My grandmother and many of her siblings lived to be old people. Back then it was very common to work in the garden, work outside repairing the house, fences, painting, caring for livestock and generally doing many chores we do not do as much today in modern society. I don’t know about you, but I have a guy that paints my house. My grandfather did his own. The point is that modern society has given us an easier path through life, but at the same time has made us all more sedentary. Not everyone has a sedentary lifestyle or job (especially nurses who walk many miles per shift between tasks). Many people do though, and there is a remedy for it. We have to put more movement back into our lives. There is tons of research that describes the known health benefits of exercise.
Exercise, in the past, meant daily chores and work that brought people up out of their chairs, not that they spent much time in a chair, and moving about doing necessary tasks. It generally did not mean going to the gym or jogging 3 miles, but it meant strenuous activity all the same. My grandmother was still out in the yard, working in her garden, in her eighties. She could be seen sweeping her porches, washing her windows, doing heavy housework, etc. the list is endless. She kept moving, day-to-day, stopping for a rest in the afternoon, and then was at it again. Her mind was clear until her death at 95. She was on no medications except Tylenol, for a “headache,” when her brother was in town. Ha ha. He, by the way, lived to be 3 months shy of 100. Ok, we don’t all have those kind of genes, but we can help ourselves out by moving about more.
We often have more focused exercise programs to follow today, but with that, or if you don’t have an exercise regimen that you follow, just adding more chores can be a good form of exercise. Vacuuming my stairway sure gets me sweating, which is great. I have taken up vacuuming twice per week instead of once. It is mainly for the exercise, but also helps with the dog and cat hair that collects so quickly from my pets. The house really needs it. I just don’t like running, walking for long distances or going to the gym. I do ski and I do play some golf, but honestly, my housework and yard work makes me sweat more and work harder. My point is this, we just have to find ways to move our bodies more for better health and it can be in the form of many different activities. If you have a job where you sit all day, then maybe it is time to consider ways to get up and move. I don’t have to list them, but I will anyway: walk the dog!, tend to your yard or garden, hike, go visit historical sites, or museums, walk the grounds, go to the mall and walk, vacuum more often, wash the windows, empty the cupboards and clean them, do some chores for your neighbors, I can go on… Don’t get stuck with the idea that exercise has to mean working out at a gym, running or playing a sport. While this is great for some people, it does not work for everyone. You have to do things that work for you.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise controls weight, combats health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, a number of cancers, arthritis and falls. It improves mood, boosts energy, improves your sex life, improves sleep and can be fun and social! 1 These seem like great reasons to get moving. Yoga is a wonderful and gentle form of exercise if you start in a beginner class. I go to yoga because I have seen and cared for many, many elderly patients who have suffered falls. Years ago people died from complications of a broken hip! That is not as common anymore, at least that has been my observation over the years. People are not kept in bed anymore, they are up and learning to walk again with physical therapy. It saves their lives by getting their lung fluid moving, blood flowing to the area and the rest of their organs and things are not as apt to slow down and cause deadly complications such as pneumonia. The best way to avoid falls and fractures is to move and practice our balance. Yoga provides this and also eases the pain of arthritis. I will vouch for that! It gently stretches out your muscles and joints so that they become more pliable and you begin to be stronger and more flexible. I am interested in keeping my balance steady as I age. That is why I started going to yoga. I am not a regular, but I do keep going or practicing at home. You should try it!
One of the best ways to stay healthy is to add more movement into each day!
Sherry Dumais, MBA, BSN, RN
1 Mayo Clinic Staff. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389