Tag Archives: fitness

Relaxed Creativity

activities, pastimes, hobbies, adult colouring

Everyone has something they do at the end of the day to relax. Some people go for a run, some watch the television, some people drink a glass of wine, some people take a nap. What do all these things have in common? They all make some attempt to turn off your brain after a long day of work. Apparently though, if your overall goal is to be happy, the best thing to do is to engage your right-side brain more. Wake it up, rather than shut it down, and you’ll find an increase in energy, and shake off any lethargy from your day.

Have you ever noticed that creativity flows more naturally when you are relaxed, open minded, and embracing your inner child? Studies show that when you engage in a creative project, your mood lifts, and your emotions and thought patterns are significantly more positive. Even if you don’t create anything overly aesthetically pleasing or useful – in fact, the less you focus on the results, the more pleasing the results will be. It’s simply the act of doing, of creating, of imagining something in your mind and then producing it with your hands. Literally, getting the thoughts out of your head and into something tangible, something you can physically manage.

Creating art or other creative pursuits allows your mind to relax, providing a break from all the usual thought patterns. The average person has over 60,000 thoughts in a day and, disturbingly, 95% of those thoughts are exactly the same, day in, day out.

When your brain is running on autopilot like this, going down the same paths each day, obviously it’s going to get lazy! That’s why it is so important to break up the routine with activities that stimulate different hemispheres of the brain, that get you out of your comfort zone, give you the satisfaction of creating something, and that provide you with a small sense of wonder at your own capabilities and the resources at your fingertips, if only you can find the inclination.

ergonomic gardening tools

Gardening for relaxation – Radius hand tools

Research shows that engaging in creative activities (nothing too crazy – we’re talking jam making, crocheting, stamp collecting, bird watching, etc) can leave the doer feeling a wonderful sense of satisfaction, calm, happiness and new energy. Cooking, baking, playing music,drawing, painting, sketching, photography, working with your hands, gardening, creative writing – basically, a lot of activities we loved to do as children, then most of us disregarded as “unnecessary” uses of our time when faced with the daily pressures of work, family, relationships, fitness, health.

 

But what if doing one of these activities actually had the potential to improve all of the above? To make your relationships more meaningful, maybe you spend an hour in the garden together, or cook a meal together. Maybe rather than spending your evenings watching television in a trance, you sit down on the floor and play a game or draw pictures with your children like you did when you were five. Maybe whilst you are sitting with your family watching TV, you can also be knitting or crocheting. Maybe you doodle in your adult colouring book while you’re on the train to work. Listen to a podcast and write down your thoughts or responses.

Creativity brings relaxation, and relaxation stimulates creativity. The right side of your brain governs creativity, holistic thinking (ie. the bigger picture), intuition, and imagination, and engaging it will lead to feeling happier and more positive on a day in, day out basis. As we age, it’s important to keep all of the pathways of our mind clear, to use our physical bodies in new ways, and interact with the world around us. Pick a creative pursuit that sticks in your mind from this article, turn off the TV, and get cracking!

Keeping Fit And Active in Retirement

Petanque players

There are a number of inspirational older people in my life, who have managed to stay fit, healthy and active into their later years. Many of them simply attribute “keeping busy” as their long-living secrets, maintaining social engagements and responsibilities in a community, giving each day purpose and structure. Our physical health is directly correlated with our mental health – if we feel needed, important, and positive about things, our body is naturally happier, and works to keep up and maintain mobility. Getting together with others for physical activity can be the best way to get endorphins moving through the body, boosting physical and mental energy, increasing mood, and engaging in social interaction.

So, you want to get physical, or stay physical, as you move into later years. What are the best options for heart health, joint mobility, flexibility, strength, and getting out of your head and into your body?

 Walking /Rambling

Check with your local community organisers about local walking groups, weekend rambler gatherings, or perhaps just talk to your friends or neighbours about getting together a casual walking group a couple of times a week. Walking is wonderful for heart health, maintaining healthy weight, developing strength in the legs, promoting healthy circulation and can be a nice time to chat with your walking buddies. It’s also very invigorating for us mentally to be amongst nature, fresh air and in tune with our surroundings. Plus, if you have a dog, they will be a great advocate for this one!

Yoga

There is a vast range in styles of yoga, and one style will be great for one person, and not so great for the next. As an individual, you need to find the style that works for you. For older bodies, a slower, more restorative style may be the best option, with not too much dynamic flow.

  • Iyengar Yoga is a tradition of yoga strongly focussed on alignment, and uses props and tools to make each pose more accessible. Classes tend to move at a slower pace, working slowly into the pose using the assistance of props such as blocks, straps, cushions and the helping hand of  a teacher. This style of yoga is all about making each pose accessible to you – not trying to bend you into a certain shape.

  • Hatha Yoga is the classical foundation of yoga, based on a series of asana (poses) that focus on the breath, awareness, and moving mindfully. There are many different levels of hatha yoga, and teachers will often run 6-8 week beginners courses, moving through the practices mindfully and offering adjustments and assistance to students. This can be a great option for bodies with a lot of tightness – you don’t have to move too quickly, in fact, its better to slow down and observe the sensations.

