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Incorporating Your City And Life in Your Exercise Routines

London Eye Stretching, September 2019 by Irena Grgona

To celebrate national yoga month in the USA and my love of movement, we share some evidence based tips (and photos from my own daily self-care routines) on how to incorporate your work environment, your city, nature and your life as part of an exercise plan.

Why is movement so important to wellbeing?

Did you know that ‘chronic sitting’ can have worse effects on your health than smoking? In her book ‘Sitting Kills, Moving Heals’, Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division provides ground-breaking scientific evidence as to why sitting has such adverse effects on our health. A large body of evidence highlights how chronic sitting increases your risk of disease and early death “independently of your fitness and other healthy lifestyle habits”. In this article we share how you can incorporate your life and environment to build a good self-care and movement practice.

If you have a physical impairment or are in a wheelchair, you can also benefit from our tips in a modified version. I am continuously learning on how to cater to diverse groups from my ongoing work in clinical settings with neuro-diverse patients and those who are disabled.

Benefits of Moderate Movement on Body and Mind

A 11 year longitudinal study showed that only 1 hour a week of moderate exercises decreased symptoms of depression by 40% in that group.

10-15min a day including walking can improve mental health, add years to your life (including to smokers) and be tremendously beneficial for those struggling with chronic diseases.

Camden Canal, London, September 2019

Benefits of Walking

“We were designed to squat. We were designed to kneel. Sitting is okay, but it’s uninterrupted sitting that is bad for us.”

Dr Vernikos

If you don’t like exercise, then walking might be for you! You get to oxygenate your cells! It is strange that despite all the evidence available on walking, we are increasingly glued to our chairs, desks and sofas.

Dr. Levine, co-director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and Arizona State University recommends that for every one hour we sit down we add 10 minutes of movement.

“The nature of the human body was to be active and moving all day. The body was never designed to be crammed into a chair where all of these cellular mechanisms get switched off.

Dr Levine

Mounting evidence shows that walking for 20 to 25 minutes a day can add anywhere from three to seven years to your life span. Smokers who walk regularly may also add four years to their life by walking regularly.

Walking has been shown to be beneficial to those suffering from chronic diseases as well as help with problem solving and creative thinking! If you suffer from chronic diseases (such as obstructive pulmonary and or cardiovascular diseases)and has helped lower risks of Type 2 diabetes.

Blending Your Life Tasks, Environment and Self-Care

“We are not designed to sit continuously. We are not designed to be in quasi-microgravity… It’s not how many hours of sitting that’s bad for you; it’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is GOOD for you!”

Dr Vernikos

Many of my clients are juggling multiple priorities: dropping kids to school, early morning or late night work calls, project deadlines, long commutes, travel, caring for loved ones and many other daily demands. Others might suffer from physical or mental ailments and have longstanding difficulties incorporating movement and breathing in their life.

Because of these pressures we often think that we need to carve out exercise time and sometimes we do. However, one small shift which could make a difference to your well-being and self-care practice is to use these to your advantage! Here’s how!

Views from Big Ben ‘The London Eye”, London, September 2019

How to Blend your tasks, life and movement

Have you thought of incorporating what is part of your daily life and travel into your exercise routines?

It takes me 1.5 /2 hours cycling to and from work with a short train ride. To ensure I train I incorporate the cities I find myself in, their landmarks and nature sites in my workout on my way to meetings, to work or even when I go out. I always incorporate movement where I can.

Camden Lock, London, September 2019
  • # TIP 1 – Leave in your active wear on your way to a meeting, work or when dropping the kids to school or as you pick them up. Many of my collaborators, partners and clients like that I arrive in my active-wear when we meet in town or in venues! Sometimes we meet in our active-wear to discuss projects too! One activity I have not tried yet is I have a meeting on a boat on the Thames! I look forward to this experience.

Westminster, London, September 2019
  • #TIP 2 -Take your bicycle, folded bike or wheelchair on the train or hire one on arrival and drop it at your destination: many train now allow bikes, identify landmarks, check out cool local spots. You might need to do some research before you leave but it’s worth the effort!
Photo: Asif Khan
Surbiton Station, Surrey, August 2019

  • #TIP 3 – Do not let the weather stop you: invest in inexpensive waterproof jackets, trousers and gloves and walk or cycle in all weather. It is much fun!
Waterloo Bridge, London, September 2019
  • #TIP 4 – Identify parks, landmarks and other beautiful spots: wherever you are and enjoy not only the environment but your stretch and being active! I have met some interesting fellow cyclists and runners on many of the bridges I cycle through!
Waterloo Bridge, London, August 2019
Surbiton Park, Surrey, England, July 2019

#TIP 5 – Book a meeting room: at work before your work day starts, at lunch time or towards the end of the day and do some exercise. Many employers now store yoga mats, meditation pillows and have included wellbeing as part of their wellness strategies. If not, have you thought of starting a class?

One person left me this lovely painted stone (above) as a gift once when I returned the next day on this bench!

The Thames, London, September 2019

# Tip 6 – Include your co-workers, family, friends and your children in your practice when you can: Many co-workers might share the same interests or love the same sport as you. They might also have the same challenges in terms of fitting their practice and so you can inspire and motivate each other.

Colorado, USA, June 2019 (Lunch time Hike with students before afternoon session)

Invite those who might share similar interests to you on a lunch time hike, share lunch at a local park near work. If there are no parks, find a bench, wall or tree (!). Be creative and have breakfast and walk together to work!

Bourgogne, France, August 2019
  • Children are inherently playful, curious, love being connected, moving and learning new things. If they see you practice they might ask to take part. Why not practice together and carve out special connected time? Above my nephew joined me on my practice regularly.
Westminster Bridge, London, September 2019
  • Wheelchair or Bed bound: helping this group requires specialist training so this article can only offer some recommendations. There are many specialist healthcare workers who can help your loved ones or significant others with simple joint movement, body work and breathing exercises. They can also train you on how to practice safe movement. Contact your local healthcare clinic or community centres to enquire more.
Photo: Nilsom Chaves

Most of the time we have everything we need at our disposal and for free. We can also connect with others who might share our interests or support us in our wellbeing.

Let me know your thoughts, comments or feedback and how you get on with the above suggested tips at irena@youralchemists.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Paris, Eiffel Tower, August 2019

References

Harvey et al. (2017) Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study.American Journal of Psychiatry 175(1):appiajp201716111223.

Holme, I., & Anderssen, S.A. (2014) Increases in physical activity is as important as smoking cessation for reduction in total mortality in elderly men: 12 years of follow-up of the Oslo II study British Journal of Sports Medicine 2015;49:743-748.

Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D.L. (2014) Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 2014, Vol. 40, No. 4, 1142–1152

Patel et al. (2018) Walking in Relation to Mortality in a Large Prospective Cohort of Older U.S. Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.Volume 54, Issue 1, Pages 10–19 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2017.08.019

Vernikos, J. (2011) Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death — and Exercise Alone Won’t. Quill Driver Books. California.