Sore knees keeping you from a brisk walk through Valley Forge? Waiting out an aching back before hitting the Y? Ironically, lack of exercise is likely the reason your body is inflamed. Waiting for it to magically heal itself is not only dangerous but could be making it worse. It’s time to dump the excuses and start cycling, hiking and even singing your way back to a healthier and happier lifestyle. You would be surprised at how quickly and favorably your body will respond to even a moderate, low-impact workout.
Did you know that every one pound gained puts approximately three to 10 pounds more pressure on your knees when walking, running or climbing stairs? Wincing through a barre class may seem overwhelming at first, but keeping your weight healthy, your muscles flexible and your bones strong are essential to pain relief. The endorphin high after a romp on the Radnor Trail can help ease depression; a weekly dance class can work wonders, increasing memory skills and warding off dementia.
No one knows the magical healing benefits of exercise better than the staff at Bryn Mawr Rehab. Domenica Hottenstein of Paoli is a rehab nurse for patients with brain or joint injuries. “Daily exercise is paramount in the rehabilitation process. We get each patient on his or her feet every day no matter what current condition. Even if they are unable to move themselves, our specialists will physically move them until they can.” Domenica says she still marvels at how quickly the human body can recover as long as it keeps pushing its limits every day.
This lesson became very real for Domenica, 49, last winter when she slipped on black ice and severely injured her ankle, requiring surgery, bed rest and a long recovery process. An active runner, Mojo friend and busy mother of three teenagers, she was devastated but she didn’t sit still for long. “I knew it would get better if I did the time,” Domenica says, “and if I didn’t try to stay in shape, it would take twice as long for me to recover.” With the assistance of her doctor and physical therapist, Domenica developed a workout regimen with high-intensity upper-body movements and lots of loud music. It worked. Less than a year later, she is as fit, trim and youthful as she was before her injury.
High intensity/Low-impact tips
As they say, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. It’s up to you to be creative and persistent in finding enjoyable activities that push you physically. Even moderate exercise can do wonders to ease pain and keep your weight in check. Consult your doctor and/or physical therapist to learn your limitations, but don’t let them become a “reason” to sit on the sidelines.
It’s a myth that a good cardiovascular workout needs to be high impact – with feet leaving the ground – in order to get results. Not true! As long as your heart rate has been elevated for a minimum of 20 consecutive minutes, you’re getting a great workout and you can certainly get there with low impact exercises. To add intensity, try accessing the upper body with more power and strength. The more muscle groups used simultaneously, the more calories burned and the bigger the metabolic boost. For instance, if walking is your activity of choice, walk briskly. Consciously engage your core by walking tall with your shoulders down and back. It makes me crazy to see people “power walking” with their arms flaccidly at their sides! Increase intensity by treating your arms like they are weights. Bringing them up higher with more force brings more muscles to life and gives you more bang for your efforts.
Are you someone who stops moving just when your breath gets a little choppy? If so, you are cheating yourself. Keep moving until you reach a level of fatigue and then reach beyond it – regularly and frequently. If your muscles are sore the next day, congrats! It’s a desirable sign that your body is repairing itself and getting stronger for its next play date. Please note that pain is not good. Lay off that movement until you consult a professional.
Continue reading “No more excuses: Move it or lose it!”