to roll under my feet and a small stool that I lift one leg up at a time to shift my weight. I also got an anti-fatigue mat with some small humps on it that help me keep from standing in the same position.

The first few days were way more tiring than I had expected so I slowed down and standing more and more each day building up some endurance. I also added some stretches when I got up to get a drink or use the bathroom. Soon my activity tracker was on fire and my legs no longer hurt.

Sitting is the New Smoking
We have all heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking”. The New York Times ran a story last week highlighting a small study that showed how 3 minutes of movement every half hour can counter the negative effects of sitting. This article focused on how small bursts of movement during the day help reduce the risk of metabolic disease including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high cholesterol. Read the article here.

Other studies show that movement throughout the day improves brain function, creativity, mood, productivity, bone health, cardiovascular health, and the length of our telomeres. Telomeres are the caps on the ends of strands of DNA. Longer telomeres are associated with health and longevity. It is an all-around win for movement throughout the day.

Practice Ideas
When you are out and about, think about parking farther away and taking the stairs if you are able. Add some stretches into the natural breaks in your day or when you are watching TV. Consider getting an app like Focus Keeper to remind you to take a movement break during the day. If your work keeps you at a desk or on a computer most of the day, the book Deskbound, by Dr. Kelly Starrett is a great resource and so is this session from KQED’s Forum radio show.

Are you aging well? If not, now is a great time to take a look at your diet and lifestyle in the bigger context of your overall health and wellness. Is your diet working for you? Do you feel energetic and clear-headed? Are your digestion, joints, and mood all grooving? If not, let’s set up a time to talk. Book an exploratory call (for new clients) or a follow-up visit (for existing clients) at book an appointment.


photo by Kim Thompson Steel