It’s easy to get into a rut and realize that you haven’t walked more than 300 steps a day for years, much less enjoyed the outdoors very often. If you’re over 50 it’s much more important for you to recognize that living a sedentary life is dangerous. Humans need constant movement as well as sunshine and fresh air to survive in a healthy way along with a healthy diet.
It’s difficult if you work in an office environment to imagine where to start so that you can improve your fitness level and overall health. It can be even harder if you’ve allowed 20 years of your life to pass you by being sedentary.
But, the truth is, you can start from anywhere by making small changes each day, and being consistent with the changes, you can improve your life in more ways than you might imagine. You can become healthier, more flexible, happier and more satisfied with your life just by getting up, moving more, and stepping outside.
WHY YOU SHOULD MOVE MORE
First, let’s consider why you should move more. The human body is amazing and able to repair itself if you use it correctly. Unlike machinery that gets old from use, human beings get older from nonuse. Most people believe that you should exercise hard to get any results but this is not true. What is true, being too sedentary will make you old faster and kill you faster.
You’ll Feel Healthier – When you move around more you just start feeling healthier after a period, usually within a couple of weeks. Even if you still have some health issues you will start feeling better before you’re cured.
You’ll Look Younger – Having better muscle tone will help you look a lot younger than if you have a lot of saggy fat on your body. Moving more cuts down on that by building muscles.
Ease the Effects of Menopause – If you’re a woman, you’ll be happy to know that moving more, breathing in fresh air, and eating right can help reduce the effects of menopause on your body.
You’ll Extend Your Life – Some studies have shown that every minute of exercise extends your life seven times over. This may be an exaggeration but when you improve your cardiovascular health you will live longer and be happier in the process.
You’ll Be Less of a Burden – Getting old is not for the weak-willed. That’s for sure. But, if you can maintain or even improve your fitness level you’ll be much less of a burden on your family.
You’ll be Healthier – The fact is that people who move more, eat healthily, and get outdoors are generally healthier than people who don’t. Even if you’re 55 years old you can feel as if you’re 35 again if you really want to and dedicate yourself to doing it.
The great thing is that it’s never too late to start. You can make a commitment today to add just a 5 or 10-minute walk to your day and it will make a huge difference in your life.
THE DANGERS OF A SEDENTARY LIFE
You probably already know that moving more is good for you. You’ve known it a long time or you wouldn’t be reading this. But, sometimes it can take some reality to set in before you’re ready. So, let’s look at the reality of living a sedentary life.
Poor Mental Health – People who don’t get enough exercise often suffer from depression and anxiety. It’s thought that the endorphins triggered by exercise are preventative.
Cardiovascular Disease – Not moving enough can be a big contributing factor to developing cardiovascular disease. When you exercise, you cause your system to work harder which improves its condition.
Migraines – People who don’t exercise regularly have a 14 percent more chance of developing migraines and having a lot of headaches compared to people who move regularly.
Cancer – Many studies show that lack of exercise is something a lot of cancer victims have in common. It doesn’t mean you won’t get cancer by exercising but you can reduce your chances by moving more.
Diabetes – Exercise enables your cells to use glucose and insulin more efficiently. When you don’t exercise you also lose muscle tone which causes problems with insulin sensitivity and can lead to insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes.
Gout – This is a very painful condition that can attack your joints. Most people who have gout don’t really like to exercise because they hurt so much but it’s a dangerous cycle. Exercising more can decrease attacks and improve your life.
High Blood Pressure – Always check with your doctor before exercising when you have high blood pressure. But, most people can walk and do exercise even if they do have high blood pressure and that exercise tends to lower the blood pressure over time.
Skin Problems – If you have issues with acne, hair loss, rashes and other skin issues and you’re living a sedentary life when you pick up the pace and move more you’ll notice a positive effect on your skin. The reason is that you get more oxygen during exercise, improved collagen production, and more feel-good hormones that make your skin look fresh.
Obesity – While your diet plays more of a factor than exercise in your weight, lack of exercise and living a sedentary lifestyle will begin to tack on the pounds in your later years if it doesn’t get you sooner. Every health issue listed due to a sedentary life will be magnified if you’re also obese.
Osteoporosis – The best way to prevent this bone-weakening disease is to not only move more but to use some resistance during moving. For example, swimming (the water is resistance) or using exercise bands. Once you’re used to walking more you can also add light weights to your legs and arms.
