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When you were little, you didn’t worry about creating an exercise program to stay fit! When you weren’t in school, you woke up with the sunshine, ate breakfast, and then ran outside to play. You were doing what came naturally. You didn’t think about how many calories you were burning playing kick ball, you were just having fun.
Your body still wants to move like that, and being fit is still just that easy. It’s tough to remember that sometimes because we’re grown up, and the world has changed. Now we won’t walk down the street to say hello to a friend. We don’t even have to speak! We can text or email anyone we want without much movement at all.
The more that machines move and our muscles don’t, the more we’re hurting our bodies by not allowing them to do what they were meant to do. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we have been more active than we actually have. “Whew! What a busy day,” we say. We feel drained, and caregivers are drained – mentally, even emotionally – but physically we may not have done much of anything, at least not consistently. We wonder why our hips are sore, why our shoulders hurt, why we have headaches. We buy fancy supportive office chairs to make us more comfortable. We bunch up pillows this way and that to make us more comfortable.
You know what would make us more comfortable? Getting up off our butts and moving around!
Scientists have spent years analyzing the mechanics of the human body, and exactly like a machine, our joints were created with motion in mind. When we don’t move, we get rusty. We put on weight and this puts us at a higher risk for many serious illnesses, including:
Because of the demanding lifestyle of a caregiver, we are already at increased risk for these things, which is why we need to give special attention to make regular exercise a priority.
Now I know very well that when you’re burning the candle at both ends, the thought of starting an exercise program can seem downright nuts…but listen, we’re not training for the Olympics here; we’re not waiting for Sports Illustrated to call about the next Swimsuit Edition. All we want to do is feel better and be healthier. You don’t need flashing neon lights and glitter to announce that you are going to start (cymbal crash, please) An Exercise Program. Working out doesn’t have to be flashy or overwhelming or expensive.
Here’s what a doctor I know tells his patients who feel they don’t have enough time for exercise:
“Give me 30 minutes a day.” When the patient claims she could never carve out that kind of time he says, “Then give me three ten-minute chunks, or six five-minute chunks, or ten three-minute chunks, or thirty one-minute chunks!” The point is, any movement is better than no movement, and medical research has proven that our bodies and brains get the same benefits of exercise even if we break it into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Ten minutes seems to be the magic number:
•Psychologists at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff found that ten minutes of exercise improved mood, increased energy, and encouraged mental alertness and clarity.
•Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University found that ten minutes of activity a day can provide immediate benefits, especially with heart health for people who haven’t been doing much exercise at all.
Here’s why: Ten minutes is enough time to increase your heart rate, get your blood pumping and oxygen flowing through your body and your brain. Within ten minutes your brain will release endorphins; those chemicals that make you feel happier and calmer. Exercise boosts your immune system. It also boosts good cholesterol and breaks down bad cholesterol to reduce the potential for plaque build-up in your arteries. Regular activity helps control high blood pressure.
Exercise works faster than any pill. And by working activity into your day in smaller chunks of time, you won’t burn out. Let me give you some tough love here: “I’m too tired” is not going to fly as an excuse to get you out of this. Chances are you’re too tired because you are not getting enough exercise!
After just a few ten-minute sessions, you’ll notice that you’re not so out of breath when you get up out of a chair or walk up a few steps. You’ll have more energy throughout your day. You’ll have better brain power and mental clarity and focus. You’ll be taking baby steps down a positive path toward a healthier, stronger you!
So, get out there and play! Just ten minutes will make a difference – you’ll see!