What I learned from a locked-down yoga challenge

be move May 15, 2020

During this time in quarantine, I have been missing my physiotherapist. As an aging long-distance runner, let’s just say that in some weeks I see my physio more than my friends. I had come to the point that I looked forward to IMS treatments (a super painful acupuncture needling technique that releases tight muscles) as much as I looked forward to a good latte. But I had to suddenly give up my love affair with physio when, like other elective health services, my access to treatment vanished overnight.

Being a pragmatic sort, I decided to take on a yoga program in an effort to replace the treatments that had previously been keeping me moving. Although I have done a lot of yoga over the past 20 years, I had virtually given it up after developing a chronic hip injury almost two years ago.

When you’re an endurance athlete, you tend to approach any form of exercise as a long-term commitment. So, of course, I took on the 30-day yoga challenge. A month of yoga has always felt...

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Finding yourself eating more in quarantine? Try mindful eating.

be eat move Apr 24, 2020

Have you found yourself more “snacky” in quarantine? Are you reaching for all sorts of foods that you usually wouldn’t eat? If so, take heart in the fact that you’re not alone - it seems that most people I’ve talked to have had a significant change in their eating and drinking habits while in lockdown.

Before I go on, I need to point out that I am not a trained mental health professional or dietician and that those with problematic or disordered eating should seek out professional help. I also need to recognize and acknowledge the sometimes negative impact that my industry has had on the eating habits and body image of women. What I can offer is observations from a lengthy career in healthy living, which has included examining many food and diet fads.

I would have to write for days to outline all of the dieting trends that I have seen come and go, but here’s the hard truth – none of them tend to work long-term for most of the population.

...

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Practicing survival self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic

be lift move Apr 07, 2020

My parents were children when the Second World War broke out. They were both separated from their parents, lived through rationing, and regularly woke up to bombed-out streets. Although they didn't talk much about the hardships until we were much older, their early lives would have been considered in many ways, horrific by modern standards.

Looking back at my parent's time during the war, I know that their focus was simply on getting through the day. The battle was a signal that they were in a crisis and survival was key.

We may not be facing the same wartime violence, but the COVID-19 pandemic is a massive global change, and we are facing uncertainty, financial worries, and a growing list of causalities; there is still an enemy lurking.

We're all trying to find ways to get through this, and if you're anything like me, you might find yourself in a cycle of consuming. Consuming lots of unnecessary news feeds, way too much Netflix, and snacking on all sorts of things that wouldn't...

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Staying active at home as a woman over 50

move Mar 20, 2020

Like the rest of us, I’m assuming you’re finding yourself spending a lot of time at home. I’m encouraged to hear that many people want to use this time to try to do a little bit of extra exercise. I’m sure that you’ve likely seen a lot of information pop up on the internet about exercising from home. I want to take it one step further and introduce you to considerations for staying healthy at home for women 50+. Keep in mind that exercise is one of the best ways that we can keep our immune system healthy, which means that we should be getting creative to maintain our physical activity programs.

There are so many ways that we can keep working on our fitness from the confines of our home and community. Where I live, the authorities are still recommending that people can get outside to run, walk or cycle (as long you are not in a group).

I have a feeling that as things unfold, as they have done in other countries ahead of us in this process, the...

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Worried about catching a virus? Let’s start by strengthening your immune system.

move Feb 29, 2020

It’s hard not to worry about the threat of the coronavirus as it spreads in populations around the world. New, fast-moving diseases can have us looking a bit more closely at our own risk for developing an infectious illness.

You may have noticed that one of the higher risk groups for developing the coronavirus is in those who are over the age of 70. The immune system ages like other parts of our body, but in a process called immunosenescence - this is a complex process in which the body’s ability to fight off infection becomes reduced for several different reasons.

As with other types of ageing, immunosenescence doesn’t happen overnight, and our immunity can become compromised earlier in the ageing process. The good news, is that there is a surprising secret weapon that we can easily deploy against the ravages of an ageing immune system.

Although hard and prolonged exercise (think triathlon or marathon) can temporarily suppress the immune system, regular moderate...

