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Keep Muscular Atrophy at Bay


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Strength training generally is associated with the “mirror muscles.” The mirror muscles can include biceps, that elusive 6-pack or muscular or toned legs. Those are great and all but muscles help us move not just look good. Muscles help us lift that bag of dog food up and into the trunk. These muscles allow us to reach down pick up a grandchild and play with them. Life involves strength. Life involves the power to come up out of chair with speed and control.

Atrophy is what we want to keep at bay as much as we can. When we are younger we may not be thinking about atrophy.  Atrophy is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “decrease in size or wasting away of a body part or tissue.” When it comes to adults as we get older is that muscular atrophy can happen as an effect of aging.

Here is an excerpt from a great article by Harvard Health about preserving muscle mass… “Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade…” Click here to read more of this article.

Strength training is for every age and gender. The amount of pounds we use when strength training may be less as we get older.  What should not change is the challenging nature of strength training. Gentle exercise does not keep atrophy as bay. Challenges are subjective when it comes to strength training. To keep muscular atrophy at bay for as long as possible incorporate strength training into your regime!

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How To Find Your Fitness Habit


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In my part time job at Golden Door Wellness Resort I work with a different group every week. Individuals come to the Door to heal or get stronger whether literally or figuratively. It is much more than a place to exercise. This special place offers an opportunity to recenter for those that want a mental or physical reboot or begin a healing process from life struggles or tragedies.

Of the guests I am matched with as their trainer for the week – physical fitness may be at the forefront of their visit or in the background. Some of these guests I work with either are facing physical limitations or want to avoid issues that family members are dealing with. Those that are in this mental space are searching for the key to core strength, increased cardiovascular capacity or more strength. Others know they should be doing something but are not sure what. Some don’t like going to the gym but know they should be doing something. Some have tried working with a trainer, jumping on the latest fitness fad or bought some equipment that is gathering dust.

If you can resonate with any of this I encourage you to do what works for YOU. These days you are assaulted with new fitness trends, new equipment and diet trends. There are ads or articles talking about how to just target certain areas of the body to reduce fat. Separate the wheat from the chaff.

Start with what works for you. I was brainstorming with a guest while hiking and she mentioned that she liked swimming. She does it occasionally. She felt that she should be running, doing core strength and strength training too. Now she was putting layers of things that she was not to excited about on top of something she liked doing – swimming.

We talked about parsing apart those and just focusing on swimming and getting an apple watch to count her steps. That did not stress her out. Start where you are now. Find that activity that you enjoy doing. Be “boring” for a while and stick to that activity. I told her, if she did 15,000 steps a day and got swimming in twice a week and stuck to that she would start feeling better. Then she could start with other things.

If you find yourself stuck, put aside the pressures of what you think you should be doing…instead do what you can and want to do.
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The Scarlet Letter B


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You know that story. Here is a super duper short cliff notes version… a girl has to wear the scarlet letter A and it is not fun. It is her badge.

When we read that story we all knew we did not want to wear that label around. Not only would others make opinions about you but also you would internalize it. Our goals, aspirations, and joys rarely find their way to us in a straight line. We have struggled with different modalities. The challenges can be mental, physical, financial or a mixture that includes other ones.

What this short post is – it hones on your body. Your body is there for all of life. There are emotions tied to how we move. There are emotions tied to when we can’t move how we want to. A temporary physical setback like stubbing your toe is annoying. After that sore toe heals, it passes it can be a mere afterthought. Bigger things like chronic pain and discomfort in your knees, hips, or shoulders can affect your daily life. Especially if you can see a scar or your gait is noticeable you have a constant reminder. It can be an understatement that this is frustrating.

It can be easy to start attaching that emotion to your body parts. It is like a personal version of a check engine light that is on in your car. You know there is something wrong and there is a constant reminder every time you turn the key. As for your body every time you roll out of bed or do a certain movement you may be unconsciously “protecting” when you move.

