The content of this post is excerpted from my first book, Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day.
What, exactly, is physical activity? Physical activity is any voluntary bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical activity encompasses all activities, at any intensity: both exercise and non-exercise activity.
Exercise is a subset of physical activity that is: planned, structured, repetitive, and for the purpose of conditioning the body.
It is safe to say that all exercise is movement, but not all movement is exercise. And that’s okay, because physical activity lies on a continuum, it’s not an all-or-nothing endeavour. I refer to this continuum as NEAT™ to Elite.
What’s the alternative to exercise? NEAT™, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or incidental activity. NEAT is all the ways your body burns energy that is not eating, sleeping, or dedicated exercises. NEAT relates to moving about in daily life. These small, brief muscular movements are just as important as that gym workout in burning calories.
You need both exercise and non-exercise activity in your life, but it’s that non-exercise activity that we have lost in our daily lives. That movement has been replaced by appliances and apps—labour-saving devices that have robbed our bodies of the physical activity, or labour, that we used to do on a daily basis before the technological revolution made movement almost obsolete.
NEAT™ is different than your workout at the gym because it relates to moving about in daily life. Research suggests that light physical activity like NEAT™ is as beneficial to older adults and previously sedentary individuals as more vigorous exercise is for younger and more physically fit Canadians. Our grandparents’ generation didn’t need fancy gym equipment or flashy workout gear. Their lives required more movement than our current way of living. There were no labour-saving devices like garage door openers, TV remotes, and online shopping. They didn’t outsource physically demanding tasks like housework and snow shovelling. They just moved—a lot.
Looking at the other end of the physical activity continuum—i.e., vigorous exercise, or what I refer to as elite—tends to be associated with amateur and professional athletes. Even at the elite level, athletes are paying attention to the continuum of physical activity and adapting their training accordingly. They balance high intensity and lower intensity workouts on a daily basis; their “zero to 60” performance only kicks in at specific times. Only a small fraction of their training and competition time is spent at the high-performance level. Here’s how elite triathlete Patrick Smith explains it: “You have to find a balance. You can train at a nine or 10 but you have to be able to come back the next week, the next month, and stay injury-free.” They pace themselves, and so should you.
Our bodies need both exercise and non-exercise activity every single day. Physical activity at any intensity helps prevent and manage chronic health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. It also improves your mental health, by curtailing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improving overall well-being. Physical activity that is accumulated in sporadic bouts throughout the day still reduces the risk of early death.
Just because you can’t make it to the gym doesn’t mean you can’t be active. Rethink your activities: Go for a walk, play with your kids or grandkids, clean the house, or do some gardening. These are small steps that can lead to big change, because they get your body moving—to be physically active.
About Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Need help fitting physical activity into your daily routine? Learn how to embed healthy habits into each day and improve your overall wellbeing. If you like accessible convenience, approachable information, and making a change for the better, then you’ll love this handy guidebook. Order your copy today!
Recently, I’ve noticed a trend in my behaviour: I’ve been focusing on life at home, eschewing my traditional public presence. And I don’t regret it for a moment. You could say I’m embracing JOMO—the joy of missing out.
You’ve likely heard about the concept of FOMO— fear of missing out. The idea that you are missing out on fun being had by friends, family, even strangers, weighs heavily for some.
At the other end of the continuum is JOMO—the joy of missing out.
Here’s how psychologist Susan Albers describes JOMO:
“Think of JOMO as FOMO’s chill distant cousin. It’s the ability to focus on doing what truly makes you happy. That doesn’t mean you sit home alone with no social life. It means you’re selective with what you do without worrying about what others are doing.”
I fall firmly in this camp, more so now than ever. I am happier at home, and I do not feel like I’m missing out on anything. And it’s not just because we’re experiencing the darkest days of winter. I am not in hibernation mode.
Rather, I’m consciously choosing to eliminate certain activities from my life. This includes the relentless pursuit of relevance on social media and the constant need to create more and more content. I’ve also pulled back on public appearances for the foreseeable future.
I am quite happy with doing less in the professional/business realm. You see, I spent many years hustling—both for my own business and as an employee working for others. And I’m tired. I no longer want to be part of hustle culture.
A recent book that addresses this topic is You’re Not Lazy: Let Go of What’s Holding You Back So You Can Enjoy a Great Life by Lara Wellman. Lara is a fellow Ottawa entrepreneur and friend. Her book gets to the heart of what I’ve been feeling lately:
So if you’ve been noticing that my accounts have gone quiet, you would be right. And that’s a good thing.
