We’ve built five healthy habits in the last few months for our 12 Steps to a Healthier You Journey. If you’re still practicing them, keep up the good work. If you’re struggling or have stumbled on a few, keep trying.
Every day is a great opportunity to make a new start.
Now, let’s talk about moving on to step six. And when I say moving, that’s literally the next step we’re taking.
We’re not going to sign up for the next Ironman competition or even a marathon, but we are going to move our bodies more with simple exercise. If you suffer from chronic pain, like I do, this can be harder than it sounds. It’s important to stay active for many health reasons, but too much activity or the wrong kind of activity can actually make me feel worse and set me back in my health goals. But over the years of battling chronic fatigue and pain, I’ve learned a few tricks. I’m going to share them with you, and if you have any to add, please post them in the comments. We need each other!
The hardest step to moving more is to get started. When I’m tired and achy, which is sometimes when I just get out of bed, I know going back to bed will probably not help much. In fact, it may make me feel worse. Instead, I do some of my warm-up exercises to loosen up my tight muscles. I deep breathe through the stretching to get some oxygen to my brain. And I keep moving. That’s right. I don’t go on a morning run, but I stay up and move slowly around the house. The low-key movement, combined with stretching and breathing, helps ease my body into the day. Don’t underestimate the impact simple exercise can have on your day.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t always taken this approach. There was a time when my morning routine consisted of moving from the bed to the couch, and then gradually, in sloth-like movements, made my way vertical and eased into the day over the course of an hour or more. The pain and stiffness and crushing fatigue made every movement, even every thought, overwhelming. That was no way to exist, and it certainly did nothing for my family. That’s when I re-evaluated my lifestyle and began to make changes. Small changes, at first. Then, bigger changes as I improved and caught a whiff of hope that I might be able to make it back to a more normal life.
After warming up for the day, lets look at more ways to be more active. During the school year when I’m homeschooling, I spend a lot of time sitting at the table with the girls. I make a point to get up every 30 minutes or so and walk around the house. I may go do something in the kitchen while the child I’m working with finishes some independent work. Or I may just get up to stretch. The most important thing is to not stay sitting for very long. The stiffness sets in again which brings on the fatigue and irritability.
If you feel irritable a lot, do you think it’s just because you’re in a bad mood or because everyone is being especially annoying? Well, sometimes people can be annoying, just saying, but it also could be because your body is feeding that mood when it isn’t active enough or when underlying pain sets your mood on edge. Rather than giving in to the grumps, look for triggers that kick in before you get grumpy and do something about them.
If it’s stiffness, remember to stretch throughout the day. A simple exercise or two adds up to a more flexible day.
If it’s pain, we’ll look at natural remedies in another step that can help. Don’t forget to drink more water to help hydrate muscles. Try drinking lemon honey tea or golden milk. The turmeric really helps reduce chronic pain and inflammation.
Above all, do not give in to the bad habit of a bad mood.
Okay, away from that rabbit trail. How else can we move more? When we lived in a neighborhood, I walked almost daily. Some days it was only a block or two, but I did something. Walk at a comfortable pace to begin with. Don’t push yourself. My philosophy about exercise is rooted in the belief that I should feel better when I’m finished than when I started. I don’t buy the no pain-no gain creed at my age and with my health. Pain means I may miss more than I gain.
The tortoise won the race against the rabbit simply because he kept going. The rabbit lost the race because he sprinted ahead and took a nap. Naps are great, but they don’t win the race.
I also walk a fair amount when we run errands. When I had small children, I always looked for the parking space closest to the door because I had to cart enough stuff (little humans and accessories) to supply a small village for a month. Now that those humans are capable of self-transport and carrying their own accessories, I can park a little farther from the door, preferably a spot with shade. We live in Texas where the temperatures range from definitely hot to hotter than Hades nine months out of the year. So, shade is worth gold most of the time. Those extra steps add up for your simple exercise goals.
In stores and at work, consider taking the stairs over the elevator or escalator. Now, lets be sane about this. One of my client’s offices is on the seventh floor, and I park in a five-story underground garage. I do not take the stairs at the garage (creepy!) nor in the building (the doors are locked-safety hazard?). But my job as a network administrator keeps me on the move quite a bit. I’m just saying here to look for ways to get some (safe) extra steps in rather than taking a lot of shortcuts.
This week’s challenge: Move! Walk. Stretch. Breath deeply. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park further from the door. Walk a block or two every day.
This is just the warm-up for Step 6. We are on the move and nothing is going to stop us!
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