Because I am aware that limiting mentalities affect my ability to thrive, I am actively invested in shifting my perspectives about what it means to be productive, healthy, and successful.
This week’s blog post tackles the misbelief that we need to choose between doing all or nothing when it comes to building practices and shifting perspectives around our physical health. Guided by the concept some is better than none, I combine my personal healing journey with medical and scientific research to provide you with practical methods for building exercise and posture habits that celebrate big and small goals.
Shift Your Perspective on Exercise
When it comes to exercise, I believe that some is better than none. You’ve probably heard the recommendation that we should shoot for 30 minutes of exercise every day. However, due to ups-and-downs in scheduling, health, energy levels, or simple preference, sometimes 30 minutes every day isn’t doable. Although I agree with the Mayo Clinic that “brief bouts of activity offer benefits,” I think the answer is more complicated than “if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead.”
I do agree that shooting for one 10-minute walk is good, two is better, and three is great, but we should avoid the black-and-white thought that we fail in our exercise habits if we don’t hit a total of 30 minutes every day. And medical professionals agree with me. According to the American College of Cardiology and Medicine Today (a peer reviewed clinical practice journal), doing short periods of exercise or exercising only one to two days a week can lower heart problems such as cardiovascular disease, lower cancer rates, and extend lifespans.
Posture is a Whole Body Experience
In a subconscious attempt to manage the pain that came with my muscular issues, I resorted to slouching and bending forward, which puts pressure on my organs and cause problems with digestion and cramps. It also causes more back pain, which undermines my intention to feel better in the first place because it prevents me from strengthening my muscles.
According to the Harvard Medical School, “weak core muscles encourage slumping, which tips your body forward and thus off balance.” Murat Dalkilinç states in the TED-Ed video, “The Benefits of Good Posture,” that extended poor posture “inflicts extra wear and tear on your joints and ligaments, and makes some organs, like your lungs, less efficient.” Dalkilinç breaks down the steps for assuming a better posture in the video starting at 2:40. If you’d like to read more about how posture affects our bodies, check out this article on gut health and digestion and this article with a list of the ways posture affects our broader health, including mental health and productivity.
Finding an Exercise that Worked for Me
When my sacral and pelvic floor pain developed in early 2017, I found myself physically unable to do my favorite exercise, spin class. Doctors told me that I should not consider spinning again, at least for a long time. I was so bummed out, cancelled my gym membership, and thought I would never again experience the joy I found on the spin bike.
A few months ago, I took a leap and signed up for private yoga and stretching sessions with Suzie Goldstein at River Valley Yoga. These sessions satisfy two of the things that I loved so much about spin class: the motivation to hit new personal goals (and the joy in hitting them) and the physical sensation of engaging my muscles. I do an intense stretching and yoga session once a week, and I feel challenged, motivated, and get a kick ass workout. Suzie practices Iyengar yoga and is hands-on, so she teaches me how to realign my posture, increase my flexibility, strengthen my weaker muscles, and teaches me workouts I can do at home.
Set Achievable Exercise Goals
When I added my yoga and stretching exercise regiment to my schedule, I prioritized time and energy to complete it. Some days, however, I can’t fit a full 30+ minute routine in, either due to heightened pain and tiredness or the need to prioritize other things first. Instead of beating myself up for this, I adjusted my goals, shooting for doing my stretches four to five days a week instead of all seven and prioritizing my most important stretches for 5 to 10-minute practices when I can’t do the full 30+. This way, I feel proud of myself for doing what I can do, rather than focusing on what I can’t do. My body receives benefits, and my self esteem gets a boost, too.
Pair Posture Practice with Other Activities
There are few things I love more than feeling like I’m getting a double bang for my buck. So, I love the act of practicing my posture while I’m walking (triple bonus points for doing it while I’m walking my dog!). Because practicing my posture helps me strengthen muscles, I count this practice as a part of my exercise practice. If going for walks is not on your interest list, you can also pair posture practice with actions like washing dishes or sitting or standing at work.
The goal here is to keep my mind focused on the activity of repeatedly correcting my posture when it falls out of place. I focus my attention on my head, shoulders, core, and feet (this article includes a good how-to on those actions), which helps me to build muscle memory so good posture becomes a habit. You can also write post it reminders that say “Posture!” and hang them around your home and office.
Check and Adjust Your Posture Frequently
One of my goals last week was to build the habit of repeatedly checking my posture. If I started to feel back pain, I immediately reevaluated my posture: was I standing with my feet about a fist apart and under my hipbones, grounding myself in the outer edges or balls of my feet, raising my body up from my ribs, with my shoulders back? I know those movements help me to maintain good posture for my body because Suzie taught them to me during a yoga session, but if you do not have access to a physical therapist or yoga or pilates instructor, you can find a guide for correct sitting, standing, and lying down postures on the American Chiropractic Association’s “Maintaining Good Posture” page, the Mayo Clinic’s “Good Posture Tips” page, or by doing a Google search for “good posture.”
*Please note that the original version of this blog post was published here.
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