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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: Barriers, Challenges or Excuses

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I stated in a previous post that my friend Nicole (mother of 4, B.S. Exercise Science, Masters in Physical Therapy) and I spoke at a women's conference recently, all about nutrition, fitness, and weight loss. We thought long and hard of what to talk about and felt the need to address some of the barriers or excuses common to many who may find it challenging to exercise, eat healthy, or lose weight.

I think we covered every barrier, challenge, and excuse in the book. We used each excuse as an opportunity to further discuss, to teach and motivate. With Nicole's permission, I would like to devote each "Wellness Wednesday" post to addressing these excuses. There are quite a few so it may take a month or two to cover, but each excuse is different and loaded with helpful information!

The hope is to remove these "Barriers, Challenges, or Excuses" so that we can live to our fullest physical potential. After all,

"The condition of the body limits, largely, the expression of the spirit."

Let's start with a challenge that most of us have faced at some point in time:

We all know that our bodies require 7-8 hours of sleep each night. It takes this amount time for our cells to regenerate. Any less than this for a period of time and we will feel rundown and exhausted. Our immune system also suffers. We will want to eat anything in sight because we think food will give us more energy. But this is not the case. If you haven't had adequate sleep there is really nothing (natural) that will give you more energy. Don't get in the trap of compensating with caffeine just to exercise, this can be a viscious cycle. For a moment your body feels energized, but it is really deceiving you. For this challenge, it's all about the length of quality of sleep.

If you have adequate sleep, exercise will actually give you more energy. Exercise helps us sleep better and is one of the best ways to combat sleep issues (in addition to letting go of caffeine). Exercise boosts energy levels because it delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues that wouldn’t otherwise get there if you didn’t exercise.

Mothers are the biggest victim of this feeling. I've definitely been there! I went 6 years straight with very little sleep, but these days I rarely feel exhausted because there are no babies in the house for me to feed through the night! Usually I can count on going to bed with uninterrupted sleep and waking up 7-8 hours later. So my point is that I definitely feel for you mothers of babies!

Let me tell you what I did to cope. I scheduled in exercise, never too early, like 9:30 am. I lived in a town that had a gym with childcare and I dropped my kids off (guilt-free) for a couple of hours 2-3 days/week so that I could rejuvinate myself. Exercise was my lifesaver, even off very little sleep. I was easy on myself, and would try to rest while my kids rested. I'm a night owl (and make no apologies for this) so my only option was to listen to my tired body and rest. I was not perfect at this. In fact, I ended up getting shingles after my third child because I overdid it. Don't beat yourself up about it, this extreme exhaustion will not last forever. You are not lazy, just extremely tired. It is time to simplify your life, cut down on outside stresses, spend time with your baby, and focus on getting your body back.

If you are a working mother of babies, and are unable to rest during the day, then it is important to train yourself to go to bed earlier. Your other choice is getting shingles! ;)

If you do not have a gym with childcare nearby, here are a few other suggestions: find a few workout videos that you enjoy and do them when you can, go on fast walks while pushing a stroller, team up with a friend and swap kids while each of you exercise on your own.

If you are feeling exhausted for different reasons, I think this information still applies. If you are feeling exhausted and have gotten enough sleep, then it is time to go to the Doctor. There may be something else going one with your body (possibly hypothyroidism).

Here's another common excuse:

There is some form of exercise for every age group. Many older people find that swimming or water aerobics are easier on the joints and not as jolting to the body. As a physical therapist, Nicole says that even coma patients require exercise and movement!

It is not uncommon to be in better shape than you were in your teens and 20's. It may take more dedication, but definitely can be achieved!

As we age, we are more prone to injury, we lose muscles mass and require fewer calories. These are facts. Many people have knee problems or back problems. But I promise that finding an exercise that works for you will improve your quality and length of life! Walking, swimming, and the eliptical are all great sources of cardiovascular exercise. And please do not forget that strength training, flexibility and balance are crucial and vital for all of us as we age!

Stay tuned for next Wednesday's "Barriers, Challenges, and Excuses!"

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