DVT – Deep vein thrombosis is a real threat to people who live sedentary lives. This is a blood clot that starts deep in the vein usually in the leg. It moves slowly through the body and if it reaches the lungs it will kill you. This can be prevented by moving around and switching positions on long flights or during sedentary jobs. Just ten minutes of movement every few hours can prevent this deadly disease.
Scoliosis – A lot of people don’t realize it but you can develop scoliosis later in life due to lack of physical activity. It’s very important to move your body every day at least twenty minutes to an hour to avoid these problems. This type of spine curvature can cause your limbs to become uneven, cause extreme hip pain, and a lot of other problems.
Lower Back Pain – The best prevention from lower back pain is a strong core and strong muscle tone. Lack of exercise and movement can lead to weak, stiff muscles that tend to cause or worsen back pain.
Avoiding these problems may not be in the cards for everyone even if they do exercise, but if you do move around more you’ll lower your chances substantially of ever developing any of these problems. If you already have any of these problems many can be reversed with proper nutrition and regular exercise.
WHY GOING OUTSIDE IS IMPORTANT FOR GOOD HEALTH
Besides exercise, the other component that improves health is getting fresh air. There is just something about being near nature that improves the spirit. But it’s more than an illusion, it’s a fact.
Increases Your Vitamin D Levels – Vitamin D is an important hormone for your body. When you are deficient in this hormone you will experience widespread body pain, weakness, and exhaustion.
Fresh Air Cuts Down on Illness – Breathing in fresh air and being in nature naturally helps you cut down on getting sick. Being cooped up is the cause of germs spreading fast during flu season. Getting outside is like cleaning your lungs out.
It Improves Your Mood & Outlook on Life – Nature is part of our needs as humans. We need food, air, and water – all part of nature and freely given by nature for your use. Without it you’ll feel down, and stressed out –with it, you’ll feel lifted.
Exercising Outside is More Pleasurable – While there are a lot of gyms you can join, something about getting outside is so much more enjoyable than sweating next to strangers in a closed room.
Improves Your Sleep Cycles – Insomnia increases with age. It is thought that one reason is that most people don’t get enough sunlight and natural light due to being stuck in office light all day. Getting sunshine, especially before noon can help you sleep better every night.
Indoor Air is Polluted – Even if you live in a comfortable home, it is likely that it is sealed up tight if you have air-conditioning. A lot of plastic and dangerous materials are used in building trades. But, going outside to breathe in fresh air can help eliminate the first world problem of polluted indoor air.
Being Outdoors is Good for Your Eyes – Many scientists are reporting that the less we go outdoors as human beings the worse our eyesight becomes. It could be the prevalence of ‘screens’ or something else. More than likely it’s just that our eyes need the sunshine and fresh air.
You’ll Improve Your Memory – If you find that you’re having trouble concentrating, go for a short ten-minute walk outside and you’ll return renewed, reinvigorated and ready for hard work. Your memory will improve and you’ll feel better overall.
You’ll Increase Your Energy Levels – Many people who are shut-ins or couch potatoes tend to have low energy. They feel run down and tired a lot. If this is you, you’ll notice that you have more energy in a relatively short period.
Even when it’s cooler outside, it’s important to go outside. If there aren’t any wind-chill advisories or freeze warnings going outside for an hour a day if it’s 32 degrees Fahrenheit or above. On the other spectrum, you can safely go outside if its’ 90 degrees or below without worry for an hour as long as you’re staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE THAT SABOTAGE GOOD INTENTIONS
Most people claim that they want to move more and exercise but a lot of factors go into play that causes problems and blocks success. Let’s look at a few of these factors.
Not Eating Enough – When you start moving more you will find that you’re hungrier. A lot of people avoid eating more but you should always eat when you are hungry. Just choose nutritious low fat, plant-based food to add to your diet.
Doing Too Much Too Fast – Many people overestimate what they can do or should do to benefit from getting up, moving, and going outside. It’s okay to start slowly and build up based on your current health and your goals.
Not Resting Enough – It’s important to take some time to rest after you exercise or even during. If you feel too winded, sick, or experience a lot of pain it’s important to rest and take your time.
Not Warming Up – Before you do any form of exercise it’s important to warm up. You can warm up by walking slowly, stretching, bending, and moving around before you push yourself into faster cardiovascular workouts.
Not Stretching First – Simple easy stretches should be done even if you’re not exercising. Take advice from cats. When you get up from laying or sitting take the time to stretch. You’ll feel better and you’ll create a healthy habit.