  • Yin/ Restorative Yoga is a powerful, deeply restful style of yoga where you navigate into the pose, using bolsters, cushions, blocks and straps to find your way in, and then hold the pose for anywhere from 3-10 minutes, slowly transitioning to the next. The idea is to completely surrender into each pose, taking strain off the muscles and accessing deep physical and emotional tissue to release tightness in the body and the mind. This is a wonderful option for stiff bodies, allowing time to go deeply into a pose without placing strain on the joints or overexerting  the heart.

Swimming/ Water Aerobics

Swimming is a great low-impact option for exercise – good for improving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness without putting strain on the joints. Start slow with a few laps, and work your way up. Another good option is group exercise water fitness, such as water aerobics or aqua jogging, which involves wearing an flotation belt and walking up and down the pool, much like walking outside, but low impact, and wonderful for toning the legs and abdomen. It can also help to improve balance and prevent falls. Check with your local pool about swimming times and groups exercise schedules.

Dance/ Aerobics

Get the heart rate up, laugh at yourself and your friends, and develop a greater sense of bodily awareness and confidence in movement. An excellent cardio workout to maintain heart health, strengthening and toning for the body, and an inevitable mood lifter – try a zumba class at your local community centre. Dance and aerobics develops rhythm, and core strength which helps to maintain balance.

Boules

Throwing  or rolling big balls to hit little balls. Boules is  a wide category, including games such as lawn bowling and petanque. Beyond the concentration, skill and tactics required, boules forces all the muscles to work against resistance in order to ensure the balance and stability of the lower body. And despite a laid-back rhythm, and the preconceived idea that boules is only for the over-60s, you can burn up to 180 calories in an hour, making it a solid workout. A fun, social game, with a little heat of competition to keep you on your toes.

Bridge

A mentally challenging game involving memory, visualisation and concentration, which is discovered to be effective in preventing the onset of mental disorders such  as depression and Alzheimer’s. Much like the satisfaction of completing a cryptic crossword, bridge provides an intellectual challenge and problem-solving satisfaction, leaving the player on a mental high with a sense of achievement. Even better if it is repeated regularly on a weekly basis, providing social and intellectual stimulation.

Volunteering

Get out of the house and into the community. Volunteering is a good way to get involved in a project or cause close to your heart, develop your sense of purpose and self worth, and meet new people. Helping at an animal shelter, organising community events, or helping people in need, are just a selection of volunteer projects. Think about something you feel passionately about, and get involved in something you can call your “passion project”.

This is just a selection of ideas – check with your local community organisers and fitness centres and see what they have to offer. If all else fails, taking a regular walk in the fresh air and taking on the challenge of a crossword or sudoku in the daily newspaper  is a simple and effective way to stimulate your mental and physical body.

Guest Blog by Move It or Lose it!

MIOLI (203)

We’re often told we have to exercise more and yet just the word can put people off! But what about the people who would like to exercise but can’t? The ones the fitness magazines with their six-packs and perfectly toned bodies often overlook? Those with disabilities and conditions which make getting out of bed, washed and dressed seem like running a marathon?

I’m used to trying to persuade the ‘reluctant’ to exercise – I was a secondary school PE teacher! Now I’m teaching people who would love to exercise but think they can’t, or have problems which prevent them from accessing traditional forms of exercise.

After retraining to teach exercise for older people and those with disabilities, I soon realised that all the theory in the world counts for nothing if people don’t enjoy themselves. Coming along to a class, especially when you’re fearful of what to expect or of doing more harm than good, is a giant leap of faith, so creating an atmosphere of inclusivity and warmth is vital. Then you can start to focus on doing exercises which will help with everyday life.

 

MIOLI (202)

So, how did it all begin? Well I began to set up classes in the West Midlands for older people and those with health problems. I specialise in chair-based exercise which is ideal for less mobile people as they’re still able to join in and improve their fitness. But, key to my success, is making the routines so much fun that they don’t even realise they’re exercising.

Everyone who came to my classes couldn’t believe how much they enjoyed themselves and how much they could improve just by working out in chair! They were desperate to continue the exercises by working out at home too. So, I was persuaded to make a DVD of the exercises. They helped with the choice of music, got involved with the filming and they even came up with the name –Move it or Lose it!  It was vital to make the exercise routines safe, enjoyable, effective and accessible to everyone whatever their ability. Our DVDs are made by real people for real people and all endorsed by The Centre for Healthy Ageing Research (at the University of Birmingham).

Despite the success of all 5 of my DVDs and the amazing customer feedback I get, I know nothing can compare to a class! The benefits of working out in a group are endless – the camaraderie, friendship, motivation and support they all offer one another is fantastic! Each class becomes a little community, which is so lovely to see when all you hear in the press is the loneliness and social isolation that many older adults face in today’s society.

I know there’s still a desperate need for more classes across the UK, so I’ve set my sights on spreading the magic of Move it or Lose it! into more local communities. I get countless letters and emails from customers asking where their local classes are. So, with the Centre for Healthy Ageing Research, we’re now training more people and translating the latest research ensuring our Chair-based exercise instructors are part of a highly respected network. We’re looking for more people who are passionate about helping older adults to stay fit for life! Empathy, humour and patience are all a must! But, it’s the most rewarding job, seeing people who think they can’t do something actually achieve success so they can live life to the full.

Find out more about Move it or Lose it! at www.moveitorloseit.co.uk/careers or call 0800 612 7785.

By Julie Robinson, Move it or Lose it!