Hi, Dr. Henry DC from Austin’s TexStar Chiropractic is back with you here to offer insights and actionable activities that you can take to improve your health and overall quality of life. Before we get started, if you currently suffer from back pain, knee pain, or a host of other injuries, please contact us immediately. Allow us to assess your condition and share how countless people like you are returning to a true quality of life via chiropractic care right here in our Austin clinic.
In a recent blog post, we talked about ways to boost your metabolism and touched briefly on good old-fashioned exercise. After a great suggestion from a neighbor I wanted to dive deeper into that subject this month.
The Good News
Short of stopping smoking, adding exercise to your routine is one of the very best things you can do for your health long term. The research is clear, regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to add active years to your life expectancy. It’s also one of the cheapest and easiest things you can do for your health.
The National Institute of Health defines active life expectancy as years of life without disease and without physical and mental/thinking disability. This is an important distinction from just life expectancy because we aren’t just trying to add more years, we want more years that we can enjoy.
Our genetics only makes up about 1/3 of the equation for active life expectancy (at least to about age 90). The other two thirds come from a combination of lifestyle choices but especially nutrition and exercise.
One of the big problems I see in my Austin-based chiropractic care practice is people who have been inactive for long periods due to injury or lifestyle often don’t know where to start. Some are in pain, some have issues with balance or mobility. Lots of patients I talk to have even gotten bad advice including recommendations for limiting activity due to arthritic conditions. That last one is especially dangerous because current research shows very strong evidence that inactivity worsens arthritic conditions.
Overall the big challenge is knowing what kind of exercise to do and finding the motivation to do it.
I’m going to give you some general rules and ideas on how to get started. I’m hoping that the mountain of research available will help motivate you to get moving and add some high-quality years to your life. If you would like more information on exercise or nutrition for aging or you just need a little help with motivation I highly encourage you to check out the National Institute of Health’s program on healthy aging at https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/ (or you can just google go4life and it should come up).
When designing your exercise routine, you should focus on four main areas and choose at least one activity from each area that is matched to your current fitness and ability level.
The UK’s National Health Service recommends 150 minutes a week of exercise that raises your heart rate, makes you breathe harder, and feel warmer (moderate aerobic activity). That breaks down to 3 hour long walks a week and for us lucky Travis Country residents we just so happen to have a great three-mile loop with sidewalks the whole way. It’s just Travis Country Circle and the part of Republic of Texas that connects the two ends. See Below:
The NHS recommends that in addition to endurance exercise you should do some form of strength training 2 days a week for each muscle group (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). Strength training is any type of repetitive motion that pushes your muscles toward fatigue. The easiest way to do these are to use your body weight to do things like pushups, crunches, and squats. But for those of us that have a harder time getting up and down off the floor, light weights can be used from a seated or standing position. The key is repetitions. To gain health benefits from strength exercises, you should do whatever activity you choose to the point where you find it hard to complete another repetition.
Balance becomes more and more important as we age. There are three body systems that control balance. The first is your eyes, the second is your inner ear, and the third is proprioception from your feet. All are critical but as we age, proprioception is the control mechanism that suffers the most and needs the most maintenance to continue functioning properly. We have sensors in our feet that use the nerves in our legs and spinal cord like a telephone wire to tell our brain what the surface we are standing on is like: flat, uneven, a hill, etc. Our brain uses this information to fire the muscles in our legs and core to keep us from falling over. As we age, those nerve sensors and pathways get slower and the communication can get a little mixed up. To combat this, we must use those nerves as much as possible. This means challenging your balance often. There are lots of things you can do at home like standing on an unstable surface while exercising or heel-to-toe walking. But one of the very best researched things you can do to improve balance and prevent falls is Tai Chi.
oStretching is one of those things that we know we should do but we often neglect. It’s easy and the general rules are to start slow and it should not hurt when you are done. When you stretch you should hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds because it takes that long for your muscles to start to relax if they are contracted. To get the most benefit each stretch should be done 3-5 times and be progressively deeper.
We are just scratching the surface here but hopefully this will pique some interest and motivate you to get an exercise plan in place. Be sure and check out the Go4Life website and don’t forget that we have some great fitness options in TC including amazing greenbelt trails, two lap pools, tennis and basketball courts, and a great neighborhood to walk through and say hello to your neighbors.
If you have a specific condition that is making it hard for you to exercise or you need some advice on modifications that will work for you, ask your doctor or if you don’t have one, our practice offers free consultations. Feel free to call and set up a time to come by and chat with one of our Austin-based doctors of chiropractic. We can help you get moving!