I truly believe that even with everything we are facing right now, even during the stress of social distancing over the holidays, we can feel healthier than ever if we set up some supportive, comforting and deeply healing health routines.
So for the next several weeks, all winter long actually, I’m going to be giving you a weekly blog post full of uplifting ways to improve your health, right in the comfort of your own home.
It’s a new mini-series I’m releasing for you to help improve your health over these next three winter months. Forward this newsletter to a friend or a family member so that they can take part in this healing mini-series with you!
You might enjoy these tips so much that they become part of your new health care routine — not just in the weeks to come, but forever into the future!
This Week’s Topic: Movement
Today our goal is to find ways to move that we truly enjoy and will stick with.
Medical studies (like this one, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) show that sitting sedentary for 6 or more hours a day is the single greatest risk factor for morbidity and mortality — and exercising did not protect against this risk or prolong lifespan.
Let me repeat that: It’s not about exercise.
Exercise is not what fixes our sedentary lifestyle.
In the study I link you to above, even those who exercised strenuously had a higher risk of death if there were prolonged periods of sitting in between work outs!
Turns out, sitting 6 hours or more a day raises your mortality risk no matter how hard you exercise before or afterwards.
Sitting increases diabetes risk, cancer risk, disrupts sex hormones, decrease bone density, increases back pain, high blood pressure, depression rates… and even reduces cognitive function!
So sustainable health is not about working out, it’s not about exercising hard, it’s not about being a weekend warrior, it’s not about how hard you push yourself on the treadmill, and it’s not about fitting into any Body Mass Index category.
Real health is just about enjoying the body you are in and moving it!
We are simply not meant to sit in one place for hours. Which is something we really need to be mindful of when we are home practicing social distancing, for weeks and even months on end.
That’s why today, as the very first step in this mini-series, we are going to identify at least one way that you can invite movement into your body — in a way that feels right to you — five times a day.
Ideally, you can come up with a way to move your body:
- upon waking in the morning
- as a mid morning break
- as a mid day break
- as a mid afternoon break
- and end with a before-bed stretch.
That way you are never sitting for more than a few hours at a time. Sitting for more than a total of 6 hours of your waking day is more predictive of poor outcome in serious disease than any amount of exercise that you can do.
So let’s find ways that — even if your area is under quarantine — nothing will get in the way of your maintaining or ever increasing your level of health.
We can move our bodies daily, right in the comfort of our own homes.
Because it was never about hitting the gym anyway, it was always about simply inviting movement into our bodies.
So even if your gym or exercise studio is closed right now, you can stay every bit as healthy, and maybe even healthier, by inviting movement in throughout the day instead of just in one intense bout of exercise.
All you’ve got to do is stand up and walk around a bit every hour or two, get into some gentle stretching routines in throughout the day, walk up and down your stairs if you have them, and do a before-bed yoga routine to reap massive benefits.
If you do that, you’ve done more to protect your long term health than you could ever do trying to reverse 6 hours of sitting by hitting the gym.
Our bodies don’t work like that… and now that you know it… you don’t have to work like that either.
(For those that want to read a good medical study summarizing this, hop over to read this medical report published in 2015: Sitting At Home Is Deadly.)
Idea #1: Morning Stretch
Develop a stretch routine that you do when you first wake up, before even starting your day.
Once you get into a habit of morning stretching, you will realize how much this impacts your entire day and you’ll never want to skip this again.
Getting into a morning and evening stretch routine is just one of the many many ways that you can actually benefit for the rest of your life from self care routines that you start during quarantine. Seriously! I honestly believe that if we take this time while under social distancing precautions to focus on developing healthy routines and self care strategies, we will actually be healthier for our entire lives than if we would not have had this pandemic.
To get ideas of stretches that feel good for you, here is a great YouTube video that includes some of my personal favorites, and is only 10 minutes long. Take what you like from these suggestions and create your own routine that you will stick with:
If you prefer looking at stretch suggestions instead of watching a video, this page has 4 great stretches for you:
And then you can add these 6 on to create a simple 10 stretch routine to start your day:
Idea #2: Mid-Morning Walk
If at all possible, I highly encourage you to go outside mid morning and mid afternoon on a walk. Do as little or as much as you like, anything is absolutely better than nothing.
