Haims: Get moving! Staying active in winter promotes quality of life
This past weekend brought rain and snowcapped mountains — the signs that winter is coming are upon us. The days have gotten shorter, temperatures are cooling and the leaves are dropping. Our seasons are transitioning. It’s a beautiful time here in our Colorado mountain communities.
Colder weather and shorter days tend to cause people to spend more time inside, thus making it challenging to maintain an active lifestyle. If you feel that winter is going to usher in the winter blues, then let’s think out of the box.
In my opinion, the No. 1 thing people can do to avoid the feeling of being locked inside and getting the winter blues is to set a specific time each day to do something active. While you can incorporate physical activities throughout the day, for many people the best time to schedule some active time is shortly after waking up and before the day may get away from you. The greatest chance of maintaining an exercise regimen is to establish a consistent schedule.
Regardless of the town where we assist people, the one thing that each person has in common is that almost all are in their 80s and 90s, and almost all have chosen to incorporate some physical/aerobic activities and socialization into their days.
One of our clients is a 97-year-young woman who takes our caregivers on an hour walk at every visit. The caregivers and client do a lot of stopping along the way to pet dogs, check out the trees, sit on a bench here and there as well as chat with the plethora of people she has befriended along her many walks.
Another client is a 96-year-young man who has kyphosis — a pronounced curvature of the upper part of the spine. This causes him to lean excessively over his walker. Whenever possible, after breakfast and a quick game of backgammon, we walk up and down his street with him. During the winter, we go with him to the rec center and walk the track.
Aerobic activity at any level does more than just keep your body in motion — it also benefits mental health and greatly helps reduce depression.
For adults with disabilities and chronic-health conditions that may make physical/aerobic activities challenging, don’t take the easy way out, and preclude yourself from participating in being active.
Should you desire, our community has rec centers, community aging programs, along with yoga, exercise classes and tai chi programs at various studios throughout the valleys. How your disability or health condition affects your ability to do physical activity is personal to everyone. However, it doesn’t make you too unique. I assure you, you’re not the only person in town with a disability.
If you don’t want to feel locked in this winter, here are some important tips I’d like to share:
- Schedule movement into your day. It doesn’t have to be every day but try to schedule at least 30 to 45 minutes three to four days a week.
- Wear proper footwear while outside. Winter shoes and boots need to provide not only traction, but also warmth and comfort.
- Take your time. Walks in inclement weather should not be hurried. Dress with warm layers of clothing, take smaller than usual steps and watch for icy spots.
- Ask a friend to accompany you.
- Incorporate a number of different activities into your exercise plan. Variety not only reduces boredom, but it also lowers the risk of injury.
Some things to think about when planning a regimen for an exercise routine should be:
- Endurance — activities that increase your breathing and heart rates.
- Strength — maintaining muscles mass help people protect joints from injury and greatly helps with balance and reducing fall risks.
- Flexibility — as we age, tendons become stiffer, muscle tone is lost and in bone density decreases. Make sure you find stretches that work best for you before doing an activity.
If we do not keep moving, our ability to do so becomes compromised. Be pro-active about maintaining your mobility by moving in any manner you can. If you for one second think that chair exercise, seated yoga or short walks with a walker are beneath you, think again. Take a look at those who choose to do such things, and then justify what you are choosing not to do.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.