Amidst the festive lights and celebrations of the holiday season, it's crucial to recognize that not everyone experiences this time of year with joy. For many, the holidays bring added stress, loneliness, and mental health challenges. Recent news stories have shed light on the significance of lending an empathetic ear and providing support, emphasizing the need for global connectivity in times of crisis.
In the spirit of the season, let's explore the profound impact of listening and how it can serve as a beacon of hope for individuals facing emergencies, even those who are miles away.
A recent CBC News article brings attention to the introduction of Canada's 988 mental health hotline, a service designed to offer immediate assistance to those in crisis. The hotline provides a listening ear, recognizing the heightened mental health challenges that can accompany the holiday season. The availability of timely and accessible mental health support, especially during the festive period, becomes crucial in ensuring that individuals have a lifeline when they need it the most.
Meanwhile, a heartwarming story reported by The New York Times takes us to an African hair salon that has transformed into a sanctuary for mental health discussions. Breaking down the stigma surrounding mental well-being, the salon encourages clients to share their struggles openly while getting their hair done. This innovative approach underscores the importance of creating safe spaces for conversations about mental health, particularly during a time when stress levels tend to soar.
In Ottawa, a recent development reported by CTV News introduces a long-overdue upgrade to emergency services. Residents calling 9-1-1 can now have their calls connected to emergency services in other cities, fostering a sense of interconnectedness and expanding the support network for those facing emergencies.
These stories collectively convey a powerful message: the impact of offering a listening ear goes beyond borders. During the holiday season, a time often marked by heightened emotions, the simple act of listening can become a beacon of hope for those facing emergencies or struggling with their mental health.
As we navigate the holiday rush, let's remember that the gift of listening doesn't know geographical boundaries. It's not about grand gestures or elaborate gifts; it's about dedicating our time, attention, and compassion to those in need. Whether through dedicated hotlines, unconventional spaces like a hair salon, or innovative global approaches to emergency services, the core message remains constant: listening is a force that can bring comfort, understanding, and hope, regardless of where someone may be.
This holiday season, let's extend our commitment to being present for others, to lend a compassionate ear not just locally but globally. By doing so, we contribute to a world where human connection knows no borders, making the holidays a time of genuine warmth and support for everyone, regardless of their location.
Next month, the French version of Shawna's Outreach will be available for sale. Until then, here's an excerpt from Shawna’s Outreach : En donnant tous un peu, on fait beaucoup. In the English version, you read about Hotel Hank: a bar of soap that was donated to Shawna's Outreach. In the French version, "a day in the life of a donation" is told through the eyes of Yvon le savon.
As with its English counterpart, all proceeds from the sale of this book will go directly to helping feed people in need.
Le parcours d’un don
Faites connaissance avec Yvon d’Hôtel, le petit pain de savon que nous recevons, vous et moi, chaque fois que nous passons une nuit à l’hôtel. Son périple illustre la profonde influence que peut avoir le moindre article sur la vie de quelqu’un.
Yvon d’Hôtel se morfond depuis au moins six mois sur les marches d’une maison de banlieue à Ottawa. Ne vous laissez pas tromper par sa modeste apparence : il voit grand. Tout ce qu’il souhaite, c’est de rencontrer l’Eau, son amie, et de contribuer à l’hygiène de quelqu’un. Comme il ne parvient jamais à atteindre une source d’eau, il n’a pas encore accompli sa mission. Du moins, jusqu’à aujourd’hui.
9 h 37 Un ballon de football abandonné dans l’escalier déstabilise Yvon d’Hôtel et l’envoie culbuter jusqu’au bas de l’escalier, où il arrive légèrement amoché. Le coupable de ce rebondissement ramasse Yvon d’Hôtel d’une main, alors que de l’autre, il s’active distraitement sur l’écran de son téléphone.
9 h 38 Le contenu qu’une amie vient d’afficher sur les réseaux sociaux au sujet de Shawna’s Outreach s’affiche à l’écran. Justement, le message donne une liste d’articles de toilette recherchés.
9 h 39 Les yeux alternent d’une main à l’autre, et passent d’Yvon d’Hôtel au billet publié sur Shawna’s Outreach. Une idée vient de surgir, et un plan s’élabore.
9 h 40 Un message arrive directement à Shawna’s Outreach : « Salut, j’ai un savon à donner. Comment dois-je faire? »
10 h 37 Yvon d’Hôtel arrive à un commerce situé à proximité qui sert de point de collecte à Shawna’s Outreach. D’ici quelques heures, Shawna passera prendre le contenu de la boîte de dons. Entre-temps, Yvon d’Hôtel patiente en compagnie des autres articles qui attendent d’arriver à leur destination finale.
