Noyes News and Events

March 24, 2017

Time to Move and Groove

As a small child, I went to visit Grandma and Grandpa's house in Buffalo for one week every summer.  While there were some special outings during the week, much of the time was spent just doing life with Grandma.   Every day chores for her involved a lot of movement and activity.  Wash day was particularly labor intensive.  There was no automatic electric washing machine.  She had tubs for washing and rinsing plus a large wringer that you cranked by hand to squeeze the water out of the clothes before hanging them on lines in the basement to dry (yep, no dryer either.)  This kind of activity carried through to every part of her life from making kielbasa using a hand-cranked meat grinder to scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees.  Fast forward to 2017 and my grandmother, who has since passed, would be astonished at all the gadgets, appliances, and technology we use to do our jobs.  And my guess is she would be perplexed at the amount of time we sit.

Never in human history have people been so sedentary.  Machines wash our clothes, dishes, and floors.  Computers keep us in office chairs for hours on end.  Entertaining TV shows, movies, and computer games lull us deep into the comfy couch.  Modern life conspires against us.  We keep inventing products that keep us on our hind ends.  The end result is that many folks hardly move all day long and end up stiff and sore.  This is true for old and young alike. And while it might not seem like a big deal, motion is the magic ingredient that enables us to move safely and easily.  In order to avoid injury and disability, we need to move and stretch our muscles.  According to a recent Harvard Health publication, if you don't stretch your muscles, they will shorten.  Shortened muscles do not contract as well as a muscles of designed length which then puts you at risk for muscle damage, strain, and joint pain.  

One way to maintain flexibility, strength, and energy is to incorporate more movement into our everyday schedules.   In his book, Disease Proof, the Remarkable Truth About what Makes Us Well, Dr. David Katz writes "all physical activity is good activity. It can be sport or play; walking your dog or working the garden counts. Playing tag or touch football with your children counts. Dancing counts."  Whereas in the past, life automatically required movement, now we need to deliberately incorporate it into our lives.   Going to the gym or taking an exercise class is an option but that alone will not keep a spring in your step.  Moving throughout the day does a better job at keeping you flexible and limber.  Due to our convenience and technology oriented society, this does require some intentionality but it does not need to be hard.

Here are some easy ways to move and groove:

  • take the stairs at work (or anywhere you go that has stairs)

  • park in the farthest spot away from the mall or  grocery store

  • wash your dishes instead of using the dishwasher  

  • walk at lunchtime either in a building or outside

  • ride an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill while watching TV

  • lift dumbbells (or cans of beans) while watching a movie

  • get up at every commercial break and do something - walk, jumping jacks, stretches

  • meet a friend for a walk, bike ride, bocce ball, croquet, frisbee

  • scrub the kitchen floor the old fashioned way

  • wash your car by hand instead of going through the drive through

  • cultivate some hobbies that require movement such as hiking, birding, dancing

  • stretch your arms above your head and then bend down to the floor whenever you get up off a chair

  • rake leaves and sweep porches instead using a leaf blower

  • pull weeds instead of using weed killer

  • email or call less - walk over to your co-worker's office or the neighbor's house

  • nix the grocery cart; instead carry  a shopping basket for small trips at the grocery store

  • hit the deck and do push-ups and crunches for 5 minutes before your morning shower

  • get a dog and walk it two times a day

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or article suggestions, contact Lorraine at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.