by Nancy Alexander, PT, CSCS
For many of us, we have spent the last year mostly in our homes. We worked from home, we taught school from home, we ordered food for delivery from home. If we ventured out of the house, we didn’t go far. Maybe to the supermarket or drug store.
COVID-19 has caused our activity levels to drop significantly, probably more than you realize. This disease will likely be with us for some time, but we are smarter now and as a result, we’re starting to get out more. So, with positivity rates dropping and vaccinations rising, how do we start moving again in a safe manner. There is a way.
If you’re like me, you want to be ready to get out and enjoy activities again when safe to do so and the time to start this preparation is now. Be ready when it’s time to get moving. However, please don’t expect that you’ll be instantly ready for that active life you had prior to COVID-19. It will take time to get there. But with a good plan, you can increase your activity safely, over time. Not only will this increase your chances for success, but it will lessen the risk of injury from doing too much too soon. Just like an athlete prepares for his or her season with training camp, you should also prepare for that active lifestyle you yearn for right now.
5 steps to get moving safely:
- Check in with your physician – Do this now, especially if it’s been one year or more since your last visit or annual exam. Schedule an appointment to discuss your health and recommendations to get moving again. Make sure when you leave that appointment you have a plan in place.
- Improve your posture – You’ve been home more and likely slouched more, too. Slouching disrupts our natural curves in our back and that can cause stress to joints and soft tissue. How can you correct this? Sit with good lumbar support at your low back to fill the gap between your chair and your lumbar spine. This helps to passively get you back to your natural curves. The beauty of this is that correction here helps your entire spine. It helps restore your natural spinal curves all the way up to your neck. Also try to keep your hips slightly higher than your knees. When your hips are higher, this allows your low back to be at its more normal curve. The deeper or lower your hips are, the more your lumbar spine has to flex (or bend forward) to accommodate this.
- Improve your endurance – With decreased activity comes decreased endurance. What do I mean by endurance? It’s the ability to perform an activity over time. It is considered cardiovascular in nature because you use oxygen consistently to perform the activity. This includes walking, cycling or any other sustained activity. If you haven’t moved much consider starting a walking program where you gradually increase how far or how long you walk. Measure it and track it to see your progress. Want to use that stationary bike in your basement again? Start by cycling 5-10 minutes and monitor your breathing and your perceived exertion. If you can’t speak a full sentence without losing your breath, you are working too hard. Stop or slow it down until your breathing becomes more normal. Then, gradually increase your time and/or speed as tolerated over time.
- Monitor new pain and address it – Do you hurt? Where do you hurt? Is it constant or intermittent? Is it getting worse or getting better? Trends matter. What helps decrease it? What worsens it? Keep track of these things and consult with your physician to address it before starting any new exercise program.
- Plan your movement – Don’t leave your health to chance. Be purposeful and lead with intent. That’s what makes it happen. Set aside some time and try to schedule activity when you typically feel more energetic. For example, I feel best in the mornings so that is when I set aside an hour or so to move. That movement may include walking or biking or a sport like golf or pickleball. What matters is that it works for you. No one else, just you.
In my upcoming book, “Get UP! Defy Aging with Movement,” I provide a program for any adult who wants to get moving again. There are three main programs identified based on your activity level and fitness level at the time. We all have our own starting point. Own it and move on. These programs are customized to your needs as they help achieve two main goals that are common among adults over 50. This includes improving your mobility and decreasing stiffness. Look for publication of my book as early as next month and consider it a guide to help you get moving again.
Our Living Well Academy is here to help you, too. Remember, if you’re receiving this e-newsletter that means you’re already a member. Living Well Academy is FREE to subscribers with all sorts of information available to help you move safely. Routinely check out all we have to offer at our website at www.prosolutions55.com. We are stronger together.
The way you choose to move is a personal choice. Do your research and make a plan that works for you. Consult with your physician and movement specialist and form a team to help you improve your health. Speaking of plans… I don’t know about you. But I’ve got plans to enjoy life to the fullest when it’s time to get out. And I want my body ready. Don’t let unnecessary pain and the risk of injury stop you. This is your spring training for the rest of your life. Get moving.