Not Focusing on Form – When you walk, swim, even when you bird watch pay attention to your posture. If you do activities with poor posture you can injure yourself which will make it hard to stick to your new active routine.
Not Staying Hydrated – Health adults need at a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day. Your body is made up of about 60 percent water. When you move more you’ll need more. If your body is not used to drinking water it will take some time to get your body accustomed to drinking more. Start with 64 ounces but don’t drink more than a gallon a day.
Not Adding Resistance Training – Studies show that adding resistance training increases resting metabolism, lowers your chances of injury due to building muscles.
You Think You’re Too Old – It’s very rare that you are too old to start moving more. Even if you’re 80 years old in a nursing home they will help you move more because it’s so important for your overall health, mind, body and spirit.
You Think You Must Do Harsh Exercise – There is no reason to do harsh exercise for anyone unless you’re a professional or amateur athlete. In fact, even among those people working out too hard has ill effects instead of good over time. Simple moderate movement is best for your health.
If you avoid these issues you can be successful with whatever plan you craft that will get you outdoors and moving more. The important thing to remember is that perfection is not something to reach for. Just doing it is while seeking improvement each day.
HOW MUCH MOVEMENT IS ENOUGH?
As you’re reading this you may be wondering how much movement is enough? The truth is that it really depends on your current health profile and your goals. There really is no magic formula.
However, there are some people who consider the goal of 10,000 steps a day to be the basic amount of exercise you need each day to maintain a moderate level of fitness.
A sedentary lifestyle is defined as less than 5,000 steps per day. 10,000 steps a day will help you become physically fit because it will require purposeful exercise and planning to walk outside of your normal work day.
The best thing for you to do is wear a pedometer during your normal days to find out where you stand in terms of movement. Then set small goals to increase your steps over time so that you can reach for that 10,000-step goal. Once you reach that goal you can then choose to add more if you feel you need to. But remember that this is just a guideline because some of the activities you do outside may not compute to actual steps such as swimming, for example.
Plus, keep in mind that depending upon your personal fitness goals 7,000 steps might be fine for your needs. Each of you is special and unique. Choose your goals based on your reality.
THE BENEFITS OF MOVING MORE
It might feel as if moving more won’t be very good for you if you experience any type of body pain. A lot of body pain that people experience is from being sedentary. You may have some arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other conditions but you can still move more unless your doctor tells you not to.
By moving more you’ll experience the following benefits:
As we age, balance becomes an issue if you don’t practice. One way to improve your balance is to practice standing with one leg up and keep it up without touching anything if you can up to a minute.
Try this now to see where you are in terms of balance, then after a few weeks of walking try it again to show how your balance has improved. Good balance will prevent dangerous falls happening later in life that can be life ending.
A Stronger Core
Your core is the center of your body. It’s your abdominal muscles. Having a strong core can make a huge difference in your health. You’ll experience less back pain, breath deeper, and feel more energetic. Having a strong core will help you move more as well as help you experience less pain overall.
As you age, strength becomes important because if you aren’t moving you’ll notice it waning. It becomes harder to get up out of your favorite chair, takes longer to get your knees to work right when getting up from a booth at a restaurant, and makes it impossible to avoid sitting on public toilets. If you move more, you’ll find that it won’t take long for strength to return in these areas.
Exercise causes the body to produce cortisol and adrenaline which also triggers the body to produce more white blood cells which fight off infection. Your body will produce more macrophages which fight off diseases, especially those of the upper respiratory tract. While you don’t want to push yourself if you’re sick, you should at least go for a stroll when you feel up to it.
Decreased Risk of Obesity
Most people who make movement a part of their daily lives, especially going outdoors, tend not to be obese. It’s easier to manage your weight if you can eat more food which moving more allows.
Balance, less back pain, more strength and higher immunity are all important reasons to get up and move more by stepping outside to do some sort of activity.
Plus, you’re going to be happier in general because exercise releases endorphins that make people feel good about themselves and the world.
HOW TO GET BACK IN THE GROOVE FOR MOVING
When you decide to get back into moving more it can seem like a daunting task. This is especially true if you are already experiencing a decline in health in terms of your energy and strength. But, anyone can get back into the groove for moving if they want to.
Start Slowly – Don’t try to exercise a full hour the very first day. If you’re starting from zero, you’ll want to move slowly and get out for ten minutes a day and then add to your activity level each time. If you are really out of shape, consider learning chair exercises to build up to getting out.
