Spring is a great time to increase movement and get energized to improve overall health. People tend to slow down during the winter because it is more difficult to get out and exercise. Winter activities like playing card games encourage sitting for long periods of time. Sitting too much can accelerate aging, but moving 30 minutes per day can help counteract that process. Cold winter days are behind us, and warmer spring days call us back to outdoor activities. It is time to take advantage of warmer spring days, and get back into a more active lifestyle.
Even small frequent movements can make a big difference in our health. If you find you sit for long periods of time, make a commitment to move for 10 minutes every hour. It can be easier than you think to sneak some movement into your day. Did you turn into a couch potato over the winter? That’s ok. We all like to binge watch our favorite shows. Be aware of how long you are sitting, and choose to move more. Get up on your feet and stretch during commercials. Did you know that you use muscles in your legs, trunk, and arms every time you move from sitting to standing?
Exercise is an important piece of your overall health. Check with your doctor and get a clean bill of health before you start any exercise program.
“No pain no gain” mentality often results in injury. Be realistic about your current condition, and move forward at a reasonable pace. Begin your spring exercise program cautiously. Be honest with yourself about how much – or how little – you have been doing, and gradually increase your daily movement. As long as you are improving the amount of time that you are moving in a day, you are making progress.
If you enjoy walking, for example, you can begin walking every other day for 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on your current fitness level, this could be challenging. If it isn’t a challenge, add 5 more minutes to each walk or walk more days per week. Gradually build up until you are comfortable walking 30 minutes each day.
Do Something You Love
A key strategy for successfully integrating an exercising program into your daily life is to participate in activities that you enjoy. You can reinforce that strategy by making it a group activity. You can even choose different activities for different days of the week to keep things interesting.
Your exercise program should include all four types of exercise. Keeping your body in best condition is a combination of balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility. You’re more likely to continue exercising when you choose activities you enjoy. Trying new activities will also create new opportunities to explore what you enjoy.
- Walking is the most popular exercise, and with good reason. Walking is a low-impact exercise that improves mood, heart health, and reduces risk of disease. Walking improves balance, strength, and endurance. Remembering to stretch after you walk will complete all four types of exercise. Adjusting your walk to your current exercise level is easy, making walking a great way to get started!
- Gardening and yard work move all the major muscle groups improving balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility. Working in the yard and garden have been proven to improve overall mood, joint health, and slow osteoporosis.
- Hiking or walking nature trails comes with the benefits of walking. Additional benefits of hiking include increased balance due to uneven terrain, and a connection with nature which studies show improves overall health.
- Golf is an excellent way to work on balance, flexibility, strength, and endurance with one fun activity. If you haven’t golfed all winter, it is a good idea to begin with slow and easy swings at the driving range. Give yourself a chance to build up your activity level.
- Tennis is a social sport that improves mood, circulation, flexibility and balance. Tennis also builds bone density, strength, and endurance.
- Swimming is a low-impact exercise that anyone can participate in, even if you have mobility issues. Swimming builds endurance, and water resistance naturally builds strength.
- Water aerobics are low-impact exercises combining water resistance and movements designed to build flexibility, strength, and endurance. Since fun classes are offered at varying levels, you can find the best fit for your current ability to get started.
- Yoga increases flexibility and strength. Health benefits associated with yoga include reduced stress, improved heart health, and better respiration. Yoga is a great way to keep moving even when it is raining outside.
- Tai Chi or Qigong improve balance, build core muscles, and increase flexibility. Tai Chi and Qigong can be adapted for people with decreased movement. If you want to find a form of movement that you can perform at any age, this could be for you!
- Dancing improves heart health, bone density, and coordination. Endurance, flexibility, strength and balance are key aspects of dance. Dancing is also a social activity that is known to improve mood and lessen depression.
- Low impact sports like horseshoes, crochet, and shuffleboard are also great ways to get exercise at any age.
Don’t let rainy days stop you! If you don’t feel inspired to go out, go to the gym and take a class or watch exercise videos at home to keep you moving.
Resources to Keep You Moving
Spring is a great time to get moving! Finding interesting activities and keeping energized to keep moving through every season is easier when you take advantage of available resources. We are fortunate to have many local and national free resources.
- Fifty and Better in Vancouver is a great way to connect with local activities including hiking, dancing, Tai Chi, and much more.
- Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) is a Washington State strength and balance fitness program.
- Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging offers great information and free exercise videos.