5 Essentials for your Healthiest New Year
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
Here are 5 Must-Do’s experts suggest to improve your health and be your best. And, better yet, one practical way to start checking those boxes without running yourself ragged!
#1 Aerobic Activity
Mentioned last month, but worth repeating. Experts are now saying there’s no need to huff & puff at 70-85% of your maximum heart rate to gain healthy benefits. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans on health.gov now suggest we get 150 minutes of moderately-intense activity weekly, in increments of just 10 minutes or more. So, a brisk walk or a moderately active yoga class fits the bill, without having to risk injury or over-do it.
When I swapped my treadmill for outdoor hikes and daily yoga a few years back, I was surprised how it was EASIER to stay fit, without on-again, off-again dieting. My long-term students have also had remarkable results in reversing metabolic syndrome and even reducing diabetes medication (from last months' blog Is Yoga Enough of a "Workout" to Improve YOUR Fitness?)
Pumping iron not your thing? I’m with you! The good news… according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans on health.gov, even moderate intensity muscle-strengthening that targets major muscle groups counts. Like the muscle work you get from gardening. Shoveling the driveway. And, yes, even a strategically-designed yoga class (using just body weight for resistance).
One thing I love most about teaching yoga in series is we are able to intentionally build STRENGTH, little by little, week after week. One common need is back strength (and flexibility) to address the “head-forward”/ shoulder-slump posture that is so common from smart phones and compute use. That slump is the result of a pattern of bringing chin down and shoulders forward frequently, throughout the day. Yoga gives us new patterns (of upper back strength, a fuller breath that expands the upper chest and, most importantly, body awareness) that actually follow you off the mat, so you can look and feel your best.
If you’re a runner, weight-lifter or the one who shovels all this snow (and have felt sore or stiff afterward) you know that strength training and aerobics inherently cause muscles to contract and tighten. To counteract these effects Healthy Lifestyle Fitness at mayoclinic.com says we better be stretching regularly to maintain and optimize range of motion, circulation, flexibility and comfort.
Of course, tugging at cold muscles is unlikely to change anything, and can do more harm than good. That pain you get from over stretching is the body saying you’re doing too much, too fast.
How does yoga help build flexibility? In an intentionally designed yoga practice, we move in and out of appropriate poses for YOUR anatomy until the muscles are warmed, then we hold the pose for a deeper effect. We move slowly, right up to the edge of comfort (just before the pain), then back away – and repeat. That pattern informs the body you are aware, and there's a new relationship between the mind and body that allows flexibility to grow.
Balance is a critical component of fitness that’s easy to overlook. According to the CDC, 1 out of 4 older adults fall each year, which can mean a huge set-back to health and independence. The good news: with regular practice, balance improves. And, so does your ability to react quickly, which in turn helps prevent falls.
Unlike golf, tennis, pickleball or other predominantly one-sided sports, yoga is practiced on BOTH side of your body. Over time, you can’t help but develop a pattern of balance that increases stability and shores up the “weakest links”. My yoga students are frequently surprised at how quickly they regain surefootedness off-the-mat by spending just an hour a week on the mat.
And maybe the least expected “must-do” to improve your health...
#5 Unwind & Manage Stress
Did you know? Stress has been classified as the health epidemic of the 21st century by the World Health Organization. Humans are naturally wired to respond to perceived danger with a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, causing the heart to pound, muscles to tense, breath to quicken, and the mind to be hyper-alert. This stress-response is designed to survive an immediate emergency. However, when stress becomes chronic, our system gets worn down, increasing risk of anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory impairment (according to mayoclinic.com).
Is all stress bad? Not necessarily, according to The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal. In a 1998 study, 30,000 people were asked two questions: (1) How much stress did you experience this year? (2) Was the stress harmful to your health? Eight years later they circled back to the same group, and found the risk of mortality from stress was 40% higher ONLY in the group that believed stress is harmful. Which suggests having a positive outlook and effective strategy to manage stress is essential to your health.
Yoga is an effective way to unwind and manage stress. A Harvard Medical School’s Special Report found that yoga provides relief from harmful effects of chronic stress by lowering levels of cortisol and inflammation while increasing immunity levels and "feel good" sensations. Even better, by improving your ability to cope with stress, yoga reduces the likelihood you’ll turn to less healthy options like overeating, drinking, smoking or losing sleep in stressful situations.
Not thrilled about 5 more things for your To-DO list?
Let's be real. As busy as you are, how can you get enough aerobic activity and build strength, flexibility & balance, while finding time to relax, without stressing yourself out? Luckily, an intentionally designed yoga practice that starts slow and is specifically adapted to your needs can help you get started on all of these fronts for a healthier New Year!
Never tried yoga? I've been teaching yoga in Eagan since 2016 to people ages 12-80 years old, of all shapes and sizes. Before coming to my classes, most of my students had either (1) NEVER tried yoga or (2) tried it in a crowded class, where it was hard to keep up or confusing, and never went back. Things are different here.
Your Time Yoga is a right-sized home studio with small classes so YOU get personalized attention. Yoga isn’t meant to be “one size fits all”. Limitations with your back, shoulder, knees, hips, wrists? Struggling with balance or flexibility? No worries! We use chairs and props as needed to fit the yoga your anatomy & abilities, safely, without strain.
For a limited time, drop-in and TRY OUR CLASSES before the new series starts.
New to yoga? Check out our Strictly Beginner’s Yoga, starting soon. It's perfect to help you get started with other brand new beginners! For all ages, all sizes and abilities.
Know someone 60 or better who wants to learn yoga? Our NEW Fit & Flexible ~60 & Wiser series is starting soon. Our small classes, with personalized attention, will get you started right, so you're feeling FIT & Fantastic for a happy and healthy New Year! Check it out at: https://www.yourtimeyoga.com/try-new-yoga-classes