Describing that body part is tied to emotions. Instead of your left or right shoulder, it becomes the bad right shoulder. There is an expectation and assumption that it will cause you pain or discomfort in any way that you move it. I have worked with many people that use that description when I am working with them. I have them switch to that side or move in a certain way and they will say out loud “oh this is my bad side.” Sometimes they will feel what the expected, and sometimes they will not and be surprised. Either way, I correct them and I urge you to describe it as your “other side.”

Especially when you introduce variations of a movement, practice breathing or mobility techniques you can be surprised by how you feel. You may not be using your full range of motion, but you are moving in a way that is with less discomfort or pain. Wearing that scarlet letter B can hinder you being open to the possibility that you can move in ways that are better.

I challenge you to try every day not to put that that scarlet letter B on every time you wake up and go on with your day. Find ways to move. Find ways to move differently. Be open to learning ways to move that can reduce comfort or pain even if it is a 10% difference. You just may be surprised by the outcome over time.

 

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Better Movement in San Diego


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Your generation deserves to be physically able to do what you want and like to do. You deserve to be challenged so you can live life on your terms as long as possible. It is not an anomaly for baby boomers in San Diego and other generations to be strong, resilient and active while enjoying their retirement or enjoying work. There are four areas that you should be investing your time in when practicing better movement: Strength, Balance, Mobility & Cardio.

Strength

In a podcast, I heard recently Dr. Jonathon Sullivan spoke to the necessity of strength training of older adults. Nothing rings true more than this:

“The loss of muscle mass in aging adults is nothing short of a health catastrophe…”

If you are not strong enough to get out of a chair, pick things up, move yourself and other things it can drastically affect your quality of life. Sometimes individuals tell me that they don’t want to get “too muscular.” You need that muscle. It is important to continue or start training now to be stronger. It is never too late to do some form of strength training.

It can be intimidating walking into a gym. You may not know how to use the equipment. It can be a scene of loud noises, egos and so much going on. Most gyms will provide an introductory tour and show you how to use the equipment. That may not be enough. Perhaps it is better for you to work with a qualified professional to show you not only how to use the equipment but also what you can do without machines to increase your strength.

Wherever or however you choose to work in maintaining or improving your strength – using age as your excuse as to what you cannot do will not get you stronger. Often strength training can help you reduce pain, improve movement and indeed confidence. Do you need proof?

The deadlift may have a special name..but you do a version of deadlift every time you pick things up off of the floor. It is a full body movement. You don’t need to be a powerlifter to do some form of this so you can continue using your legs and posterior muscles to move. Here is the story about this woman. Click here to read it.

Balance

I use the example of a program running in the background when it comes to balance. When everything is going well we don’t really think about balance. But when our balance begins to erode it can take actual concentration to ensure that you don’t fall over. Regardless if you think your balance is good or not – challenging it and practicing better balance is important to better movement in life.

Generally, when we think about balance training it is standing on one foot and balancing. Sure that is a good way to perform balance training. You need to start where you are and if that is very difficult then practice it, and be mindful of your posture at the same time. At the same time, consider that movement is part of everyday life. When you are moving you are using your balance. Often balance is part of a complex movement.

Want to see an example of such a complex movement?

I challenge you to fight that initial reaction you may have that you cannot do this. This and most if not all exercises can be broken down into steps…then once someone is ready they can begin to link them together. I don’t downplay that this movement is challenging…there are so many more things in play here than just balance: single leg strength, coordination, core stability, body awareness…. That is everyday life activity!

The statistics for falls is staggering. Click here to check out the stats on the National Council on Aging website. Balance training is one of the pieces of the puzzle to help reduce chances of falls!

Mobility

What the heck does mobility mean?

In the words of Pete McCall in his article in ACE Fitness online magazine he describes joint mobility as something that:

“…relies upon a constantly changing axis of rotation. The muscle, fascia and elastic connective tissue surrounding a joint function to create movement and provide the stability responsible for controlling joint position while it is in motion. Optimal mobility allows a joint to experience full, unrestricted motion while controlling the constantly moving axis of rotation.”

Let’s back up a bit and make sure you understand the knowledge that he is sharing. I will put it in plain words, your optimal movement is when you can move your joints in a path and way that is natural and optimal for your body. This includes things like being able to raise both hands above your head or hip movement that allows you to comfortably walk, run or move without having to compensate how you move elsewhere.