Walk the sidewalks of your neighborhood, walk the perimeter of your yard or driveway if you have one, walk back and forth to your mailbox several times, walk any neighborhood trails if you have them.
If you can not even go outside on a walk, find a pattern to loop inside of your home, going in and out of each room or simply up and down hallways.
Aim for at least 10 minutes of walking in each session, more if you can.
Idea #3: Mid-Day Steps
An easy way to get more movement into your day within the comfort of your living space is to seek out a flight of stairs, or even one single step if that is all you have.
You can walk up and down the steps leading to your front door, any steps you have inside your home if you live in a multi-story house, any steps that you have leading to your parking area or garage, or any steps you might have in your neighborhood.
Even if all you can find is one step, you can so some great calve strengthening exercises on that one step alone… a great mid-day pick me up.
Here are some ideas:
Idea #4: Mid-Afternoon Walk
Repeat the same walk you did mid-morning (see above) or find a new way to walk — for example, if you walked around your neighborhood in the mid-morning while it was cool, you may wish to stay inside and loop your living room a dozen times in the heat of the afternoon. Or vice versa! Just keep moving for at least 10 minutes.
Idea #5: Before Bed Yoga Stretches
Never head to bed without stretching your body out — releasing tension from the day and giving your muscles one more deep release. If you enjoy following a video, here is a great one:
If you prefer reading over a written list of stretches (with pictures) here is my favorite set — this is one is very similar to the routine I do each night before I go to bed myself!
Idea #6: Invite Heat Into Your Muscles
There have been so many studies recently looking at the health benefits of routine sauna. Sauna increases the circulation of blood all throughout your body — getting the blood pumping through your cardiovascular system, your muscles, your skin, your joints, your brain — so it turns out that routine sauna has many of the same health benefits that exercise does.
So if you have mobility issues or find that inviting movement into your body through the day is really hard when you are on “stay at home” orders… sauna is a great substitute (or addition) to any wellness plan. Something to remember for even after this pandemic has long since resolved.
There are several major medical studies that back this up, that I’ve blogged about for you already. Click the button below to read more:
If you don’t have access to a sauna (and most of us don’t while under quarantine) you can still use this healing principle to invite heat into your body in other ways.
Pick one of these ways (or use them all!) and write it down in your worksheet so you remember to use it:
- a microwavable rice pack to wrap around neck and shoulders
- a hot water bottle to place on stiff lower back muscles
- a 15 minute hot bath with magnesium salts to relax all muscles
- a 5 minute hot shower to release tension from head to toe
I love a hot bath every few nights, as well as wrapping a hot rice pack around my neck whenever I feel muscle tension throughout the day — you can buy these online but if you are crafty you may even enjoy making your own out of an old hand towel and a bag of rice:
- DIY Heated Neck Wrap (The Art Of Doing Stuff)
Idea #7: Body Work
The feeling of worry and stress and anxiety is often the stress of energy that is accumulating in the body without release.
I know I personally feel this as a ball of pressure right in my solar plexus, as well and incredibly painful tension in my shoulders and neck… but where stress shows up for you in your body is different for everyone.
Irritability, crying, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, tension, muscle stiffness, decreased or increased appetite, weight loss or gain, insomnia… often these all represent energy that just needs to be released to make room for the natural healing process and optimism and energy to return.
If you are feeling stuck and in need of physical release, along with movement and heat like we addressed above, body work can help assist your body in letting go of stress.
If you are quarantined with a partner, take turns giving massages to each other. But if you are social distancing alone, don’t let that stop you! You absolutely can perform wonderful self massage techniques that release tension from your neck, shoulders, hands and feet.
Just click on one of the videos below and follow along!
This week try lots of different movements out & find a few ways you can get into a routine of moving your body multiple times throughout the day, inviting heat into muscles, and doing daily body work.
And I’ll have more ideas for you — in a whole new topic — next week!
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