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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Hey, Couch Potato | 10-23-2016
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Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Oct 23, 2016
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DianneErskineHellrigelIn the spring, I see an increase of people exercising, getting ready for bathing suit weather. Now it’s autumn, and thoughts go to cuddling up on the couch in front of the TV and drinking hot cocoa. But exercise should be an everyday activity, not just in the spring.

Low-impact aerobic exercise is great for fat burning, endurance building, and weight loss. Examples of aerobic exercise could be fast walking, hiking, basketball, jogging, biking, tennis, swimming, dancing and roller skating, among others. Daily exercise can help you improve your cardiovascular fitness, firm up those sagging muscles, and greatly improve your health and your appearance.

Exercise can help prevent you from having a heart attack, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, insomnia, depression, blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and dementia, among many other problems. Keeping a fit body and eating correctly can help improve the odds of you avoiding certain types of cancer, as well.

In addition to all of these health benefits, have you ever thought about how you might appear to the people around you? Are you considered a lazy slouch? Perhaps you’ve packed on the pounds from too much pizza and beer. Perhaps you’re less attractive than you’d like to be. People are always ready to pass judgement and be critical. And they’re usually 100-percent wrong. So, rather than trying to do something for them, do it for you. Exercise will increase your energy and help you lose weight.

14799733_10211449953183289_1422063528_oFar too many people make judgements about the people they meet from their first impression of how that person looks. If they see a belly, maybe there won’t be a second look. A few changes in behavior can solve this. Eat right, get rid of the fried foods, processed foods and sweets, and start an exercise program.

If you’ve never exercised before, start slowly. Don’t try to run a marathon your first day out. This can only lead to disaster and your return to the couch – maybe on a permanent basis. When you start an exercise program, be honest with yourself. If you’ve been a couch potato for 30 years, start slowly. You might consider just walking around the block every day until you’re comfortable with that much exercise. Then add a second block to your routine, and then another and another. You want to go slowly to prevent injuries. And you want to make sure that you wear the proper shoes that give you enough support but don’t bind your feet or give you blisters.

You must be comfortable. Don’t forget to warm up. Move every muscle slowly and stretch before you burst into a full-fledged run or other exercise. Treat your body with respect. Ease into every exercise. The last thing you want is to be laid up with a painful injury.

Once you begin your exercise routine and can build into it, try to aim for a moderate rate of intensity. You can judge if you’re “in the moderate zone” by your body’s reaction to the exercise. You should be breathing deeply, sweating a little, and you should still be able to carry on a conversation.

14786934_10211449953103287_1463148087_oIf you’ve been exercising routinely, keep it up. If you can, add to your routine. Try to do something daily, not just on the weekends. “Weekend warriors” can develop problems from sudden use of their bodies. People who are sedentary all week and suddenly do a marathon on Saturday have a high rate of injuries. Add a walk at lunch or after work every day. Or use an indoor cycle or stair stepping machine in rainy weather.

Vary your routine to use different muscles. This will also keep you from getting bored. If you hike or bike outside, choose different routes or trails. Notice the world around you. This will help keep your interest.

An example of varying your routine might be: Day 1 – Hike; Day 2 – Bike; Day 3 – Go up and down a series of stairs; Day 4 – Swim; Day 5 – Do water resistance exercises in a pool; Day 6 – Play golf-football-basketball-baseball; Day 7 – Use an exercise machine or lift weights. You should consider including strength training, flexibility (stretching) exercises and aerobic exercises in your routines.

Walking is another great form of exercise. People in Europe walk everywhere. They don’t drive nearly as much as we do. They walk to buy groceries, they walk to work, they walk, walk, walk. When you go to work, don’t take the elevator, use the stairs. When you go to lunch, don’t drive to a restaurant, walk. When you pick your child up from school, don’t drive, walk. Instill walking as a habit in your child, as well.

14813711_10211449952943283_1967269773_nEncourage your kids to exercise. Make it fun. Play games with them. Get them off of the computer and into a burlap bag for a gunny sack race. Remember how much fun wheelbarrow races were? There are many ways you can keep your child physically active. This is a problem I’ve seen with the new generation. They have no physical strength.

Although I advocate that everyone exercise every day, the CDC recommends that adults do moderate exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for at least five days per week. No matter how old you are, how young you are or what your physical condition is, there is something you can do. Even if you’re in a wheelchair, you can exercise your arms.

Lastly, take a look at why you don’t exercise. There’s a wide range of excuses I hear all the time:

“I have a bad knee” (or back, or arm or leg or ankle).

Solution: Find something you can do, such as a water aerobics class or exercises in a chair if your injuries are substantial. There is always something you can do.

“I don’t have time to exercise.”

Solution: If you can, do 10 short minutes three times a day instead of one-half hour all at once. Or break it down even further by taking the stairs at work, walking to lunch, etc.

14803186_10211449953143288_181631605_o“I’m so tired all the time, I just can’t exercise.”

Solution: See a doctor and make sure it’s not physiological. Then, if you’re fit to start exercising, start slowly, and you’ll find that exercise actually increases your energy level.

“I hate exercising. It’s just so boring.”

Solution: Find something you enjoy. Take a hike in a wilderness area. Look at the birds, the flowing creeks, the butterflies. If you like something, you’ll do it.

“It’s too hot to go outside.”

Solution: Find something inside to do. Walk in a mall, go to a gym, exercise with bands or weights in front of the TV. Find somewhere to move where it is cooler – maybe a pool.

“It’s too cold to go outside.”

Solution: Use a stationary bicycle, go to the gym or buy a jacket and embrace the snow while you ski or snowshoe.

“It’s raining outside.”

Solution: Buy a rain jacket, a rain hat, and rain pants and go for it. Remember when you were a kid and you used to jump in those puddles? I love to hike in the rain. It’s such a blessing that we even get any rain in California; embrace it and stop making excuses.

See you on the trail.

 

Note: Do not begin a new exercise program without consulting your doctor first. If you ever have chest pain, tightening in the chest, neck, jaw or pain in your arm, stop what you are doing. Call 9-1-1 and take two aspirins.

Drink plenty of water. Consume electrolytes. Stop exercise if you don’t feel well, you’re short of breath, or extremely tired. Visit your doctor.

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

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