12 h 44 Shawna arrive et sort Yvon d’Hôtel de la boîte avec les autres dons. Elle les apporte à l’arrière de son véhicule et commence à les répartir dans des sacs à moitié remplis. Yvon d’Hôtel est placé dans un sac qui contient déjà les articles habituels (boisson, source de protéines, bas, etc.).
15 h Après quelques autres arrêts pour recueillir d’autres dons et les distribuer dans les sacs, Shawna arrive au centre-ville d’Ottawa et commence à les remettre aux personnes sans abri qu’elle rencontre dans la rue.
16 h 12 Un jeune homme assis sur le trottoir reçoit le sac où se trouve Yvon d’Hôtel. Il ouvre rapidement le sac et commence à en explorer le contenu. Lorsqu’il trouve Yvon d’Hôtel, un sourire se dessine sur son visage : il confie à Shawna ne pas avoir pris de douche depuis quatre jours. Il a hâte d’utiliser son nouveau savon, Yvon d’Hôtel.
17 h 13 Yvon d’Hôtel réalise son rêve : il rencontre enfin l’Eau, son amie. La fierté qu’il éprouve à l’idée d’aider ce jeune homme sans abri pétille en lui comme de la mousse de savon. Voilà qui termine bien cette excellente journée.
Copyright: Shawna Thibodeau and Amanda Sterczyk 2023, all rights reserved.
Falls can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. But when an older person falls, the results can be life altering. Did you know that November is Fall Prevention Month in Canada? This annual initiative aims to raise awareness in preventing falls and fall-related injuries. (1)
Falls are the leading cause of injury, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations for seniors in North America. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported sobering statistics in this area:
So, how can older adults fall-proof their lives and their homes? You must realize I’ll be addressing exercise ideas for fall prevention. After all, I’ve published 6 books on the topic!
But first, let’s review non-exercise fall prevention tips:
What does posture have to do with fall prevention?
Now that we’ve covered this list, let’s focus on your posture. When you sit or stand, are you a comma, a question mark, or an exclamation point? And what, exactly, does posture have to do with fall prevention? Posture is a key component of fall prevention that may not come to mind for you. But don’t worry, you’re not alone—many people are not aware that their posture impacts their ability to prevent a fall.
A stooped-over posture has you actively fighting gravity to prevent a momentum-based fall. If your standing position looks more like a question mark than an exclamation point and you trip over your foot or some unseen object, you are more likely to fall as gravity pulls your body forward. If your sitting position looks like a comma, it means your seated posture can still impact your ability to hold yourself in a safer, more upright position when you do get up to walk.
In this hunched-over position, your bones are not aligned, and you can’t support your body weight. Instead, your muscles and your connective tissue—the tendons that connect muscles to bones and ligaments that connect bones to each other—have been assigned a role that’s normally reserved for your bones. Eventually, these muscles, tendons, and ligaments declare a strike because they already have a job to do. They don’t want a second job. It’s like asking the widget makers to also make sprockets; they’d rather stick to making widgets and let the sprocket makers make the sprockets.
Think of your body as a finely-tuned, highly specialized assembly line. Every part of our body is designed for its specialty. If you don’t use all the parts in the right way, they’ll stop functioning. In the case of movement, if you’re going to keep moving, other parts will have to jump in and help. And that’s when you risk falling.
It’s not too late to start. Your body has an incredible feedback loop of action-reaction. If you begin to work your muscles and load your bones, your body will respond. But if you don’t use them, you will lose them.
It takes approximately 100 muscles working together to maintain good posture. These muscles need to be strong to hold your body upright. Two exercises that can begin your posture work are active sitting and active standing.
Active sitting helps us load our muscles and bones to fight the effects of gravity. Instead of outsourcing the role of our muscles by slumping in our seats, we should sit tall.
To start: Begin by sitting in a kitchen or dining room chair that has a firm seat.
Do you need to make it easier? Start with two minutes of active sitting.
Are you ready to make it harder? Try for 10 minutes of active sitting every hour.
Active standing allows us to align our bones while strengthening our muscles and bones in the process. Active standing should feel like work. Your muscles are working together to hold you upright. This is a more effective way to stand, instead of dropping into your heels and hips. Resist the pull of gravity!
For this exercise, you can remove your shoes if you’re willing to be bare foot.
To start: Stand up.
Are you ready to make it harder? Try for 10 minutes of active standing every hour.
Ready for more exercises to work on your posture? All of my books are available for sale on Amazon. Visit my author page to find links to and purchase your copy today: http://amazon.com/author/amandasterczyk.