Often I have found it useful for individuals to do some movement in different directions to help improve mobility. It does not need to be groundbreaking, but it can help you reconnect with your body. This is something that everyone, including myself, needs to do more of. If you make time to exercise in its various forms…making time for mobility work is imperative.

Take a look at some of Ruth’s movements below.

 

Cardio

I put this here because you may be expecting or looking for it. Perhaps you do cardio. Walking, treadmill work or hiking. This can be a good way to get outside. This is a great way to relieve stress and get some vitamin D. There are many benefits to cardiovascular training, check out this great article here.

My advice is this. Don’t feel as if you need to become a runner. If you are walking, hiking or running mix things up. I have heard comments on the fact that someone is walking so many minutes a day and is not really seeing any results. Obviously, there are other factors in play..but what is your walk, hike or run like? Change up your intensity, add some incline, or start timing it to see how far you can get in a certain amount of time. Volume – aka the amount of time you are walking or distance is not the holy grail.

Above all, I encourage you do get your cardio in. However, start at the top of the list! Get stronger. There are is a substantial cardiovascular benefit to strength training. Check this article out.

Wrapping it up…

This is not an exhaustive list of what you should be doing to improve your quality of life. That would be too overwhelming! 🙂 Being physically active and incorporating strength training, working on your mobility, challenging your balance will lead you on a good path to continue to be able to live life on your terms. In San Diego and elsewhere, I challenge you to invest the time in various forms of movement!

Lastly – if this all sounds interesting to you… Click here to learn about and sign up for the: Baby Boomers Better Movement Workshop here in San Diego!!

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3 Movement Lessons You Could Take From Children


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There are lessons on movement that we can take from the generation that is still learning how to function in a world that we are so used to navigating.  Here are three lessons that we could learn from them.

  1. Explore your world on your hands and knees

Generally speaking, children crawl, scoot and move around their world on their hands and knees before they can walk. When is the last time you have been down there? Crawling itself is a great movement that is great for your entire body including your brain. Perhaps you do cat camels/cow stretch on your own or in yoga class. Take a step further and just move around. Stretch your neck, legs, and torso in ways that can get your vestibular system working on more cylinders. Vestibular what? Viola… watch and learn below.

Explore the Original Strength Youtube page for good material. Also from a trainers standpoint…if you got down to the floor, you have to get back up again! It is important that you practice getting down to the floor and back up again. This is an easy thing to do until it is not, then practice how to do it in ways that your body allows.

     2.  Do what you enjoy doing

Children have a gift of tunnel vision and are in the moment (yes for better or worse sometimes!). They enjoy little things, big things and all kinds of things. How does that pertain to you? You don’t have to follow the crowds and walk into a gym if you are not comfortable there. There are many ways that you can exercise that doesn’t involve going into a large gym. You could think on the smaller scale and look to see if there are some more boutique gyms that have a welcome environment for you to benefit from some personal training from. If any kind and size of gym is not the most welcome to you then try sports leagues like tennis or golf. Running clubs often have running groups for all levels and probably one for certain age brackets too. Think you are too old to run? Ask Ida Kneeling about that…

   3.  Do some unscripted movement

I dare you to turn some energetic music on and see a child not start reacting to it. Dancing is not the only type of movement that can be unscripted. They also run or move their bodies in various ways.  If you have space get outside and get your hands dirty in the garden. Nobody is out there telling you when you move to the next station or how many reps to do when you are doing yard work. However, there are so many functional movements in yard work. If you don’t have space or ability to cultivate some life outside then find ways to move that don’t have to do with the stereotypical aspects of exercise. Volunteer, help build houses, find ways to move that you enjoy and can reconnect with your body.

Need some more advice from someone older? 🙂

 

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Start Where You Are…


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It would be an understatement to say that Arthur Ashe, the first black male tennis player was quite an accomplished individual. There is a great quote of his that will be the underlying theme for this post…

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”


Start where you are

  • Start at your current fitness level.
  • Be honest with yourself as to what you can actually do right now.
  • Wherever you physically are, accept and appreciate that.
  • If you are in a place of discomfort because of inactivity accept what you did to bring you to this moment & be empowered that you are doing something about it now.
  • If you feel as if your quality of life and fitness level is good…what are you doing to ensure that it stays that way?

