Stretch, expand, elongate. Whatever you do, don’t stop reaching.
That’s the message I get from Miranda Esmonde-White, founder of Eccentrics. I mentioned her in my last post — not about the bathroom redo, but about the importance of continuing to reach, stretch and above all, move.
I delved into her website and found some interesting and helpful information. Eccentrics is the name of her exercise routine which has long been featured on public television. Now she’s turned it into a sizable business with videos, books and virtual streaming services. I start nearly every day with one of her 25 minute routines. She is 70 years old in the video series I use and appears to be working hard as ever in what she call “Aging Backwards.”
The advantages of movement and exercise that she points out, while not surprising, are noteworthy: good for the brain by forging new neurological connections and strengthening existing ones in the brain; brightening the skin by improving circulation and flushing toxins; lubricating connective tissue; improving balance and avoiding falls. Her exercises can all be done at home with little or no equipment.
Certainly this interests me and helps me in my quest for a long-lived life full of good health and vitality. She breaks it down to a very cellular level, saying that maintaining the health of each cell is essential to longevity. But the trick is the nourishing and cleansing of those cells which can only be accomplished through MOVEMENT. Movement activates the cells, signaling them to stay alive and healthy. Without nourishment, cells atrophy, shrink and eventually die.
It’s no surprise that as we age we lose muscle mass over time. But the amount can be strikingly varied depending our lifestyles. Compare these differences:
- A 70 year old who is semi-sedentary: 29.67% muscle loss per decade.
- A physically-active 70 year old: 9.61% loss per decade.
- A sedentary 90 year old: 39.83% loss per decade
- An active 90 year old: 13.1% loss
Activity makes a difference. Clearly, the message is Use it or you lose it!!
She maintains (and I agree) that the human body is a self-healing, living machine designed to remain pain free and fit well into our nineties. But of course remaining youthful doesn’t happen without us making intelligent, science-based decisions about how we live our lives.
She asks the question: at what point did you begin to age? I’m not sure I’m there yet. Right now my aim is to do what I do as long as I can and even push myself to always do a bit more. No need to overdo it though. I really don’t have any pain or discomfort from anything right now. In exercising, Miranda suggests that if you experience pain, never work through it. Just work to the point right before it. Of course, with the routines she is suggesting — low impact, gentle, coordinated full-body movements — she claims these “movements” can actually relieve aches and pains and even help reverse chronic conditions.
If there’s maybe one thing lacking in my exercise routine, it’s mindfulness, something that Miranda and other exercise gurus support. They claim that if we want to improve how our body moves and functions, we must first put our minds in charge. That’s the advice from James P. Owen in his book “Just Move: A New Approach to Fitness After 50.”
Too many times as I exercise I’m thinking about the rest of the day, what I’ve got scheduled, what I need to do, etc. That’s certainly not being mindful of my exercising. Consequently, I’m not getting as much benefit from my activity as I could if I had more mind/body awareness.
But how do we forge and nurture the connection between mind and body? Owen offers several techniques starting with doing some conscious breathing. He also recommends several core exercises similar to those featured in Miranda’s program.
Like any other habit, body awareness grows as it is practiced and reinforced. So when it comes to my exercise routine, I will try to be more focused and be sure I’m moving with intent and control? Throughout the day I can also grab some opportunities to help my body feel and function better. Like relying on my core muscles as much as I can. Stretching and reaching when there are opportunities to do so. And recognizing when my body is telling me something. Am I hungry? Get a snack. Am I tense? Do some deep breathing. Feeling worn out? Take a break and go for a walk.
The body is a wonderful machine. That’s why we need to keep it oiled and in good repair. Aches, pains and stiffness are reminders that our bodies are built to move, regardless of age. Respond with movement and our bodies will thank us.
Stretch your body and your life.