Tag Archives: Fitness

Have a NEAT Day: A Book Review and Testimonial

shoes and phone

Here’s where you get to say “I told you so.” A few months ago, I finally traded in my flip phone for a smarter model. I’ve long resisted that switch, but Hubs was upgrading his iPhone, and AT&T offered a two-for-one deal. I have to admit, it was getting pretty tiresome answering long texts on my ancient flip-phone, and it’s nice having a GPS that I don’t have to update. My new phone also has a pretty accurate step-counter, which has unleashed my inner statistician. Today I have walked 7, 359 steps. That leaves me fewer than 5K to go.

I’ve had pedometers before, but they’ve all stopped working, miscounted my steps, or ended up in the toilet—those waistband clips aren’t as secure as they ought to be. After tossing the sixth or seventh one, I figured I should be able to keep track of my activity level on my own, right? But there’s a big gap between “should do” and “do.” My phone has turned out to be a real boon in my effort to increase my daily activity. I also enjoy the Duolingo app, which has taught me such valuable Spanish phrases as “How many elephants eat rice?” “He is a double agent” and “I cannot die.” But that’s another story.

It’s a challenge for a desk worker like me, whose favorite hobby is reading, to get up out of that chair often enough to stay healthy. Until I earn enough to buy that treadmill desk I dream of, I need to retrain myself to get up frequently. Going to the gym or taking a walk each day is good for my health, but is not enough to counteract the harmful effects of all this sitting.

Get Up book

Here’s the book review part: I recently read Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, by James A. Levine, M.D.  Kudos to Dr. Levine for making many, many scientific studies on the effects of sitting accessible to a lay audience. My take-away from this easy-to-read book is the importance of getting out of my chair and adding more NEAT to my life. NEAT stands for nonexercise activity thermogenesis: walking around, fidgeting, doing chores–all the movements, little and big, that our increasingly chair-bound, digitally enhanced lifestyle has eliminated. Of course, we all know that too much sitting is bad for us, but before reading this book, I didn’t really grasp the extent of the problem across prosperous nations. I certainly know, however, how crappy I feel during and after a day spent sitting at my computer, no matter how fascinating the reading/writing tasks I do there.

Although he sometimes wanders a bit in his explanations, Dr. Levine’s writing is entertaining and convincing. A true believer, he presents plentiful evidence of the damage done by our chair addiction, as well as practical solutions to avoid that damage. On Dr. Levine’s advice, I now walk slowly around my house or around the block for 15 minutes after most meals, in addition to getting my behind out of the chair more frequently. I heartily recommend this book to all my chair-dwelling friends and family.

How do you incorporate movement into your workday?

A Writer Battles the Butt Bulge–or–Get Up Off of That Thang!

 

I really need all this space for writing!

I really need all this space for writing!

We’ve all read the stories: Sitting is the new trans-fat (or sugar, or gluten—name your favorite poison). According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “A recent study suggested that sitting for prolonged periods increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death, even among people who exercise regularly.”¹

Well, y’all, guess what I do all day. It’s pretty hard to write fiction without spending several hours each day sitting. My mantra, posted on my wall, is BICFOKTAM:  Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard, Typing Away Madly. Plus, in order to improve at my chosen genres (blogging, women’s fiction, mystery) I have to read widely and voraciously in those genres, not to mention books, magazines and websites about the craft of writing.

I find that reading while pacing about the house is a good arm toner, especially if the book in question is heavy, but leads to stubbed toes and worse. I do have one piece of furniture at about the right height for reading in a standing position, and I can sometimes be found there, plugged into my ancient iPod, doing a little shuffling dance while reading. Somehow, though, I find it more difficult to concentrate when reading or writing in a standing position.

Research bears this out. According to a study by the Draugiem Group, “…for tasks which require a creative approach—for example, thinking about a possible coding solution, or writing a great article—then the urgency provided by standing is more of a hindrance. We found that for creative tasks, sitting and not paying attention to your corporal self was helpful in letting your mind wander and explore creative options.”²

And writing requires more surface area than my little sideboard offers; in addition to my little laptop, I need note cards, pens, coffee, snacks, pages of comments from my critique group, reference books…

I do go to the gym pretty often, but one hour of exercise doesn’t counteract spending the rest of the day in a chair—and I’ve got the butt to prove it.