In the past week, I’ve had three separate requests for more details on the seniors’ exercise guides I have published. To date, I have written and published 6 books focused on helping seniors prevent life-altering falls and stay in their own homes longer.
While there is some crossover with the books, each one has a unique focus. This month’s blog post will focus on these 6 books, but you can see a snapshot of all my books on my recently-updated website.
These books are self-help exercise guides for caregivers, family members, and, most importantly, seniors. They all feature foundational exercises with step-by-step instructions and illustrations that they can use as a home-based exercise plan.
The exercises don’t require special equipment or the need to get on the floor—any lying-down exercises are safe to perform on a bed. Each exercise also includes modifications on how to make it easier—or harder, in some of the more advanced books—depending on abilities. Falls are the leading cause of injury, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations for seniors in North America. The goal with my books is to help seniors increase their confidence—after all, the fear of falling contributes to the risk of falling—and improve their strength and balance so they won’t sustain a life-altering fall.
Some of these titles are available for sale in Ottawa, while all of them can be ordered online from Amazon. And you can check out the table of contents with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature if you want more details.
Foundations of Balance and Fall Prevention (2-book series). The books Balance and Your Body and Balance 2.0 are standalone books, but can also be purchased together as the Foundations of Balance and Fall Prevention series. Both books are divided into three sections: The Problem, The Solution, and The Action Plan, which include a background on falls and fall prevention, personal stories, and targeted exercises.
Balance and Your Body features all-standing exercises, with modifications for seated options where possible. It focuses on three components:
Balance 2.0 focuses on balance through strength. It features exercises in three positions:
- lying (bed or floor)
Also included are visualizations to help with brain training.
Balance Exercises for Fall Prevention
Balance Exercises for Fall Prevention is available in English and Spanish, and there is an audiobook of the English version. If you want just a straight exercise guide, this book has all the exercises featured in Balance and Your Body and Balance 2.0, while the background information on falls and fall prevention has been removed. It also includes 8 workout plans and an exercise breakdown by goal—balance, posture, strength, and flexibility.
Chair Exercises for Fall Prevention
Chair Exercises for Fall Prevention features seated exercises only and includes 4 gentle, seated workout plans that focus on balance, posture, strength, and flexibility.
The Aging Parents Book
The Aging Parents Books: Gentle Exercise for Seniors Over 80 is a movement and gentle exercise guide. All of the exercises in this book are completed lying down on a bed or seated in a chair. The font size has been increased and the font style has been changed, to improve readability for those with eyesight challenges.
If you’re still unsure about which book is right for you, or have any other questions, please feel free to reach out.
The following excerpt comes from my upcoming 13th book, Shawna's Outreach: When we each give a little, a lot gets done, by Shawna Thibodeau and Amanda Sterczyk. All royalties from this book will go directly to help people living in poverty and on the streets of Ottawa. It's called, "A day in the life of a donation."
Let’s meet Hotel Hank, the complimentary bar of soap we all pick up on overnight hotel stays. His journey is one example of how even the smallest item can have a profound influence on someone’s life.
Hotel Hank has been languishing on the stairs of a suburban Ottawa home for at least six months. Don’t let his diminutive appearance fool you: he has big dreams. All he wants is to meet up with his pal, Water, and help someone get clean. Never quite making it to a water source, his mission has been thwarted. Until today.
9:37 a.m. A careless footfall on the stairs sends Hotel Hank reeling, tumbling end over end until he lands at the bottom of the stairs, slightly askew. The person responsible for said relocation picks up Hotel Hank with one hand, as the other hand scrolls distractedly on a smartphone.
9:38 a.m. A friend’s social media post about Shawna’s Outreach fills the smartphone screen. Coincidentally, it’s a post detailing the need for toiletries.
9:39 a.m. Eyes shift from one hand to the other, from looking at Hotel Hank to reading the post about Shawna’s Outreach. A lightbulb goes off as a plan is formed.
9:40 a.m. A direct message arrives at Shawna’s Outreach: “Hi, I have a bar of soap that I’d like to donate. How can I get it to you?”
10:37 a.m. Hotel Hank is delivered to a local shop that serves as a drop-off point for Shawna’s Outreach. Shawna will be coming by in a few hours to gather the items in this donation bin. In the meantime, Hotel Hank chills with the other products that are awaiting delivery to their final destination.
12:44 p.m. Shawna arrives and collects Hotel Hank and the other donated items. She brings them to the back of her vehicle and begins distributing them in the half-filled bags. Hotel Hank joins a bag that already contains the usual items (drink, source of protein, socks, etc.).
3:00 p.m. After a few additional stops to pick up more donations and sort them into waiting bags, Shawna arrives in downtown Ottawa to begin sharing the bags with the unhoused people she meets on the street.
