The Power of Physical Activity

Here are some words to live by:

“All parts of the body, if used in moderation and exercised in labors to which each is accustomed, become thereby healthy and well developed and age slowly; but if they are unused and left idle, they become liable to disease, defective in growth and age quickly”.

(Kokkinos & Myers 2010)

Want to know who said them?  It was the famous 5th century Greek physician Hippocrates (remember the “Hippocratic Oath”?) The quote suggests that we need to keep using “all parts of the body” the way they are designed to be used if we want to maintain good health as we age.  In our sedentary modern times we can’t take this use for granted.  We need to make a concerted effort to use those muscles that have become “unused and left idle”.
Studies have consistently shown that physical activity can improve our health at any age.  And it is never too late to start or to benefit. Just a few of the common ailments that can be improved with regular exercise include:  high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.  There’s more good news.  A recent study by Dr. Bruce Barrett at the University of Wisconsin suggests that mind-body practices like yoga and Pilates can help reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infections such as flu.  The changing of the clocks often signals the beginning of the end of winter, but the flu season is late this year.  Cases are just now beginning to appear.  So it’s not too late to protect yourself.  Consistent classes can be the perfect partner for your flu shot.
But wait – there’s more!  Turns out that research conducted at the Mayo Clinic has found that deep breathing may help with hot flashes. Those of you who practice yoga know that deep breathing is an important component in our practice. Breathing with movement is also a major part of Pilates.  So classes offer an opportunity to learn some breathing techniques that might help. The number of problems addressed just keeps growing.
The strength, flexibility and balance that we work on in both yoga and Pilates help to prevent falls while keeping muscles mobile and bones aligned and strong.  The mind-body connection can also help reduce or lessen the severity of injuries if they occur. Regular practice of yoga and Pilates can also help to reduce the stress, anxiety and negative emotions that can impact our ability to resist disease.
Bottom line?  There doesn’t seem to be any down-side to coming to a class.  Every move can be adapted to your individual level of ability.  So whatever your age, capacity, or level of inactivity you can benefit.  As I frequently say, we call it practice for a reason.  The goal is not perfection (whatever that means) it is simply to find a level of practice that works for you and that you can maintain on a consistent basis. Then you can experience the full array of benefits that continue to be documented through ongoing research.
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