My internet search for “workout for writers” and similar terms led mostly to writing tips and prompts—all very well, but that won’t get me out of my chair. I did find this one, good for improving blood flow and de-tensing muscles, but most of these exercises are performed while seated. http://hearwritenow.com/articles/health/exercises-for-writers/

In the meantime, I’m trying measures like these:

  • Set a timer at 30-minute intervals. When it rings, get up and clean something. I tend to ignore most housework until it reaches out and grabs me—say, my feet encounter a sticky spot on the floor. This technique could kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, if I can only force myself not to ignore the timer. Or,
  • If it’s not pouring down rain (I live in the Pacific Northwest), suit up and go for a walk around the block. Or,
  • When the timer rings, get up and dance vigorously to one song. Making a playlist for this exercise will be fun. I’m particularly fond of fast Latin music.
  • I could get up and talk to Hubs. He’s currently recovering from knee surgery, so he’s at home all the time, poor man, when he’s not in physical therapy. But once I get involved in a writing project, I tend to temporarily forget the existence of other humans. It’s good for me to switch focus for a ten minutes and go connect, preferably while standing.
  • At the end of a chapter, get up and do an online exercise video. You Tube is a rich source of these. My favorite there is a Lebanese belly dance workout that lasts twenty-seven minutes. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8j0htqi76g

Sparkpeople.com also offers a whole library of exercise videos. This twelve-minute Pilates abs     workout is tough: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/videos-detail.asp?video=96

So far, my results are spotty, but I’m making progress in getting my butt out of the chair more regularly. How about you? Do you work in a chair? What do you do to break up long spells of sitting?

¹ Prolonged Sitting Linked to Serious Health Risks, Death, AAFP

http://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20150127sitting.html

² We Tested Standing Desks—Here’s Proof They Make You More Productive, by Julia Gifford

http://readwrite.com/2013/09/26/standing-desks-productivity

 

 

 

Naked Ladies!

Does she need a towel?

Does she need a towel?

Whilst noodling around on the internet, looking for interesting blogs by women over fifty, I came across a funny bit about nudity in the locker room. Here’s the link, in case you’d like to read it for yourself: http://betterafter50.com/2014/03/10-reasons-to-wear-a-towel-in-the-locker-room/

I wrote a comment in reply and then realized that the original blog post was from March of 2014. This probably means that my comments of this blog post will never see the light of day—but how could I resist this juicy topic?

What the author of the above article seems to be saying, in a humorous way, is that she is very uncomfortable displaying what she perceives to be age-related flaws on her naked body, even in a setting (gym locker room) where nudity is to be expected, and thus she covers up her body with towels while changing, and she wishes we all would do the same.

I get it; I remember being quite shy about nudity when I was a kid and had to change for swimming lessons. I’d build a veritable tent of towels to keep from flashing any bit of my skinny body at my fellow swimmers. And when I joined the army at eighteen and had to shower in front of twenty other women—well, that took some getting used to. But we only had three minutes to shower during basic training, so I got used to it pretty fast. I remember girls who’d been athletes in high school rolling their eyes at our prissiness; they’d long ago gotten over fear of locker-room nudity.

What I don’t get is the idea, presented in the above blog post, that it’s normal to be ashamed of our aging bodies, and to feel bad about same when confronted with youthful bodies. In fact, I say that exposure to naked bodies in the locker room is beneficial to the sanity of all women and girls. Hear me out.

It goes back to swimming lessons—this time my daughter’s. You see, she grew up in Germany, where I worked on U.S. military bases. Germany is a dark, dreary place during the long winter months, but there are many lovely indoor swimming pool facilities available where people can shed their winter clothes and enjoy some warmth and wholesome exercise. And Germans are (wisely, in my opinion) much less hung-up than we about nudity in locker rooms and saunas. In fact, one must be naked to enter a German sauna; of course, one sits on a towel. I wish my fellow gym patrons in the U.S. would remember their towels and not plump their nude rumps down onto the sauna or steam room bench. But I digress.

