If you want your body to feel better, feel your body move better.
Admittedly, we have all been sitting on the couch more than we would like under the constricts of modern-day quarantine life. For some food, drink and TV have been a comfort. For others, video chats with friends and family maintain sanity. But one thing is nearly certain, we have all been missing out on movement. It’s not unlikely that we have also lost touch with how our body is feeling. Maybe your body has already spoken to you and told you that something needs to change, or maybe you’ve already tried to make the change, but it hasn’t been as successful as you had hoped. You are not alone.
Many of us are suffering from lack of movement in one way or another, and whether we realize it now or later, we will have to find new ways to manage our movement. With the global pandemic reaching its tentacles into every aspect of our lives, how we move and how we manage our movement health is no exception. If you have been struggling with a major movement roadblock, now is the time to address it full on. If there is a moderate health issue you’ve been postponing, now is the time to address it, too. These small- to medium-sized problems that we might have managed easily before with nearly instant access to support systems that we had available to us pre-pandemic will have to be addressed in a new way going forward, a way that fits the new normal. We’re all having to change how we do almost everything with the pandemic problem we all have to solve, and managing our movement health is likely not an exception.
Focus on fundamental movements.
So, how is your body moving? One way to assess yourself is by spending some time on the floor and moving around. Children play on the floor all the time, and, once upon a time, so did you. Eventually, adulthood crept in, and then over time your body began to form into a chair, which led to loss of mobility in your hips and loss of strength in your trunk required to get up and down off the floor. We all used to be very good at the floor routine at one point or another, and if you try, it can be easy again. If you’re looking for proof, you can search the internet for 80-year-old men and women who are still doing gymnastics and powerlifting and who can do things that even professional-level athletes would pay a lot of money to be able to do. Indeed, some people are naturally more flexible or stronger than others, but your body is 50 percent a product of your daily habits; the other 50 percent you can blame on your parents.
Being able to get up and down from the floor is one of the most important things we can do for our strength, mobility, longevity and independence. In fact, health researchers have identified that people over 50 who could get up and down from the floor without using their hands for help were the healthiest. When the subjects in the study scored a 3/10 or less on the test, their risk of dying was five times greater than the average person over the next five years. The test is called the Brazilian Longevity Test, also named the “Sitting Rising Test.” Be advised, this is a challenging test, and you should take care not to injure yourself by attempting it.
Want to do this test? There are plenty of resources on the internet to find the test instructions, or you can send an e-mail to email@example.com to get instructions sent to your email.
Long and slow may be better than hard and fast.
Movement is cultural, and as Americans, we can’t seem to get enough of high intensity interval training, which fits nicely with our frequently used adage “No pain, no gain.” From Orange Theory to CrossFit to spin classes, we can’t seem to get enough of the pumped up, loud and sweat-filled sessions that leave us doubled over, sucking oxygen and reaching for the nearest source of water. To be fair, these hard and fast workouts are proven by research to be helpful for our hearts, muscles and brain, but so are easier workouts that focus on cardiovascular endurance. In fact, some of the best endurance athletes in the world have figured out that it is better to do more work at lower intensity than say “no pain, no gain” all the time. Olympic-level Nordic cross-country ski researchers found that training at a higher intensity isn’t always worth the cost of injury risk, and most of their endurance training focuses on being in the “Green Zone,” where they can train for longer at an easier strain level.
So what does this mean for regular (non-Olympic) level people? When you plan your next movement or exercise episode, plan a few sessions where you keep it easy and keep it interesting, but plan to spend more time doing whatever you’re going to do to get the benefit you had hoped for. Maybe that means spending an extra 30 minutes on your walk and listening to a podcast or audiobook, or maybe you’d rather talk on the phone with a friend. Whatever you decide, the important thing is that you establish regularity of your routine. Once you establish regularity, and you’re moving through the week like clockwork, then you might consider trying your creativity by playing with higher-intensity challenges. Why is this important? Because, getting an intense workout can be good, but pushing the intensity too quickly without a well-established routine, and you can risk being too sore and unmotivated to keep carrying on with what you know is important for your health and wellness.
Dr. Dan Michael is a chiropractic physician at NW Sports Rehab in Madison Park.