Use what you have

  • Join a community! It could be… a gym, dance class, water aerobics class, or even an online group that holds each other accountable.
  • How can you alter your sleep schedule to get 7-8 hours of sleep?
  • How can you improve what you are eating or your portion sizes?
  • What equipment do you have available at home?
  • What exercise equipment can you get to use at home?
  • Are you already a member of a gym but not using it? It is time to cash in on that investment or use that money in a better way to help your quality of life.

Do what you can

  • Find a sustainable way to improve your quality of life. You can either make sacrifices or investments now…or be forced to do them later.
  • Hire a personal trainer.
  • Get a qualified nutritionist on your team so you are more educated that what you are putting in your body is good for you, specifically.
  • Do you have a gym membership that you are not using? Cancel it and use that money in a way to improve your quality of life that you actually use!
  • Obviously what you can do financially to invest in your health has to meet your budget. Recognize that investing in your health starting now can have positive benefits in the future…but not overnight.
  • Avoid the instant gratification pitfalls. Better movement takes time and consistency!
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Baby Boomers Guide to Better Movement – Vol 2


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Do Complex Movements

Everyday life activities involve complex movements. Rarely do we isolate one specific muscle when carrying out our daily lives. Not convinced? Think about getting into a car. There are many ways to get into a vehicle depending on how high it is off the ground. However, we don’t just sit down like we do into a chair. At some point, at the least – these things are in play: balance, flexibility, agility, and strength.

Thus, moving better in life involves incorporating complex movements. Walking is more than just using your legs, it also incorporates balance and agility when there are obstacles in the way. Think of these complex movements another way…often when we do move in life we move with weight or moving weight. Carrying groceries, pushing a shopping cart or picking something off the floor are all ways we move that are complex movements. So don’t overthink this idea!

With all of that in mind (pardon the pun)…your ability to perform these movements is something that is not just physical but mental also. Practicing movements is good for your brain.

Examples include:

  • Lateral lunge/step to the side to balance.
  • Squat to medicine ball push out.
  • Performing standing curls or presses with a foot stance that challenges your balance.
  • Starting at the 1/2 kneeling position and then coming up to standing.

 

Be Able To Get Down To The Floor & Back Up

The ability to bring yourself all the way to the ground and back up to standing is probably something that was an afterthought when we were kids. As we get older we may not play as much especially if we don’t have kids or even pets. When the kids are old enough that getting on the floor is not a priority you may not do it as often. For some individuals getting to the floor is not only difficult but it is scary…because they are not confident or able to get back up. This is something that I want all of my clients and you to not be afraid of doing.

That inability and/or lack of confidence is huge. That can greatly increase the chances of falls and injuries. Looping back into the previous section of complex movements…this for sure is a complex movement!

For some ideas on ways to practice this click here. However you do it, don’t worry if it is not perfect. Practice makes better. The more you practice and have that confidence the more you can keep the chances of falls low. If it is easy for you there are many ways to make a floor to standing exercise more challenging.

Do What Works For You – Consistently

It is easy to be assaulted with what works in regards to better movement to improve your quality of life. You may have friends or family that have found success with certain workout routines, diets or gadgets that keep them on track in regards to what they should be doing. End of the day those that tout their success have one thing in common – consistency.

When you just walk every once in a while or go to an exercise class when the spirit finds you then it is not a recipe for progress. It is true that sometimes you may not feel like doing that activity. It is important that you stick to a consistent schedule of movement. It does not have to be the same thing, but a consistent schedule of movement can reap many benefits. You will see that over time there may be a plateau of your progress. When those times happen do not fall into the trap of automatically choosing more volume of whatever activity you are doing.

Variation or variety can be your key to maintaining your quality of life or improving it. For example, instead of going for a leisurely walk outside or on the treadmill – increase your pace. In this instance stick to the mileage, you usually cover and ramp up that intensity to add that variation to your usual walk and make it more of a challenge.

