No, You’re Not Too Old to Do Yoga

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How great would it be to have more energy and flexibility? Would you like to think more clearly, be more focused and relaxed? Want to feel stronger, and be healthier? Consider yoga!

You Can Get All That and More from Yoga

This ancient discipline takes many forms, and most of them can be modified to suit practitioners at any age or skill level, including those with disabilities, such as arthritis and limited mobility. Senior citizens and their caregivers may find it a practical solution to getting regular exercise. Yoga requires minimal investment in equipment, needing no more than comfy clothes and a yoga mat to get started. And while it’s a great idea to enroll in a beginner’s class, you can get a taste of its benefits with free video instruction online.

As time goes on, you may decide to upgrade and add a few props to your routine, such as slings, straps, and blankets, but these are entirely optional. One thing you may enjoy is setting up a special place in your home where you can practice stretching and meditating. You’ll want a quiet, comfortable, private space with minimal decoration, natural light, and soothing colors and textures. It isn’t necessary to have a permanent designated space — many people meditate and do yoga in their bedroom or living room — but having your own space makes things easier.

Use It or Lose It

We tend to reach peak muscle mass around age 30, but if we don’t exercise, we start losing it to the tune of about a pound lost per year. It may not seem like a lot, but the consequences for senior citizens can be disastrous. The condition is called sarcopenia, and it is responsible for loss of mobility and greater risk of fractures. But here’s the good news: this muscle loss is somewhat reversible. Resistance training exercises, such as stretching yoga poses, help slow the process by helping to build new muscle. It’s also great at slowing the progression of bone loss due to osteoporosis because yoga is such a low-impact workout.

A Growing Trend

Anyone can do yoga. There are many schools and styles to choose from. There is chair yoga, water yoga, and gentle hatha yoga, to name a few. You can start yoga after a lifetime of sedentary living and still reap many of its health benefits. Disabilities that might make more aggressive exercise regimens problematic are common occurrences in the yoga studios across the country, and the community is growing. The 2016 Yoga in America study found that 38 percent of yoga practitioners are over 50 years of age, and 74 percent of all practitioners surveyed were relative newcomers to yoga, with five or fewer years of experience.

A Spiritual Retreat

There’s another side to yoga. Its teachings provide spiritual and moral instruction focused on finding inner peace through love and compassion. Meditation is emphasized because it helps practitioners become mindful and present in the moment, as well as encourages positive thought processes. It teaches certain relaxation techniques, which can help to control the body’s response to stress and anxiety. Learning how to regulate these physiological responses reinforces self-discipline and good mental and emotional hygiene. Although yoga is not in itself a religion, it can be part of religious practice, as its tenets are compatible with most major world religions. It has been said that prayer is talking to God, but meditation is listening for an answer. Indeed, many people do yoga solely for the spiritual aspect, and report that they feel their creativity and inspiration are enhanced by the experience.

Taking care of another person is stressful and can be medically debilitating. Sadly, caregivers can have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than similarly-aged people not engaged in looking after a loved one. But senior citizens and their caregivers can enjoy yoga together.  As you scale the routine to your individual level of fitness and experience, you can work together side by side, but independently, saving time during a busy day. Yoga is a great way to encourage a closer bond of affection that will make you both happier and healthier.

By Jason Lewis

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The Benefits of Fitness in Addiction Recovery

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Photo via Pixabay.

When overcoming addiction, it can seem almost impossible to focus both on curbing your addictive impulses and maintaining a fitness regimen. Both involve a huge amount of self-control, and it is easy to feel like you do not have enough of it to go around.

However, fitness and addiction recovery go hand in hand. An exercise routine can help you achieve your recovery goals faster, while implementing practices that will make you less likely to relapse down the line. Here are a few ways that physical fitness can help you on your road to recovery.

Reducing Stress

Stress is the leading reason for relapse. Despite any progress they have made, people often will turn to their substance or behavior of choice as a coping mechanism to stress. This is one of the main reasons why exercise and fitness can be crucial to ensuring a full recovery.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is well-established that exercise reduces stress and anxiety. When your body is healthy, your mind is healthy as well. You are less likely to experience anxiety due to poor mental and physical health or lack of sleep, and when you do feel stressed you have a healthy way to deal with it.

Giving You A Routine

Several experts agree that routine is important to addiction recovery. A routine means stability and consistency, which are both cornerstones of many organized recovery programs. Having an organized routine also eliminates boredom, which can easily lead to you relapsing into old behaviors.

When creating your new fitness goals and habits, make sure to keep them structured. Define exactly when you are going to exercise, for how long and what you are going to do. Set yourself achievable and measurable goals that you can focus on and track as your physical fitness improves.

