by Dr. Tina Marcantel
A few years ago I had an inspirational patient who came in to see me regularly for wellness care. She was in her eighties but she still had a youthful vigor and she would proudly demonstrate how she could bend to the ground with straight legs and lay her hands flat on the floor between her feet.
When I asked Cecile the secret of her energy and flexibility, she told me she had years before seen an interview on the news of two ninety-year-olds who were getting married. The man told the reporter that his prescription for staying healthy into his advanced age came down to two words: “Keep moving!” Cecile had taken it to heart and made a point of following that advice every day.
If you’ve been relatively sedentary lately, here are some suggestions for getting more flexible and fit that are very doable.
Yoga is a great start. You can find lots of online videos for beginners that will get you going. Don’t worry about looking like the person in the video—you can adapt any yoga pose to something that is comfortable for you and gradually try to improve your poses as you practice. For extra motivation, join a beginner’s yoga class for the comradery and support it provides. Some benefits of a regular yoga routine:
- Improved flexibility
- Improved balance
- Practicing purposeful breathing
- Calming the mind
Stretching is another excellent practice. While you’ll do plenty of stretching in a yoga class, I have found another program that has been a big help to me. It’s called “The Egoscue Method” and it was developed by the physiotherapist Pete Egoscue years ago. His progressive series of gentle to moderate stretches are designed to both promote flexibility and bring the skeletal frame into proper alignment to reduce chronic pain. I’ve benefitted quite a bit from this program in the relatively short time I’ve been using it, seeing a big improvement in flexibility and reduced pain, particularly in my hip and knee joints. You can find these books and videos practically anywhere.
Walking, in the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” You’ve probably heard of the benefits of walking before, but here is a list from the Harvard Health Publishing website that may surprise you:
- Counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes.
- Helps tame a sweet tooth.
- Reduces the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Eases joint pain.
- Boosts immune function.
Studies show that most of these benefits can be achieved by simply walking at a brisk pace for 20-30 minutes a day 4 or 5 days a week.
As we roll into 2024, I encourage you to make your health a top priority in your life and the best way to do that is to Keep Moving!