While in German locker rooms, my daughter and I saw many, many naked female bodies, from tiny children to very old women. There’s nothing like in-your-face evidence to teach you that the human form comes in a great variety; something you’d never learn from looking at advertisements designed to make us feel bad about said variety. I’m glad my daughter got to see for herself, during her growing-up years, that the idealized female figure currently in vogue—slim hips, flat belly, big breasts, long, thin limbs—almost never occurs in nature. She saw that big, round boobs usually occurr on bodies with big, round bellies and butts. Slim hips and flat bellies usually go with slim, small breasts. We saw tall, gangly women; big, strong women; tiny, wiry women; round, soft women—all of them reveling in the joy of movement and the feeling of the water against their skin. I hope that this first-hand learning experience helped her to have more realistic expectations about her own body, and others’ as well.

Another area where all this nudity is helpful is in our understanding and acceptance of what aging does to the human body. Whether carefully groomed or blissfully unconcerned, every woman over 50 or so showed evidence of gravity’s effects, and time’s. But our German sisters seemed less concerned with hiding that as well. It’s normal, after all, for skin to be looser, for breasts to flatten out or hang lower after having nursed children, and so on. And it’s not hideous. In fact, even the bodies of very old ladies were not hideous. My daughter once pointed out how even the oldest ladies had smooth, white skin on the parts of their bodies that didn’t see the sun.

Really, what I took away from my exposure to all these naked bodies is that, underneath her clothes, no one looks quite as good as advertisements would have us believe, and no one looks quite as bad as our prejudices would have us believe. These naked ladies in the locker room just looked human. And I think it’s very good for girls and young women to understand what’s coming—not so they’ll be depressed, but so they’ll understand that youthful beauty is fleeting, something to be enjoyed when it’s here, but not something whose absence leads to despair. We have so much more to offer than our youthful beauty, and there are so many forces at work trying to convince us, and our daughters, otherwise. And so I say, here’s to naked ladies!

Fitness Goals Check-In

coach

On 19 June, I posted my goal of exercising for an hour a day. As a retired person with lots of free time at my disposal, there’s really no excuse for not spending an hour taking care of this body that I hope to inhabit for another thirty years or so, right? I imagine a stern coach exhorting me to get up and move, move, move. And besides, exercise always puts me in a good mood, which is good for my marriage and all my relationships. So, how’d I do?

So far, I’d give myself a B. From 19 June through 19 July I achieved my goal of a daily hour of exercise on twenty-three days. My activities included walking, running, spin class, Zumba class, weight training, belly dancing, yard work, and golf.

On the days when I didn’t meet my goal, I often had houseguests, family members I seldom get to see. Of course, I wanted to spend time with these visitors, and few of them wanted to (or were able to) devote an hour to walking. Then there were a few travel days, spent mostly in the car or in airports. There was the 4th of July, an important family day, and the Tacoma Blues Festival (also a houseguest day). There were also a few days spent preparing for travel or for houseguests.

On those days when I couldn’t/didn’t devote an hour to exercise, I did remember to put on my pedometer, and I did walk at least 15,000 steps over the course of the day. Does that count? Not really—I’d say that’s a day when I was active, but not exercising, since I never walked fast enough to require any heavy breathing. My goal is still to devote an hour of each day to moderate-to-strenuous exercise, not just walking around while shopping or cleaning.

Oh, I’m not giving up, but I’m a bit disappointed in how many days I’ve allowed myself to slide because of unusual demands on my time. And isn’t that always the case? We set goals, make good progress, and then along comes one of those unusually demanding days, and our new good habits are set aside. OK, sometimes we just have to cut ourselves some slack, but I suspect that I could do better at fitting in exercise on those difficult days. My inner coach doesn’t buy “I’m too busy” as an excuse. (For those of you who knew him, my inner coach is Denny Lemmon, who blows his whistle in my ear and exhorts, “Move your body!”)

It’s the old mama mode reflex: when I have houseguests, or entertain friends and family, or when a special occasion comes along, I slide into putting others’ needs and even preferences before my own. We mamas are conditioned that way, n’est-ce pas? But such conditioning is bad for our health. And when I give up my hour of exercise in order to prepare for a visit or celebration, I end up resentful of loved ones—a state they don’t deserve and I don’t want to inflict upon them. Better they do without me for a few hours while I go to the gym—then I’ll return in a happy mood and ready to enjoy their company.

So, back to the gym and my accountability calendar. Yesterday was my birthday, and I did not get that hour of exercise, though I had a great time with friends and family. Let’s see if I can make a solid week with no excuses. Gotta go—Coach is blowing his whistle.