Open Your Windows – If you have air conditioning it’s tempting to just turn it on the moment it’s over 65 degrees outside. But, the best thing you can do is open your windows to get more fresh air. The fresh air will tempt you into getting outdoors.
Get Moving at Home – If you’re not ready to get outside to walk and move yet, start slowly at home. Get up and clean the house, open all the windows, turn on the music and get busy.
Ask for Park Meetings – If you have a park nearby your work and you know the weather will be favorable ask that meetings be held outside. That way, even if the meeting is as unproductive as most meetings – you’ll get the fresh air. One on one meetings can happen during walks. Win-win for everyone.
Find a Partner – If you have someone built in like a spouse who is also living a sedentary life it’s important to do this together. But, if you don’t, you should try to find someone so that you can encourage each other and hold each other accountable.
Join a Walking Club – In your area of the country, there is probably a walking club that you can join. Don’t worry about being an expert at walking. You can start at any level with a walking club. You can find a beginner walking club at The Walking Site.
Start Bird Watching – A great way to get outdoors and move is to take up bird watching. It takes the focus off the walking and puts it on looking at nature and beautiful birds. There are so many varieties of birds that you’ll find yourself transported.
Enjoy Gardening – Even if you have a bad back you can still enjoy gardening. Have someone build raised beds that keep you from having to bend too long and you can enjoy gardening again. Try butterfly gardening, vegetable gardening, and flower gardening.
Take Up Tennis – This is a game that you can play without competition with a friend. It’s not that hard to play once you get used to the movements. If you don’t know someone to do it with you, you can hire a tennis coach to teach you.
Throw Out the Leaf Blower – Instead of blowing your leaves away, get out a rake and do it the old-fashioned way. It’s not only good for you to get you moving more, it’s good for your lawn too.
Volunteer at a Dog Shelter – One way to get in your movement and do something nice is to help at a dog shelter. They always need people to walk the dogs and play catch with them. You won’t even notice the time passing as you play with fun dogs.
Park Far from Entrances – This is a little trick that you can do in your normal life to get more movement in. Just park far away from any entrance that you must enter. You can get hundreds of new steps in each day by practicing this regularly.
Start Ballroom Dancing – while this is generally indoors, it’s still a good exercise to do. The more you get involved the more you’re going to want to get out of your house.
Consider a Yoga Practice – Find a Yoga practice near you that is outdoors. This is the best way to do Yoga because it will make you feel closer to nature mind, body, and spirit. There are Yoga practices that fit with all levels, so you’re sure to find one that is right for you.
Go Swimming – One of the best exercises for everyone pretty much is swimming. You can swim in rivers, lakes, the ocean, and pools. Joining your local YMCA or Public Pool is a great idea if you want to start swimming.
Take the Stairs – As long as you’re relatively healthy and can comfortably walk upstairs without falling down, you should choose to take the stairs over elevators.
Take Your Lunch Break Outside – Find a park nearby that you can get to easily. Pack your lunch and go there so that you can get some fresh air each workday. When you finish eating, take a stroll through the park.
Something is Better Than Nothing – Keep in mind that you don’t have to force an hour a day of exercise. Instead, just focus on movement each day instead of being sedentary. Even if all you do is walk for ten minutes today it’s better than not doing anything. It’s all progress.
The best way to do this is to make exercise a fun activity instead of a boring one. Don’t do things you don’t like doing. If you like doing it, you’re going to be much more likely to do it. Not only that, if you have the right tools, shoes and comfortable clothing you’ll also be more likely to get moving too.
TOOLS TO GET & KEEP YOU ON THE RIGHT TRACK
One way to get moving again is to ensure that you have the right tools to get and keep you on track. You don’t have to buy the best or spend a ton of money. But, if you can afford these items it’ll make it all the more pleasurable.
Pedometer – There are a variety of pedometers today that you can buy from inexpensive to very expensive. Some of them don’t just clock your steps, some keep track of your heart rate, sleep patterns, and more.
Heart Rate Monitor – If you’re going to exercise hard, it’s a good idea to get a wearable heart rate monitor to ensure you’re meeting your goals but to also prevent you from working too hard.
Good Walking Shoes – This is probably the one thing that you should buy even if you put them on layaway. What is good for one person isn’t always good for the next so you will need to try different pairs to figure out which shoes work for you. Comfort is imperative if you want to keep moving.
