Does the thought of working out make you sweat? Well done, you've just done an exercise.
Physical activity is an integral part of health and wellness, and it's defined as anything that gets your body moving. Prioritizing physical activity is an act of self-love and self-care. By carving out time to move your body, you're giving yourself the gift of energy, focus and strength.
Physical activity, just like what you eat, is bio-individual. What nourishes one, may not nourish another; the same goes for physical activity. Some of us love to go swimming, while others love to go for a run. You can create more space for movement in a way that feels natural, authentic, and enjoyable and adds to your overall quality of life. Your approach can be whatever works for you, and it will change and evolve over time.
Types of physical activity
Balance - movement that improves the body's stability, coordination, and ability to maintain equilibrium during daily activities. Having good balance, helps prevent falls and injuries. To check if you have good balance, try standing on one leg, using a stability ball, or holding a yoga pose.
Cardiovascular - movement that gets blood, heart and lungs pumping, which helps increase HDL (good) cholesterol, improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation and improves endurance and stamina. Typical cardiovascular physical activities include running, dancing, swimming, skiing, soccer, basketball, cycling, rowing, etc.
Mobility - movement that improves how a joint moves or its range of motion. Benefits of mobility include decreased muscle soreness, relaxed nervous system, enhanced natural movement, posture and breathing. Increasing mobility can help prevent injuries, strain and muscle and join pain. Types of mobility include dynamic stretching (like warm up before exercise), static stretching for 30-60 sec (like cool down after exercise) or self - myofascial release (foam rolling) or other trigger point rollers and balls as a self-massage.
Strength - movement that overloads muscles and helps them grow stronger. Having strength decreases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, while it increases bone density, muscle mass, metabolism and insulin sensitivity. As we age, this is the greatest indicator of longevity. If you're a woman over 40, focus on strength exercise, such as bodyweight exercises (planks, push-ups, lunges), dumbbells and barbells, Pilates and yoga, and resistance bands.
Ultimately, the key to being fit, especially as you age is to include a mix of all four, which allows you to move more easily and more efficiently in a greater variety of ways.
Female biology and Physical Activity
When it comes to physical activity, as women we need to account for our cycling hormones. Have you ever noticed that at certain time of the month you have more energy than other times of the month? That's because our hormones cycle throughout the month, so doing one type of a physical activity throughout the month may not be optimal vs switching it up. Here is what actually happens, when you get your cardiovascular activity in, your heart rate is pounding and you're burning glucose in your bloodstream which is a good thing. But you are only burning glucose for aprox. half an hour. After that, your body starts to pump out cortisol. which converts your fat cells into blood sugar so you have energy to keep working out (are you thinking, this is actually great?). Well, if you are a woman who struggles with estrogen dominance, that excess estrogen tells your body to convert leftover sugar back into fat, which means you get stuck in a vicious cycle of burning stored fat with cortisol, only to have your high estrogen send it right back to all the wrong places. So what's the solution? Workouts for each phase of your cycle. I teach this in my coaching program, but here is a brief version of it to help you get started:
Mensural phase - gentle walking, light yoga, or rest in the evening time
Follicular phase - running, or other cardiovascular movement ideally mid-day because your estrogen is low and your cortisol levels will be just right for a challenging cardio burst
Ovulatory phase - high intensity or bodyweight circuit in the morning, also this is when you have the most testosterones so this is a time to go all out
Luteal phase - Pilates, or yoga. Important for those with PMDD especially, to incorporate movement during the first half of this phase, and then transition into the early evening in the second half. If you start to experience PMS symptoms, it's time to tone it down and switch to Pilates or strength trainings in the early evenings. or restorative yin-yoga before bed that can help with moodiness and bloating.
Mindset and physical activity
Your mindset can play a big role in your physical activity. Simply visualizing your future self as someone who exercises, who's fit, and feels healthy can help you get moving. Reframing your self-talk to reflect this positive visual can be the key to moving beyond a momentary stall in motivation.
Redefine 'exercise' by letting go of what you define as 'exercise' because it can be any movement that has benefits, such as walking with a friend, dancing in your kitchen, even gardening. Choose what moves you and get moving.
Also, connect your motivation to your bigger goal. What role does movement play in your mental, emotional and spiritual goals and overall wellbeing? Feeling more physically flexible can help you feel more mentally flexible. Yoga is known for it's spiritual foundation, while hiking is known for it's restorative and energizing qualities. For me it's surfing, which I'm always motivated to do because it allows me to connect with water and a greater ecosystem, that helps me see that I'm part of a bigger picture.
You can also connect your physical activities and goals to other life goals. Think how feeling more fit, can support you in your career? How might feeling less stiff and in pain affect your relationships?
Your body is your temple, it's what carries you throughout the day. The more nourished and alive it feels, the more it can support you in every area of your life.
Consider the following coaching questions, that I typically ask my clients, to help you get moving:
What's one way you can shift your mindset to support regular physical activity?
Which activities or types of exercise feel more 'natural' to you?
What time a day do your body and mind prefer to exercise? How do you know?
Are you currently doing any type of exercise that no longer motivates you or works as well for you physically? If so, what are some other activities you could try instead?
Be curious and allow your intuition to speak, trust that the right answers will come. Honor your fitness personality and nourish it in a way that feels intuitive for you. Chose to create space for pleasure, and align your activities with your values and preferences. Afterall, the most sustainable and effective approaches are the ones you're excited to commit to because you love the way they make you feel. At the same time, don't be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone. Even if you never do it again, you may find that you love it, at least for the time being.
Stretch more - start your day with 5min stretch or try seated stretch at your desk
Walk More - park a little farther away from the entrance or have walking meetings
Move More - try a ball chair, do squats, have a dance party, just move more
if physical activity is one of your health goals, and you'd like additional tips and motivation, then get in touch with me. I'd love to hear about your goals and help you reach them.
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