4:12 p.m. The bag containing Hotel Hank is handed to a young man sitting on the curb. He quickly opens the bag and begins pulling out the items. A smile forms across his face as he takes out Hotel Hank, and he tells Shawna that he hasn’t had a shower in four days. He’s looking forward to using his new bar of soap—Hotel Hank.
5:13 p.m. Hotel Hank’s dream comes true at last as he meets his pal, Water. More exuberant than soapy bubbles is his pride in helping this young homeless person. It’s been a good day all around.
Copyright: Shawna Thibodeau and Amanda Sterczyk 2023, all rights reserved.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are fully aware that Canada’s health care system is broken. More than one simple break, the problem is akin to a car window that shatters into thousands of tiny pieces on impact. Many problems that require many steps to fix all of the breaks. It is going to take years to dig us out of this hole, and it will require policy changes across the spectrum. I liken it to a giant cross-country jigsaw puzzle that can only be completed in small steps.
Today, I want to address one potential component regarding the shortage of family doctors in Canada. The adoption of multidisciplinary health care teams, also known as team-based care, is vital to the future viability of our health care system.
When it comes to team-based care, a key component must be the inclusion of exercise professionals on these teams. The World Health Organization has identified physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for premature death:
"Regular physical activity is proven to help prevent and manage noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and several cancers. It also helps prevent hypertension, maintain healthy body weight and can improve mental health, quality of life and well-being.” (WHO guidelines on physical activity)
In fact, the Ontario Kinesiology Association has been advocating for the inclusion of exercise-specific professionals to be included on all primary care teams in the province:
"Exercise and physical activity are recognized unequivocally as among the most effective means to both prevent and manage chronic disease. Managing these illnesses is critical: Chronic conditions such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease are the leading cause of death in Ontario. The cost of supporting individuals with chronic disease is estimated to be 55% of total direct and indirect health costs.”
Indeed, a Canadian study demonstrated that patients want individualized physical activity recommendations from their primary care physicians. If team-based care is to be successful, not only should dieticians be added to these teams, but also exercise professionals. Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise would go a long way to reducing the burden of chronic disease on Canadians and our health care system.
If you’ve been following my Facebook author page, you may be aware that I’ve embarked on my first author collaboration. If not, keep reading to learn more.
Earlier this year, I met Shawna Thibodeau at a women’s networking event. Shawna runs a grassroots initiative called Shawna’s Outreach. She accepts donations from all over the city and creates outreach bags to distribute to people living on the street.
At the event, Shawna received a generous cash donation to support her outreach work. Attendees were also invited to see how they could support in their own way, which leads us to today.
My idea was to write a book—you know, give back through writing. The book is called Shawna's Outreach: When we each give a little, a lot gets done. Shawna and I are co-authors on this book, and we’re excited to let you know that it will be available for sale in a few months’ time.
I have donated my time and services to write the book, but I have also recruited a volunteer editorial team. Everyone involved in producing this book is donating their time and services, so that all royalties can directly benefit Shawna's Outreach.
The book will cover who Shawna is, how Shawna’s Outreach began, who donates to and who benefits from Shawna’s Outreach, and much more. We are telling the story of the homelessness crisis in Ottawa with hope and humour—in effort to demonstrate that every small act of kindness and sharing is important.
As we look towards a fall book launch, we hope those of you in Ottawa will join us. If you are outside the Ottawa area and would like to donate directly to Shawna’s Outreach, please get in touch via email: email@example.com. You can also follow Shawna's Outreach on Facebook.
Inactivity can be a vicious cycle, particularly for frail, older seniors. Fear of falling keeps some seniors from getting up and moving more. Unfortunately, lack of movement further weakens muscles, stiffens joints, and reduces the ability to balance.
The Aging Parents Book is a movement and gentle exercise guide. The purpose of this book is to show you, or your older loved one, how to do gentle movement-based exercises that will both feel good AND improve mobility and strength, as you (they) go about daily life.
This is the sixth exercise book for seniors that I have published. It is different than my other Balance exercise guides, in that all of the exercises are completed either lying down or sitting in a chair. They still address the balance system, strength, posture, and joint mobility. These exercises will improve walking, reinforce good posture, and enhance ease of movement during day-to-day life. This book is all about gentle, low-key movement, so unlike my previous guides, there are no additional instructions on how to make the exercises harder.
The font size has been increased and the font style has been changed, to improve readability for those with eyesight challenges.
Exercise Sample: Foot Alphabet
Copyright: Amanda Sterczyk 2023, all rights reserved.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.