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How human-powered commuting is one of the best health hacks for women.

move Feb 14, 2020

Happy Valentines Day! Although little cinnamon hearts are tasty, I'm here to talk about your real heart - the one that needs care and attention all year long. Although regular exercise is one of the best ways to improve heart health, not every woman can maintain an exercise schedule. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m also a big believer in getting small amounts of daily movement and breaking up sitting time. Breaking up sitting time and just moving more is a topic that is building a significant body of research to support the benefits of a less sedentary lifestyle.

A sedentary (or seated) lifestyle has it’s own health risks separate and apart from not getting regular physical activity, and health outcomes are worse even in those who do regular structured exercise but are seated for most of the rest of the day. According to the Sedentary Behaviour Research Network, “…physical inactivity is now the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S....

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Changing the way you walk may help you to live longer.

move Jan 18, 2020

You might be surprised to know that the speed that you walk can be reflective of how long you will live. As we age, walking speed tends to decrease. Your ability to walk is your key to independence; we likely all know someone who lost their independence concurrently with the loss of their mobility.

Walking is, in my nerdy opinion, an almost magical feat. We need millions of neurons, most of our skeletal muscles, and an assortment of small and large bones to all work in unison in order to take a single step. Add in energy systems and perceptual input, and you start to get a picture of how complex human movement really is.

When there is a change (or damage occurs) in any of the systems related to walking (like the changes that arise from a stroke or a hip fracture), the speed of walking can slow. Age-related decline (e.g., loss of muscle) can also cause you to slow your pace. Slowed walking speed in older women and ill health or reduced function are so closely related that some...

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Shopping for the post-holiday deals? Think of these nine points before buying winter workout gear.

move Dec 28, 2019

At this time of year, many of us are browsing online or in stores to find those post-holiday deals. If you intend to buy exercise gear, there are some things that you may want to consider before you pull out your Visa. Here are some ideas to help you narrow down your purchases.

I get asked a lot about what kind of shoes are best, what clothes are needed to get started in an exercise program, and what gear is necessary. The underlying question is really, “What do I need to purchase to get fit?” Like most answers that are health-related, I would say, “It depends.” It’s important to think not only about cost but also about which items are really worth the outlay.

If you are new to exercise, you may want to begin by reading my blog post about increasing your safety when starting a program. Otherwise, here is a list of some general things to think about when buying winter-specific exercise gear:

  1. Cotton is meant for towels only. There’s a reason that...
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Six ways to stay motivated to exercise in the new year.

lift move Dec 14, 2019

As the days get shorter and the holidays are now almost in full swing, I understand how hard it is to get motivated to exercise. It’s likely, however, that in January, many women will find themselves wanting a fresh start. The new year is always a great time to get back to an active lifestyle.

If you’re one of the people trying to make a change, I want you to be successful. Last week I talked about ways that you can deal with the issue of not having enough time in your schedule for physical activity. Today, I want to help you get over the second most-cited barrier to exercise; lack of motivation.

In a really interesting study looking at women who adhere to exercise long-term versus those who don’t, the researchers found some impressive results. The first issue for those who didn’t stick with exercise was attributed to them not having good enough fitness classes to attend. When researchers looked at why the classes might be an issue, they found that classes...

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Nine ways to change your relationship with time for exercise.

move Dec 06, 2019

My mother used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Nothing could be more accurate than for those trying to exercise regularly. All of us can put exercise on the backburner; I have a fantastic gym in my home, and I have days when I tell myself that I don’t have enough time to spend 45 minutes working out. Seriously.

 

If someone like me who promotes exercise for a living has problems dragging herself to a workout, what hope is there for those with less experience? The short answer is plenty. Here’s the thing - if I miss a workout, I know that I have a well-established program and an exercise habit that will have me out again tomorrow and the next day. I also usually do something to make up for a missed workout, like an extra walk or taking a few more sets of stairs.

 

For the women just starting who struggle to find time to exercise, take heart. Lack of time to exercise is the number one reason that most people cite when asked...

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