Tag Archives: stress

Keep moving. Especially now!

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (16)For each and every one of us, life is more stressful right now.  Our daily routines have shifted.  Nearly every aspect of our life is Affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

This is why we need to Keep Moving. Especially now:

  • Stress puts your body in a state where healing, repair and protection from illness are down regulated as it prepares to handle the ‘threat’.
  • Stress makes thinking clearly and creatively more challenging.
  • All that happens in your body during this stress response is preparing your body to move, to fight or flee the problem.
  • If you are moving less, and stressing more, your body has a lower defense against illness and your ability to creatively deal with the multitude of problems this situation presents is lowered.
  • Movement, that is stress reducing, is your best way to put your body back in a healing and protective state.

How to use movement and exercise to help you stay mentally and physically well right now:

  • For everyone:
    • This is not the time to greatly increase and challenge your body.    Doing too much too soon is stressful for your body and lowers its defenses.
    • This is also not the time to give up on exercise.  Adjust what you are doing so your body can help keep you well
    • This is a great time to start moving regularly if you don’t already.
    • Use exercise and movement to reduce stress.  That is most important right now.
  • If you regularly exercise
    • keep in mind that something is better than nothing.  Even shorter, less intense bouts of exercise can do wonders for you physically and mentally.
    • This is a great time to discover something new.  The internet is full of exercise programs.
    • Start slow and progress gradually with any new form of exercise so it is not stressful for your body
  • If you do not exercise regularly,
    • take small movement breaks for as long as feels good for your body to avoid prolonged stillness
    • at a light to moderate intensity for your breathing and muscles
    • repeat several times a day avoiding more than 30-60 minutes of stillness
    • move in ways that calm your mind, make you smile, and feel good for your body
    • Walk, dance, stretch, anything that feels good mentally and physically

I will continue to post information on this site about how to keep moving and be well during this pandemic.  Post your questions and comments below and let’s keep reminding each other to Keep Moving. Especially now.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

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by | March 18, 2020 · 2:45 pm

Strengthen your immune system; the role of stress and exercise

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (15)

There is a lot of talk lately about how to protect yourself from germs.  Certainly washing your hands and staying away from people who are sick is at the top of the list.    The irony however is that all this talk about preventing illness is causing a lot of stress and anxiety, putting the body in a state that is lowering defenses against the illnesses we are concerned about. Exercise, when used correctly, is the antidote to the stress response. It puts your body back in a state where it can defend against illnesses.  

When you are in a stress response, your body makes changes to protect you from immediate danger. It down-regulates the not so urgent work, such as digestion, repair and healing, and puts energy into getting ready to take care of the ‘threat’.  The way we are hardwired to defend against stress is to move, in order to fight or flee the problem.  All the things that happen in your body when you are stressed is to prepare you to move so you can fight or run away from the ‘threat’.  Basically, when you are stressed your body puts less effort into defending against illness and more effort into preparing to move.  Do you see the problem with this stress response in our modern day life?

Because most of our stressors are not helped by fighting or fleeing, and we have many constant underlying stressors, we can be in a chronic state of ‘ready to move’, rather than ready to defend against illness. We only add to that when it is stressful to get enough exercise, or we make exercise more stressful than it needs to be.  

Several studies show that you only need to do moderate intensity exercise, five days a week for about 20 minutes to enjoy a 40% reduction in upper respiratory infections. (This is even after they adjusted for factors such as age, marital status, gender, body mass index (BMI), and perceived mental stress.)

To use exercise correctly in order to help your immune system stay strong:

  • Listen to your body.  Do the amount, type and intensity that is just right for your body. When exercise is exhaustive, it can actually lower immune system function.   If exercise makes you feel better mentally and physically, (and not just because it is ‘over with’) you know you have found the right level.
  • Be consistent.  Something done regularly is much better than a large amount of exercise done once in a while. That’s because the way exercise strengthens your immune system lasts for about a day and improves as fitness levels improve.
  • Make it stress reducing.  You would not go for a pedicure or out for an expensive dinner with the mindset you just need to ‘get through it’, would you? Treat your exercise time like you would any other self-care activity.  When you set it up to be a treat, and your stress level is most likely to dissolve as you restore a relaxed state where your immune system can do its job.

Regular exercise is an important strategy for each of us, especially now. How you exercise makes all the difference in how well it reduces stress so your immune system can help you stay healthy and well.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | March 10, 2020 · 6:59 pm

Stretching: Three benefits you may not know (part 2)

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (6)

In the last blog, we covered how stretching helps your Lymph System function, which helps your immune system reduce the effects of being still and stressed.  The second benefit of stretching you may not know about is its effects on the Fascia System.   Fascia is the connective tissue that extends to every structure of the body. It intertwines and surrounds all organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibers, and enables all body systems to communicate with one another to maintain health of the body and mind.(1)

fascia

Fascia responds to mechanical forces, meaning it changes with how you hold your body during the day. It even changes with your emotions!  The above image is from a video called Strolling Under the Skin, that shows what this connective tissue looks like and how it changes with movement (this is a two-minute clip of a longer video also available for viewing). I find it helpful to hold the image of this webbing connecting the whole body when stretching. It is a reminder that when you stretch one area, you are not just stretching a muscle, you are restoring and re-connecting your whole-person.  

