Naples is one of the healthiest cities in the United States. If you look around and pay attention you will understand exactly why. Just take notice of how many seniors are engaged in some form of exercise: from tennis to golf, yoga to tai chi—retirees are keeping their bodies in motion.
And this exercise pays off. Decades of research demonstrates that participating in 20 minutes per day of continuous physical activity adequate to raise the heart rate improves circulation to the brain and limbs, and decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia.
As a doctor, one of my toughest preventive tasks is to get patients moving. It often takes a real effort for people to move! Just think of how many wonderful passive activities we can do: sunbathing, people watching, bird watching, or just sipping an espresso with a newspaper. Not to mention watching TV, engaging on social media on the phone, computer, or tablet, and sitting on the porch reading a book. All are worthwhile ways to spend free time.
However, the residents of Collier Country prove that inertia can be overcome when you still have a spark in your eye – a “joie de vivre.” Mobility is one of the best ways to keep the body strong and healthy and feed back into that joy of life. This is particularly important for those who have had any kind of orthopedic surgery—moving right away is the key to successful rehabilitation.
The key to exercise is getting started and then being consistent. Amazingly, once you get moving and continue for at least forty consecutive days, your brain will actually wire the new habit into your neuronal pathways, and you won’t need to be reminded to exercise anymore. It will come naturally, just like brushing your teeth.
As a holistic doctor I am often asked if stretching before exercise is necessary. In my opinion, most folks can take a pass on performing isometric or static stretches prior to exercise. In fact, stretching before exercise can cause problems. According to a large study in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, by stretching before exercise (like bending to touch your toes) by contracting and becoming tenser and more prone to injury during the activity that follows. Instead, studies show that it’s best to warm up in an active way.
I advise starting before exercise by doing activities that mimic the movements of your intended sport or activity, such as walking lunges to prepare for a jog or going through the motion of a few serves for tennis. This light movement increases heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, raising your body temperature and increasing muscle flexibility. The extra benefit to warming up this way is that you may be able to exercise longer and with less pain. This way you will capitalize on all the rewards of fitness, including increased energy, toning, and slimming.
And whether you have stretched or not, remember to wear light, loose clothes to avoid overheating and drink plenty of water. If you expect to exercise for over 30 minutes at a time, drink water with electrolytes, such as Gatorade, to replenish the salt lost through the sweating.
One of the unpleasant complications of overexerting yourself and not hydrating enough in the heat of the summer is
rhabdomyolysis – a condition in which muscle cells break down excessively. This could lead to further issues like kidney failure if not promptly addressed in the medical setting. However, if you avoid exercising in the midday heat and hydrate before and after, you will most likely never have to deal with this unpleasant malady.
Much of an exercise routine is common sense. It helps to remember the words of Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician, who said: “Primum non nocere” (First, do no harm). These words are classically pronounced by doctors taking a professional oath. However, I find them very useful for anyone who is embarking on a new exercise routine. Physical activity is meant to repair and nourish your body – not to harm it.
And don’t forget to spread the word about your exercising routines on social media, so that your friends and followers around the world can look up to you as a role model for healthy living in their communities.
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