Be Attentive To Your Hearing & Vision

What do your hearing and vision have to do with better movement? Actually much more than you may think…other than the obvious. Everything is connected! Poor vision can negatively affect your balance. Click here to read more about that. This is about your vestibular system.  Curious to know that is involved with that amazing function of our bodies? Check out this overview of the human balance system.

Your ability to hear is connected to more than just than that sense. Hearing loss can bring an increased risk of falls. Yes! Read more about it here.

Don’t Neglect Stability 

First, let’s start with a definition of stability and go from there. American Council on Exercise defines it as: “the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.” Feel free to read more about it here.

Does that help? If not – think about this idea. Think about owning a movement. I am sure you are familiar with the basic dumbbell bench press. The person is on their back on a bench and pressing two dumbbells up and bringing them back down. For sure, there is a time and place to move those weights up quickly. On the other hand can that person “own” that movement and slow it down a bit so there is less momentum so they are forced to be in control of the entire exercise.

What kinds of exercises can improve your stability? Honestly in the right situations slowing down the movement so there is less momentum is one of the best ways to do that. Another example is the dumbbell curls. You could throw up that dumbbell and let gravity pull it back down and do as many reps as possible. Yet a test of stability that is the foundation of strength is raising that dumbbell with the control without much momentum.

Build Your Core Strength and Stability

The core is much more than a 6-pack. Your core muscles are more intertwined with your body outside of that square area below our chest. Learn more about your core muscles here.  Our posture, how we move, sit and carry out our daily life all fires off our core muscles.  A good way to keep lower back pain away is to do core strength and stability exercises. This does not mean doing crunches all day.

Sure you may know about crunches. I personally am not a fan of them as it can lead to neck pain and does not really hit multiple areas of the core musculature. I am a fan of the dead bug exercise. I could write an article about why I do…but why recreate the wheel? Check out Tony Gentilcore’s article about this and also study his videos on mistakes people often make.

Also, all core exercises should not be on the ground. The reason is that we also are using things like balance or strength when we do utilize our core muscles…so why not do that when we are challenging our bodies to improve our core strength? Check out some examples below in the video.

 

 

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Three Things You Know You Should Be Doing But…


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There are things that we know we should be doing that help improve our quality of life and general health. They are pretty simple. They are often not the most glamorous, page-turning or exciting things. Yet any fitness trends latest drugs or instant gratification aside – not doing these can affect our health in negative ways.

Start with what you know….give yourself credit. You know these things. Be better at doing them. Forget about waiting for new years…every day is a new day!

Drink More Water

You can search for yourself all of the statistics of how much water is in the body, how much water we should drink a day and the like. You know you should be drinking more. You don’t need to watch an exclusive news report or some talk show to get this groundbreaking news. You know this.  Every day you restart your intake. This is a lifelong habit. Making excuses that your organs, skin, brain, and body pay for is not good.

water infographic insta

Get Enough Sleep

Sure, it can be a struggle to get enough sleep every night. Life happens. Stress happens. Insomnia happens. But just letting things run their course and not trying to find a sustainable way to get 7-8ish hours of sleep a night is a bad path to travel. Regardless of how healthy you eat, how rigorous of exercise you get or health craze that is working for you – that can’t replace giving your body the chance to heal, rest and regenerate. Check out the graphic below and click here to read more.

sleep_deprivation_effects_pinterest_crop
Graphic Credit: Healthline.com

 

Move Your Body

Yes you know you should. Your body was never made to sit, ride in a car all day or sit behind a desk. The days are not behind you where you can benefit from exercise in various forms. Your body was made to move. Click here to read here an article posted by American Council on Exercise about just that.

Just move. If you are not a fan of the gym then find some other space or activity to take up. Click here to read a great article posted by Tim of Original Strength about this.

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Balance: The Program Running In The Background


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Your computer, phone or other technology that you use has things going on right in front of you. You make calls, work on documents, send e-mails or other things when you make use of that device. You don’t need to know how exactly your device works to know that there is usually something else going on the background. We usually realize that when things slow down because the program in the background is affecting the main task at hand.

