Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Exercise (Answering Michelle's Question)...

Because a nourishing diet + exercise = good health.

Okay, I need to write quickly because I didn't get a chance to sit in front of the computer to write this earlier today, and it's past bedtime now. :-) I started to answer your specific question about how to find time to exercise with children at home, Michelle, but then I decided to write a very brief overview of my history of exercise and fitness in case anyone else of another age or situation might be reading. So here's much more than I'm sure you could have imagined me writing (and I hope somewhere in this is something helpful!)...

First, I'll say that exercise has always been very, very important to me. I was raised in an athletic family, starting with Dad and Mom, and running all the way down through the five kids. We played school sports, and we played hard outside all the time as a family. We were in good shape without really thinking about being, or getting, in good shape.

I played sports on scholarship in college for my first two years, and after that I kept busy playing racquetball, tennis, running, biking, intramural volleyball and basketball, and whatever else anyone wanted to do that would keep me moving. I did something most every day, and I loved it.

When I was first married, with no kids, I kept doing the things I'd done before. I wasn't the type to go to a gym or use workout equipment (I'm still not). I'd much rather be moving and playing a bit more naturally.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I took up walking (the kind that gives a workout) and I also did my own aerobics program throughout my pregnancy. After Aimee was born, I kept walking for exercise, but now I was carrying a baby in a pack. I discovered the 20 Minute Workout at this time, and I did it while Aimee napped.

When I was pregnant with my second child, Michelle, I continued with the walking and aerobics. And then she was born, and I carried her in a front carrier while I pushed Aimee in the stroller.

And then I was pregnant for the third time. I still did aerobics and fast walking (Michelle was now carried in a backpack and Aimee rode in the stroller). And when the third child, Aaron, was born, I pushed Michelle in the stroller, had Aimee standing on a bar on the back of the stroller and hanging onto the sidebars while I walked (she loved doing this!), and carried Aaron in the front pack.

When I was pregnant with the fourth, I still walked hard, all the way through the 9th month, and you should have seen me! I pushed Michelle in the stroller, Aimee continued to ride on the bar behind the stroller seat, and Aaron was carried on my back in a pack. And I was sticking out nine months pregnant in front. We all had great fun walking through the streets of our British town like this! :-)

And then Melissa was born, and not long afterward, we moved back to the US. And I took my walks on Mike's lunch hour or after he returned from work, pushing Melissa in the stroller when I went. Sometimes I went for a run instead of a walk. And sometimes I'd do aerobics in the morning (the kids were well-behaved and kept themselves busy). The aerobic workout was only 20 minutes long...

(All of that stuff about where different kids sat or stood or were carried is a bit convoluted and probably confusing, but just know that I was determined to go on my walk! :-) )

And then we moved again, and Mike had his own home-based business. He was also the kind of dad who never, ever minded watching the kids, so I was able to go for a walk whenever I wanted. That was easy.

And then I had some health problems. There were days I couldn't even walk to the mailbox let alone go for an exercise walk. The health problems continued for several years, waxing and waning in intensity. Off and on, there were short periods of time when I could exercise, but never more than moderately.

Four years later, my husband was no longer self-employed (thank goodness!), and by now, my oldest was old enough to be in charge if I wanted to go out for a walk. I was still struggling with health issues, though. And then we moved again (to our high desert home). And I began working hard at getting well without a doctor or medications.

And I did get better. (This is why I'm sooo picky about what I eat, and why I use all non-toxic products, and why I do some other things... but that's another story.) Now I could exercise regularly, with increasing vigor. By now, my kids were older, so figuring out what to do with them when I exercised was not a concern.

Walking was, and is, the thing I chose to do for exercise. I walk. I hike (sometimes very long, steep hike/climbs in the mountains). I am now healthy and can push hard when I exercise, so I can get really fit again! Yay! It feels wonderful, and I'm thankful for the blessing of good health every single day.

Michelle, does your husband have the kind of schedule where he can give you some free time for walking? Even a very fast short walk is hugely beneficial. And, further, even sporadic exercise is better than no exercise at all.

Just so you know, the following is not aimed at you, Michelle. It's just my exhortation (for all of us) to move, however often, however much. Even a little bit is better than nothing!.

If I walked only 2 miles, two times a week, that's 16 miles a month and almost 200 miles a year, much better than nothing. Even one mile, two times a week, is better than nothing (it's almost 100 miles a year)! I say that we should all just do what we can, and we shouldn't quit altogether just because we aren't consistent. A little here, a little there is much better than nothing at all. Even dancing all around the house or jumping rope or doing anything that gets us moving is great. Just move! I think it should be a priority for everyone.

And we can, and should, do things as a family. Bike rides. Whiffle ball games. Swimming. Hikes on pretty trails. All sorts of games and play and exploration. This is beneficial in many ways. We live in a culture that is not active. We sit around, then we go to the gym and work out violently to get in shape. It's much better for kids and parents to consistently move and play hard outdoors.

I think it's really important to make fitness a priority for many reasons:

1. Life expectancy goes up.

2. Happy hormones are released.

3. One has a better sense of well-being.

4. Exercise reduces stress.

5. Good muscle tone is good for health.

6. A person feels stronger and much more energetic.

7. Motivation increases.

8. Self-discipline grows.

9. Confidence increases.

10. Appearance improves.