Improving Confidence

Physical fitness also can help your addiction recovery by improving your confidence and self-esteem. It’s not just about your physical appearance, although that is likely to improve as you become stronger. Achieving your fitness goals will make you feel in control of your progress. This means you are likely to develop a more positive, confident approach to other aspects of your life, including your ability to make a full recovery from your addiction.

Replacing Your Endorphins

People become addicted to certain substances and behaviors because they produce a rush of endorphins, which are responsible for the sensation of a ‘high’. Studies have shown that exercise is a great support tool for recovery because it also produces endorphins, meaning it can be a healthy coping mechanism for whenever you feel the impulse to relapse.

Prioritizing Wellness

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines wellness as a multi-dimensional concept, incorporating emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, financial, social, environmental and spiritual elements.

The great thing about exercise and fitness is that it can fulfill several of those needs at once. As well as obviously enhancing your physical well-being, you can improve:

  • Environmental wellness by exercising outdoors and in nature
  • Social wellness by working out with other people
  • Occupational wellness by deriving a sense of achievement from your progress
  • Emotional wellness by using exercise to reduce stress and practice self-care

By choosing to incorporate fitness into your addiction recovery, you are helping yourself lead a healthier life in every possible way, not just physical.

Maintaining and improving your physical fitness is a great way to support and enhance your addiction recovery. Exercise can improve your mental health, confidence and ability to cope with stress and boredom. Whether you decide to run a 5K or simply commit to a walk in the park twice a week, setting and fulfilling your fitness goals will help you on your way to a full and healthy life.

Beat the Blues With Winter Workouts

exercise with a friend Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

Going for a brisk run outdoors is a sure way to boost your mood and your heart rate. But brisk takes on a whole new meaning when winter weather hits. So, if you’ve had to move your workout routine indoors for the time being, here are some tips for staying fit, focused, and warm this winter.

It’s Worth the Effort

When you aren’t feeling motivated to move, just remind yourself of the rewards. Exercise can help you control weight and stave off ailments including diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancer, and even some mood disorders. Indeed, studies have shown regular physical activity can be an effective complementary treatment for conditions including anxiety and depression because it releases endorphins and other mood-boosting chemicals in the brain.  Exercise also helps reduce stress by naturally increasing levels of calming brain chemicals including serotonin and dopamine, among other effects.

Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also boosts your positive, motivating emotions, too. Part of this is biology—the body is regulating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with seeing and feeling the results of your efforts. For instance, setting and meeting goals, even if they are modest ones, can boost your self-confidence even before you start seeing the results of your efforts on the scale or in the mirror. And physical activity can provide a healthy, proactive way to take your mind off your worries.

Get Fit With a Friend

Exercising with a partner or a group can provide an even bigger boost to your social and emotional well-being. It is also a great winter-weather motivator because it increases your accountability to others.

Fitness partners or groups that share similar goals can also offer support, motivation, and often healthy competition, which all work to boost the likelihood that you’ll stick with an exercise routine, according to Experience Life magazine. They can also make a workout more fun and combine socializing and exercise for people who have limited time in their schedules for either activity. To implement this stay-fit strategy, consider looking for a partner who shares your objectives, whether you want to lose weight, build strength, try a new activity, or train for a specific event.

Or Get Healthy at Home

A home-based winter workout takes away almost all the barriers to staying fit, even for those who are self-conscious about how they look when they’re exercising. After all, you don’t even have to brave the cold to get to a gym or the crowd once you get there. Solo sweat sessions at home also save time and money because you don’t have to invest in a fitness club membership or take precious minutes to travel to and from the gym when your workout window is already narrow. And you can exercise absolutely any time that fits your schedule.

There are many methods to stay fit while staying home. For instance, if you don’t have a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical trainer, you can get a cardio workout just by jumping rope. Doing sets of jumping jacks, knee highs, squat thrusts, and the like will also get your heart going.  And you can stage a strength-training session using body-weight exercises including planks, crunches, push-ups, and lunges. Or invest in an affordable set of dumbbells or resistance bands to expand your weightlifting repertoire.

You can also practice yoga at home with little more than a mat. To polish and perfect your poses without spending any money, try checking out yoga DVDs from your local library or searching for free routines online.

Whether you prefer solo or social exercise, there are plenty of ways to stay warm this winter without putting your workout routine into hibernation. So turn up the thermostat and the tunes at home or find a fitness buddy and get moving.

Jason Lewis

Strongwell.org

jason_lewis@strongwell.org