Binoculars – If you want to take up bird watching, a good pair of binoculars is a great idea. You don’t have to get expensive, but there are some that take pictures too that are fun to have so that you can share your adventures.
A Walking Stick – If you’re going to walk outdoors it’s a good idea to have a walking stick even if you don’t need it for balance. There are often stray dogs, or even escaped family dogs, that might bite you. Having the stick to deter them will help.
A Safe Water Bottle – When you are moving around it’s a good idea to keep hydrated. The best way to do so is with filtered tap water. But, you need to be careful what you put it in. Get a stainless-steel bottle instead of one that is made from plastic.
Comfortable Clothes – When you move around what you wear depends on where you’re doing the moving. If you’re bird watching you’ll want to get good sunglasses, a hat, long but airy pants and shirts. Protect your body from bug bites, the environments, snakes, or whatever else will be in the elements.
Exercise Bands – One way to build your strength is through resistance exercise. No need to lift weights but some mild resistance will help. Resistance bands can even be used in your office or at home on days you can’t get out.
Yoga Mat – If you’re going to do any yoga get your own yoga mat even for outside yoga. If you do any inside yoga, ensure that you clean your yoga mat to avoid transmission of bacteria.
These tools will help getting out and moving more a lot more exciting and pleasurable. When you have the right clothing, shoes, and tools you’ll get the most from your new life of health, movement, and the outdoors.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE ALREADY SICK
Even if you’re reading this right now from your easy chair suffering from any of the illnesses mentioned it’s not over. To get started as soon as possible take these steps.
Step # 1: Get to Your Doctor
You need to get a full physical to ensure that you are healthy enough to start any physical activity. More than likely your doctor will clear you for exercise with few limitations.
Step # 2: Get Comfortable Shoes
Most people can walk even if they can’t do anything else. You may not be the fastest walker at first, but the shoes you wear can make a huge difference. If you’re prone to blisters, try wearing two pairs of socks instead of one to protect your skin.
Step # 3: Start Moving More in General
Even before you start going outside to get moving, you can start moving around your home. You can exercise in your chair if you need to. Get up, get moving, and don’t let yourself sit for more than an hour at a stretch. Do knee bends or planks while your microwave is heating up your water for two minutes.
Step # 4: Get Outside Daily
Even if you’re not exercising going outside is good for you. Even if it’s a little cool or warm outside going outdoors even for 20 minutes can make a big difference in your outlook. Getting outside daily will not only make you feel great but it will encourage you to move more.
Step # 5: Join Something
Whether it’s a gardening club, a bird watching club or a walking club join a group that is physically active. You can take up ballroom dancing, kite flying, model airplane flying, golfing, swimming, or anything you’ve ever wanted to do. If it’s physically active, you’ll benefit from making it a regular and important part of your life.
Step #6: Get a Buddy
We are all social creatures. Even if you’re somewhat of an introvert if you can find a partner to enjoy nature and moving more with you, you’re going to be more likely to keep it up for the rest of your life. Choose wisely because you don’t want a saboteur as your buddy.
Step #7: Understand the Consequences of Being Sedentary
There are some things we do to ourselves that don’t cause instant health issues. Smoking, eating too much, being sedentary all fit into this definition. It can be hard to face up to what we do to ruin our own health when the effects are so slow to show up. But, what’s great is that over time the results of fresh air and moving more show up fast too.
Step #8: Start Reading Motivational Books
Turn off the TV and start reading again. Make the reading you’re doing something that lifts you up and gives you the inspiration to reach your goals.
A book you should check out right now is:
The Compound Effect by, Darren Hardy – This book isn’t about exercise. It’s more about how the little things we do each day, over time, add up to a result. The result can be good or bad depending on the actions. It can help you visualize how your actions today affect tomorrow.
Step #9: Chart Your Progress
If you’re on social media you can use your Facebook to chart your progress. It’s fun to show off what you’re doing, and you’ll get a lot of encouragement from your friends and family. If you don’t want to put anything on social media use a chart for your wall or fridge that you mark with stars or smiley faces each day that you get outside and move for at least 20 minutes.
Step #10: Be Kind to Yourself
You are an amazing person just as you are right now. Moving more and getting outdoors will improve your health and make you feel more amazing than you are now. But, love yourself and be kind to yourself where you are now. You’re worth it.
Now that you know the who, what, when, where and why of getting up, moving more, and stepping outside you need to take the next step. Your first step was reading this, your next step should be going outside and moving more. It really is that simple.