for release Friday March 11, 2005
by Melodie Davis
The human body was made for locomotion. “God created us to move,” is another way of saying that. Think about our joints and sockets. They were specifically created for movement! Unfortunately, disease, non-use or misuse too frequently impede as we go through life, and locomotion is altered. More about that later.
I like to walk at the local university’s indoor track during winter. Early morning it’s mostly students, retired folks, or other working people like me, getting in a mile or two of low-effort, non-sweaty rounds before heading to sit all day at the office. On Fridays (sort of my day off) I sometimes walk in the middle of the morning and then there is a whole other set of people stretching their limbs. There are stay-at-home mothers or fathers (or part time employees) pushing strollers or supervising two or more children running around the track.
One day I was amused to note little bobbing heads just visible above the half wall of the track. For these children, exercise is not a chore, not one more thing to do in a busy day. Rather it was pure fun—release from being cooped up in the house, an opportunity to just run without any adult telling them they needed to slow down or be careful or that running wasn’t allowed. It was a game—racing each other in improvised little match ups, hiding from Mom or Dad, seeing who could get around the track first. This picture of children running freely and joyfully is a helpful image as you contemplate doing your exercise, which many of us look at as drudgery. The parents who were taking these children out to exercise, run, and explore were not only helping their offspring get exercise and getting some themselves, but modeling very important “moving” behavior for their children.
The reason I’m writing on this familiar (and maybe worn out) topic is simply as a reminder that experts now tell us that even if you can’t begin training for a marathon or walk five miles a day, that any exercise is better than none, and that it’s okay to break it up into bite sized pieces: ten minutes here, ten minutes there. Do deep knee bends while waiting for the computer or e-mail to boot up, run in place while you wait for the water to warm up for the shower or sink, pace while you talk on the phone (but watch out, you can drive others crazy with this one). You can do tummy exercises while driving or sitting at the computer. Here are more ideas at no or very low cost:
1. Get off the subway or bus one or two stops early, to add walking time. Or, park your car several blocks (or parking lots) from your office, or at the far end of the parking lot.
2. Of course, use the stairways whenever possible.
3. When waiting for a child to get done with soccer practice or a music lesson, walk.
4. If the area you live in is unsuitable for walking, go to work earlier or stay later and walk in the area of your employment.
5. If your spouse enjoys shopping and you don’t, use the time to walk around the mall, warehouse store or discount store, rather than just sitting somewhere and waiting or (worse), stewing.
6. Walk from store to store if you have several errands at opposite ends of the shopping center rather than driving your car a short distance.
7. Exercise 15-30 minutes while watching TV: get down on the floor for calisthenics, or invest in a cheap or stationery bike and pedal away.
8. Take a two-minute break every hour when working and do arm exercises, knee bends, or whatever you can discretely get away with in your setting.
9. Most areas that have college campuses have many great places for walking, indoors and out. Many often have swimming pools that are open to the public for certain hours each week at very low cost. Do some checking. Retirement communities also frequently have nice walking or jogging trails.
10. If you wash your car weekly, do it yourself (rather than going through the automatic) and you’ll add seven to eight weekly minutes of fairly vigorous exercise.
The older I get, the more I have to struggle with stiff joints in my hips, and sometimes limp after doing some types of exercise (it doesn’t work for me to run very long). So if walking is a problem, some of these suggestions will sound impossible for you. Ask your doctor or a physical therapist about options. Most health clubs and community centers offer exercise programs for people with physical limitations.
A booklet, “Questions and Answers about Arthritis and Exercise” is available free online at http://www.niams.nih.gov/hi/topics/arthritis/arthexfs.htm or from The National Institute of Arthritis at 301 495-4484.
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg VA 22802 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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