Get on Your Feet!

Get up and make it happen: Add natural movement to your day

By Barbara Pierce

The reality of our lives today — for most of us anyway — means a lot of sitting, whether in front of our laptop, in our office, watching TV, or in our car. There’s no denying that we aren’t moving as much on a daily basis.

A few generations ago, we didn’t have electric garage door openers or remote controls for our TV. We got up and moved to complete a simple task. We had one phone in the house and ran to pick it up. Families owned one car, so we walked or biked to get where we wanted to go.

Most of us aren’t moving much these days and not using our muscles as much. Sitting too much is incredibly damaging to the human body.

This sedentary lifestyle is linked to a number of health issues, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression. Sitting for long periods is a risk factor for early death. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can lead to muscle degeneration, weight gain and back and neck pain.

The loss of strength and stamina that we might think are caused by aging are actually in part caused by less physical activity. “Move it or lose it” is right.

On the flip side, people who incorporate more movement into their daily life report higher energy levels, increased productivity, and a better mood.

For older adults, moving more helps maintain your ability to live independently. Falls are the No. 1 reason people end up in assisted living. Moving more increases your balance and stability to prevent falls. Moving more reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

It helps people with chronic, disabling conditions improve their stamina and muscle strength. Regular activity lubricates the joints, and that reduces the pain and stiffness from arthritis. Moving more reduces anxiety and depression.

Activity also helps your brain. Researchers found that individuals who walked three or more times a week had a 35 percent lower incidence of dementia than those who were not involved in any type of activity.

Moving more doesn’t mean gym workouts, or forcing yourself to do things you hate. It means adding simple movements as part of your daily life, so that you are getting up and moving regularly throughout the day.

Swing into action

There are some fun and easy ways to do this:

— Have the right mindset: Condition yourself more to sit less, to stand and move more. Stand up every 30 to 60 minutes if you work at a desk.

— Stand up or walk for phone calls: Talking on the phone is a great time to stand or walk. Just walk around the house as you talk, or head outside. Walking even two minutes every hour may offset the dangers of extended periods of sitting.

— Park further from the entrance at work or any destination: Most of us park as close as possible to the entrance. Instead, park further away and enjoy the brief walk. If you take public transportation, get off one stop earlier and walk.

Take the stairs whenever you can.

— Move while you watch TV: Nothing intense, just walk in place or do simple stretches.

— Play games or sports: Are there any sports or games you enjoyed in the past and would consider doing again? Remember yard games like croquet and badminton? Even a 10-minute game of tag with your kids or grandkids a few times a week will get you moving.

— Do your own gardening and yard work.

— Get a dog or volunteer to walk dogs at one of our local shelters.

— Consider a fitness program: A fitness program at a senior center is fun, keeps you motivated, and is a place to make friends.

Chair Pilates and line dancing at the Copper City Community Connection, 305 E. Locust St., Rome (previously known as the Ava Dorfman Senior Center) are available.

“Chair Pilates, Zumba, and line dancing are our most popular programs here,” said the center’s administrative assistant, Barbara Belmont. “Our fitness program is very well-received in the community. People can work at their own pace in whatever classes they enjoy.”

The wellness program offers many classes for members and nonmembers at all fitness levels.

“We have something for everyone at the Parkway Center,” said program director Shannon Holmes. ‘Stay Young, Strong Bones’ is our most popular, based on evidence that helps aging people increase their strength, energy and balance to look and feel better.”

“Our ‘Silver Sneakers’ is wonderful because insurance pays for the fitness center and program,” she added. “And if you loved tennis but can no longer play, consider pickle ball.”

The Parkway Center, 220 Memorial Parkway, Utica, offers drop-in rates for fitness classes so you can try a program before committing to it. If you’re unsure what class would work best for you, Holmes will sit down and chat with you about what you are looking for and what they offer.

Find ways you enjoy to move more every day and make it a habit.