Why You Don't Need a Formal Exercise Routine to Be Healthy

We’ve all heard the benefits of physical activity and exercise. Studies find that it increases lifespan, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and brings about a higher quality of life in our later years.

And yet, having an understanding of the power that exercise has is not always enough to motivate us to get moving.

That’s because we are approaching fitness and health all wrong. When we hear the terms “exercise” or “physical activity”, we tend to immediately think of a dedicated exercise program like running, yoga, or lifting. All of which can sound intimidating to a lifelong non-exerciser.

The book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford gives an excellent overview of all the health benefits that exercise brings as we age. But as the author of the book points out, researchers have also realized you don’t have to have a formal exercise routine to reap the benefits. You simply need to get up and move more often.

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Mobility is the Key to Healthspan

 

“Mobility is the key to survival: this came up again and again in my research.” -Bill Gifford

The medical field of aging is relatively new. It wasn’t until the last century that we saw an exponential increase in human life expectancy and as a result, we’ve only just started to study aging. And there is still a lot of gray area. One thing we know for sure is that there is huge variability in how we age.

And that there is a big difference between lifespan and healthspan. Thanks to modern medicine, we’ve seen a huge increase in lifespan over the last few decades. But unfortunately, that increase in lifespan doesn’t always accompany an increase in quality of life.

And this is where healthspan comes in. Healthspan is how many healthy years we can add to someone’s life. Because really, what’s the point of adding extra years if you can’t enjoy them?

Much of the findings of studies on aging have been...

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Book Review: Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford. I keep a running list of books related to health and aging, but this one wasn’t on my list and caught my eye. I’m so happy I picked it up. The comprehensive information in the book blew me away. I will summarize a little bit below but I highly recommend picking up a copy.

The author of the book, Bill Gifford, is a journalist who became curious about aging after watching the very different aging trajectories of his great uncle and his grandfather. How could two siblings live such drastically different lives? His great uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in his 70’s while his grandfather lived a very active and playful life, still farming into his 90’s when he suddenly passed...

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5 Simple Steps to Prevent or Reverse Incontinence

 Incontinence. Even reading that word made you want to turn away. It’s an initial warning sign that the strength of your pelvic floor is compromised in some way and no longer has the strength to hold the contents of the pelvis. The initial symptoms are leaking urine and can progress to the point of pelvic organ prolapse.

Pelvic health is the conversation no one wants to have, so, unfortunately, incontinence has become all too common. And millions of people are suffering in silence. And with the number of incontinence products and adult diapers popping up in stores, we’ve normalized the issue. But being incontinent at any phase in your life is anything but normal. And people feel hopeless for a solution.

Incontinence is NOT NORMAL

There are several different types of incontinence. I won’t get into the technical definitions here but will describe how you know if you’re experiencing incontinence. If you find yourself leaking every time you...

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Movement Tips to Avoid Back Pain During Pregnancy

More than two-thirds of pregnant women report low back pain and up to one-fifth report pelvic pain during pregnancy. Reports of pain tend to increase later in pregnancy and interfere with daily activities, sleep, and work. About 20% of women who experience low back or pelvic pain during pregnancy report persistent pain for up to 3 years following pregnancy.

Chronic pain is complicated and much research in recent years has revolved around the term “pain catastrophizing”. Catastrophizing is a process of becoming fixated on pain, magnifying the effects of it, feeling helpless, and expecting negative outcomes associated with pain.

Research shows that those who catastrophize are more likely to develop persistent chronic pain and disability. Women who demonstrated pain catastrophizing during their pregnancy were found to be less likely to have been active throughout their pregnancy and more likely to develop persistent pain after.

The recommendation of daily physical activity...

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How to Avoid Becoming Actively Sedentary

Most of us are familiar with the picture of sedentary living, but did you know it’s also possible to be actively sedentary? Actively sedentary is a new category of people who exercise for about an hour per day but are sedentary for the other 23 hours.

Mind-blowing, right? This means that someone who is meeting or even exceeding the American Heart Association’s physical activity guidelines for adults can still be sedentary.

Avoid becoming actively sedentary by adopting a movement-based lifestyle, in which movement is an integral part of your day to day activities. Small actions matter. Sit on the floor instead of the couch. Walk short intervals throughout your day, about 3–5 miles in total. Take your shoes off and let your feet experience some texture. Just keep yourself moving. The less your body stays in one position for a prolonged amount of time the better. Living this way is simple and requires no equipment, so there is no...

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Video: How and Why to Do the Forward Bend

 

One of the keys to core stability, minimizing low back pain, and powerful walking is being able to maintain a neutral pelvis throughout the day. If you're dealing with tight and/or weak hamstrings though, it's impossible to get yourself into a neutral pelvis position.

Due to excessive time spent in chairs, most of us have developed BOTH tight and weak hamstrings. The hamstrings are a large muscle group that runs up the back of the thigh, attaching just below the knee and to the base of the pelvis. This tightness of the hamstrings pulls your pelvis into a tucked position, rendering your core useless and putting excessive compression on your low back. Not a happy situation for your back or pelvic floor!

Our favorite way to lengthen the hamstrings is to do a standing forward bend. This is a stretch we've all seen before, but also has a lot of potential for some compensations we want to avoid. Most mistakenly believe the goal of this stretch is to touch the toes... However, as we...

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5 Tips to Get More Walking in Your Day

Walking 3 to 5 miles per day is a human physiological requirement. Our bodies have a need for natural movement, and walking is one of the best ways to fulfill this need. Your body only functions at optimal capacity if you’re walking each day. Your blood flow, nerve function, and the ability for your cells to get nutrients are all impacted by your movement, particularly walking. 

We’re often asked, “Can’t I just run or ride a bike to get meet my daily movement requirement faster?”

And our answer is a resounding NO. There is no problem with running or biking, but it can’t replace walking. They have different physiological effects on your body. So feel free to run or hop on a bike only AFTER you’ve met your walking requirement for the day. 

Another question we often address is, “What do I do if I don’t have the time or space to walk these long distances each day?”

And for that question, we have great news! The...

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Video: The Best Balance Exercise

 

One of the first exercises we teach our new clients is the calf stretch. And for good reason!

We've written blog posts in the past about the importance of taking care of the health of your feet (which you can find here, here, and here). But long story short, your feet are your foundation. Improving your foot mobility is a great first step (pun intended) toward better health. 

Watch the video above to learn how to do the calf stretch. 

To set up: In this exercise, we use a half foam roll. But if you don't have a half foam roll a rolled up towel will work great! 

Take your shoes off, this exercise is best performed barefoot. Stand in front of your half foam roll (or towel) with your feet spaced pelvis width apart. Make sure your feet are aligned straight, like the cars on a tire. Look down and if they are angled outward take a minute to straighten them. Focus on maintaining this alignment throughout the exercise.

If you aren't sure about your balance, position...

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5 Action Steps To Promote Falls Prevention

 

We don’t often think about our balance until it becomes a problem. In my work as a therapist, I’ve treated both younger and older adults with balance problems.

Balance is a complex system, involving communication between our brain, body, and sensory systems. A decline in any one of these can quickly become problematic.

We tend to associate balance problems with aging, but there isn’t a magical age you reach in which your balance starts to decline. Instead, physical decline begins the minute you stop challenging yourself.

The benefits of maintaining and improving your balance at any age are endless. You’re more likely to be capable to continue doing the activities you love as you age. You’ll worry less about falling, and have more confidence than adults who don’t have good balance. Research has even found a strong connection between balance and brain health. The better your balance, the sharper your mind as you age.

There are small ways you can...

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