Trend one on aging healthily – Natural movement

To be active without having to think about it. The Blue Zones centennials incorporate a lot of incidental activity in their day rather than scheduled exercise sessions; for example, they spend hours working in their gardens to put food on the table, or they walk a lot as part of their daily routine. In some cases this is because they still actively work as shepherds or in the fields, in others because they live in villages without cars or are too old to drive, or just enjoy walking in nature.Of course, our lifestyles are quite different from most of the Blue Zones communities.

Ideally, we would all be doing a combination of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, flexibility and balance exercises each week. The national guidelines recommend adults do a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week, which is equivalent to 30 minutes a day. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be all at once.

So, how can you build more physical activity into your day?  Adding more incidental activity and focusing on activities you enjoy are two good strategies.

Tend a garden or do yard work

Buettner noticed that many centenarians in his studies tended gardens, and he speculated that the physical work of caring for plants might be the reason. Crouching, digging, picking and weeding helps improve balance and strength.

Shop with a hand basket

Pushing a shopping cart can sometimes turn into leaning on a cart. Grab a hand basket and your grocery run can double as gentle weight training.

Do housework

Housework might make you groan a little less if you think of it as a way to move naturally: lift laundry baskets piled high with fresh towels, and scrub the grease off a cookie sheet knowing that those actions count.

Dance in your living room

You can enjoy a real cardio workout simply moving joyfully to music. Don’t worry about whether you’re a good dancer or not. Just shake!

Play with your kids, grandkids or pets

Work up a light sweat giving chase to your kids, grandkids or pup. Or lift them up for a big squeeze. Even sitting on the floor encourages movement: Beuttner notes that long-lived Okinawans sit and stand from the floor 30-40 times in a day.

Park at a distance

Instead of circling the parking lot looking for the empty spot, park all the way in the back, and walk briskly to the entrance. Walking is much easier on the joints than running, and if you walk briskly may even provide similar cardiovascular benefits. It’s free, you can do it pretty much anywhere, and you can do it alone (it’s a great opportunity to listen to audio books, podcasts, daydream or think through decisions you need to make) or in company. A 2013 study by the University of British Columbia recruited women ages 70 – 80 with mild cognitive impairment. Researchers created three groups to engage in different types of exercise two times a week for six months. One did resistance training, another walked briskly and one conducted stretching and toning exercises. At the end, the women in the resistance and walking groups performed better on almost all of the cognitive tests than they had prior to the study’s onset. The stretching and toning group declined cognitively during that period.  This study shows how just taking a brisk walk two times each week may make a real difference in your brain’s health as you age.

Stretch upon waking

No organized yoga moves required! Stretching your muscles as you get out of bed jump-starts circulation and primes your nervous system for regular movement throughout the day.

One of the great benefits of natural movement is finding ways it fits into your own personal lifestyle. So use this list as a jumping-off point; then consider what your day really looks like, and add natural movement where it fits best.

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