Shifting the focus from your technology to your own body – let’s think about the technology of you. You are out to run errands. You walk out to your car and while shifting something in your hands to free the others you then open your car door and get in. You get to the store, shop and come back home.

The entire time. Every step. The program of balance was running. It ran in the background keeping you steady and on your feet while moving, shifting your weight and carrying things.

Usually, we only notice that a program of balance running when it becomes the main focus or concern of a movement. For instance, you are walking on a narrow surface and want to avoid stepping off of the edge. Or you are balancing with one foot raised to see how long you can do it. Especially when you trip on something and are trying to avoid falling it is a focus. Your focus is all about your balance and moving without falling over. On the flip side, we also notice our balance when our ability to keep our balance while moving has eroded. For example, you notice when you have to really concentrate on not falling when changing direction quickly, getting in and out of a chair or just walking quickly.  All of these instances could be a signal that your balance has eroded.

There is no need to wait until you notice the signs. There is no benefit to waiting and increasing the risk of falling. Also be aware of other things to check like your vision, medication you take or even your hearing. They can negatively affect your balance.

Click here to read about a study that reported how impaired vision can affect your balance.

Click here to learn about how medication can negatively affect your balance.

Click here to find out about research that links hearing loss can increase the risk of falls.

Be proactive. Find ways to dynamically challenge and improve your balance.

Click here to go to the Balance Video Series and find ways to improve your balance.

 

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How Much Do You Want it?…A Better Quality of Life.


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I had a great soccer coach when I was in High School. He turned our team around from dismal seasons to a nearly undefeated record. He instilled in us the drive to improve and to work together during that process. One of the things he said a lot was, “ how much do you want it?” He wanted to pull out of us that drive to be a better team with more wins and more success for the school. His saying can ring true to many aspects of our lives and ambitions.

Often clients answer their own questions when it comes to things that should change to meet their goals. I worked with a woman in her mid 40’s that was in good shape but she wanted to lose some weight. She had a respectable exercise regime of 4 days a week and she was no couch potato. I asked her what she was eating these days. She blurted “oh I love sugar, I know that is my problem.”

She answered her own question, but she still wanted a tough workout to help her lose weight. Sure she could use some tweaks to her workouts. But she quickly admitted that those yummy m&ms were a large contribution to her weight gain. She still kept eating them. How much did she really want to reduce the sugar in her diet?

Another quick story. I hiked with a woman that used hiking poles during her hikes. They can be a great tool for those that do walk. Her balance was pretty good from the brief time I was hiking with her. She mentioned the next day that she noticed that her balance was not what it used to be. She wanted some ideas about exercises she could do to improve her balance when she had the time. I proposed that she leave the hiking poles in her room for her hike. Why? She could also use that opportunity during a hike to practice better balance. Yes, she would have to go a bit slower and focus. However, hiking was the perfect opportunity to improve her balance. It may be a bit uncomfortable and should have to go slower – how much did she want to improve her balance?

When it comes to improving the quality of your life there is no magic pill, 30-day turnaround or one-size-fits-all workout. It takes time. Especially if you have lived years of inactivity, ignoring tightness and pain or only wanted to do easy exercises you may be facing a wake-up call.  The truth is that it takes time, effort and patience to improve or maintain the quality of your life through fitness. Wanting a better quality of life should not influence unsafe or unhealthy ways of forcing the issue.  Improving the way you move is one habit to get into. There may be other lifestyle habits that you may need to learn (or unlearn!).

The benefits of taking this motivational saying to heart reach far to our everyday life. It does not have to be perfection. It does not mean working out 7 days a week and on a strict diet of broccoli and water (which sounds pretty miserable!). It means making small choices that add up to improve your quality of life.

Drink more water. Move more every day. Get enough sleep. Reduce the amount of sugar you are drinking and eating. Get stronger. Improve your balance. Move in different ways to challenge yourself. Enjoy how you move better.

If you have physical restrictions consult qualified professionals that can give you ideas on how you can improve the way you move. Make time to improve the quality of your life. Stop making excuses on what you don’t have time to do. Stop using your age as an excuse.

How much do you want it? 

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