The important point is that fascia is always changing and adapting to what is happening in your body and brain moment by moment. Stretching helps the fascia restore its elasticity instantly, leaving you feeling more comfortable, free to move easier. The effects seem to last for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, which is another reason why stretching is best done as movement breaks through your day.  

In addition we are just beginning to understand the importance of the cells in the fascia system for our health, immune system function, and mental well-being.  Stretching is one of the most accessible ways to help your fascia system, and thus your whole body.  

Take a stretch break now, in a way that feels good (not painful), and notice the effects on your whole-person. There is still so much more we do not know about this system in the body. As I learn more, I will share it here on Keep Moving Weekly. In the mean time, keep taking those stretch breaks knowing the effects stretch way beyond your muscles.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | January 22, 2020 · 6:19 pm

Stretching: Three benefits you may not know (part 1)

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (5)

When you think of stretching exercises, what do you imagine?  If the thought of stretching sounds boring, a waste of time, or something you just are not flexible enough to do,  let’s take a new look at stretching and three benefits you may not know.  

The science of stretching lags behind the research on other types of exercise.  With less facts, we have more myths.  One of the biggest myths is that stretching is about making muscles longer.  The fact is, stretching has less to do with your muscles and more to do with three other parts of your body; your nervous system, fascia system, and  lymph system.

We will take a look at what happens in your body when you stretch over three blogs because with more and more research on stretching, there is so much great information to share.

Lets start by talking about the Lymph System

2202_Lymphatic_Capillaries_big

Lymph is the fluid part of your blood.  The vessels run right alongside your blood vessels. (see image).  Lymph vessels, just like blood vessels are spread out throughout your whole body.   

The lymphatic system’s job is to maintain a healthy immune system by absorbing fluid from the blood so it can be transported to the spleen. The spleen acts as a filter, helping your body fight infection and detecting potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses. Your spleen and your lymph nodes create white blood cells to defend your body against these ‘invaders’.

However, this important system in the body needs you to move for all that to happen. Unlike the circulatory system, your lymph system does not have its own pump. It relies on movement to move the lymph fluid through the body. Stretching can provide that movement instantly, even in the smallest vessels in the body.

The lymph system is one of the big reasons‘sitting disease’is a health concern. But the name is misleading.  The truth is,  sitting is not the problem.  The health strain on the body comes from the combination of  being still and stressed.

Stillness keeps your lymph system from working at its best.  Stress adds to the inflammation in your body as it prepares your body for movement to deal with the stressor.  So the combination of stillness and stressed allows inflammation, the precursor for many lifestyle diseases, to build up.  

For this reason, stretching,  not just taking steps,  is a great way to lower your risks from prolonged sitting.  Unlike ‘getting steps, stretching reaches even the smallest parts of your body where inflammation can build up.  If you just focus on getting steps you might be tempted to multitask them, rather than take a break from stress.   When done mindfully, stretching gives your mind a break 

brooke-cagle-QJ1j4HOdNtI-unsplashfrom the stress, giving your body a chance to clear inflammation. 

Give it a try this week.  When you have a time you are still for a while, take a big morning style stretch and imagine how your muscles are pushing on your lymph vessels giving them help with doing their job!

 

Keep moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | January 15, 2020 · 5:17 pm

How to keep moving and be well, even when life changes

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (4).png

I am totally dating myself here, but do you remember the song by the Brady Bunch “When its time to change you’ve got to rearrange”?   Remember the episode? They had a big recording session scheduled, but Peter’s voice starts to change.  It was so stressful. 😉 Were they going to be able to perform?  Maybe they should cancel? In the end they decided to embrace change and made it work!  (so inspiring!)   (If you are too young to know what I am talking about or just want to reminisce, here is a clip from the show)

Lifestyle changes are more challenging when we don’t account for the fact that life is always changing.  The weather, your schedule, the needs of loved ones, your body, are all in a constant state of flux.  When we set a resolution to exercise regularly, we don’t always account for this fact.  That new years motivation is so strong, we can forget that it is not just a statement, it is a way of approaching life’s changing nature.  If we don’t, when that dynamic state of life hits, it can seem like that resolution needs to go on the back burner until things return to ‘normal’.

Certainly, there are times we need to prioritize and exercise does need to go on the back burner.  This will happen more often when you think of exercise as a means to an end, rather than something you do to enjoy more of life.   When you think of exercise as a way to feel more like yourself through the challenging times in life, you are more likely to keep it as a tool you can use to stay grounded and reduce stress rather than a task to put off.

The key is knowing how much is enough to maintain your strength, stamina, mobility, and your sanity when life starts to get a bit overwhelming.

For your body, this is enough to maintain:

  • Strength training: one day a week and one set of your usual exercises.
  • Cardio: three days a week for 10 minutes at a moderate intensity.
  • Mobility: Stretching for even just a few minutes once a day.

For your mind, this level is also enough to churn up some great mood boosting, stress reducing chemicals in your brain.

Isn’t that convenient!

Bottom Line:  The way to keep moving and be well is to stay flexible with what you do, so when life changes, you simply rearrange.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | January 8, 2020 · 3:18 pm