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.
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.
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.
Recently, a former student reached out to ask if I’d be willing to teach an Essentrics session for her and a few friends. I spent more than a decade teaching Essentrics in the Ottawa area, but it’s been a few years since I taught a group fitness session.
So I thought about it for a few days—specifically, the work involved in setting up and preparing for classes again. In the end, I politely declined and directed her to other possibilities.
I no longer teach Essentrics, but it’s still a part of my life. Even before I began the instructor certification process, I had been following the Classical Stretch by Essentrics episodes and DVDs for almost 10 years. It’s a no-impact, (mostly) equipment-free workout that can be done anywhere, and I still include it in my repertoire of exercise.
That’s the key for me: it’s part of my exercise options, but it’s not the only one. I believe that variety is the spice of life when it comes to exercise. You see, I don’t live to exercise—and I didn’t either when I was a full-time fitness professional—rather, I exercise to live. As I get older, I appreciate more the importance of switching up workouts to avoid overuse injuries, keeping your brain in the game by learning new things, and making sure that I’m enjoying what I’m doing.
So, I do still practice Essentrics, but much less frequently than when I was teaching multiple weekly classes. For the itinerant exercise consumers like me, I offer the following recommendations for incorporating Essentrics into your life.
Miranda’s books. Miranda Esmonde-White is the brains, heart, and soul behind Essentrics and is a true Canadian fitness pioneer. She has penned several books on the Essentrics technique, and these are presented below:
No matter how you choose to move your body, please do it often. It will help you in the long run.
NOTE: I am no longer an Amazon Associate, so I don't earn commissions from recommended products.
It’s been five years since I published my first book. At the time, I thought I’d be a one-hit wonder. But I’ve gone on to publish a total of 11 books and one audiobook. So I now confidently introduce myself as a writer, especially since I’m working on my next few manuscripts.
In recognition of my five-year authorship anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on what led me to write my first book, Move More, Your Life Depends on It. That was published in 2019, but I founded THE MOVE MORE INSTITUTE™ in 2016. It was an initiative I created to help sedentary individuals learn how to incorporate non-exercise activity into their daily lives. You know, how our grandparents used to live when they didn’t have so many labour-saving devices at their fingertips.
Here’s a post about it from 2018, when I appeared on local television to promote my initiative:
Living in the nation’s capital—home to the federal government and a multitude of associations and institutes—I wanted a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek title for my initiative. That’s how THE MOVE MORE INSTITUTE™ came into existence. But there was nothing formal or regimented about it. In reality, I was trying to work myself out of a job. You see, as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, many clients participated in weekly exercise with me. But for many, that was the extent of their physical activity. The rest of their waking hours, they were mostly sedentary at work and home. I was trying to inspire people to sit less, move more--even if that meant they no longer felt the need to attend my classes or hire me for personal training.
And that was a problem, because sitting had been identified as the “new smoking." You see, exercise alone isn’t enough. Daily movement that breaks up long periods of sitting is vital. I first read about this concept in the 2011 book, Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, by Dr. Joan Vernikos—the former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division. Vernikos was instrumental in astronaut John Glenn’s return to space at the age of 77.
Although I wrote about Vernikos’ important work as early as 2014, Vernikos published her first book on the topic a decade earlier— The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging. Although I can confidently say I’ve been ahead of my time with many of my publications, it is Dr. Vernikos’ ground-breaking research at NASA that led the movement to reduce sedentary time. When I realized in 2018 that many of my blog posts had already touched on this important topic, I knew I wanted to expand on my previous writing and turn it into a book.
So that’s my story of how NASA inspired my writing career. If you haven’t had a chance to read Dr. Vernikos' work, I’d recommend any of her books. But my favourite is still Sitting Kills, Moving Heals.
Other books by Joan Vernikos, Ph.D.:
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I fell this morning.
Correction: I tripped and fell. While I was running. I’m okay, thanks for asking. Just a bit stiff and sore, but I’ll survive. No broken bones and I thankfully didn’t hit my head, so no concussion either.
Here’s how it (I) went down: It was early. It was dark. I was tired. I didn’t notice the uneven sidewalk. I didn’t lift my foot up enough—I was tired, remember? And then it happened.
It happened so fast, I didn’t even realize I was falling. So I didn’t have time to try and prevent myself from hitting the pavement at full force. All of a sudden, I was on the ground thinking to myself, “What just happened?!”
That’s the problem with falling: when it happens, it happens fast. You often don’t have enough time to react. And as we get older, our reaction times slow down even more. Coupled with the fact that our bones can become more brittle, falls in older adults can be life-altering. In some cases, falls can be life-threatening.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), falls account for 80% of seniors’ injury hospitalizations. Those same seniors make up half of the injury hospitalizations in Canada. That means when a senior falls, they’re more likely to be severely injured. And if you’ve fallen once, you’re more likely to fall a second time within the next 18 months.
These life-altering falls reduce a person’s independence—they often can no longer stay living in their own home.
What’s the solution? Avoid falling. I’m not being facetious: fall prevention is a big deal and can mean the difference between injury, hospitalization, even death. Simple exercises that don’t require special equipment, fancy clothing, or sweating. They can be done in your own home. Ideally, they should be done every day to improve balance, coordination, and mobility. These exercises increase muscle and bone strength, as well as posture—which is important to avoid a momentum-based fall.
Not sure where to start? I’ve published 5 books of balance exercises for fall prevention:
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It's clear that fall prevention is more important than ever. But, how can we reduce the risk of falls and stay active and independent as we age?
The answer is simple: balance exercises. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining strength, flexibility, and balance, which are all critical factors in reducing the risk of falls. The problem is that many older adults struggle to find an exercise routine that is safe, effective, and easy to follow. That's where my new audiobook, Balance Exercises for Fall Prevention, comes in.
Fall prevention is about maintaining independence in our golden years. This allows you to stay in your own home longer.
Balance Exercises for Fall Prevention is a comprehensive guide to the best balance exercises for seniors. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced exerciser, this audiobook provides a wide range of exercises that are easy to follow and can be done from the comfort of your own home. With clear instructions, helpful tips, and modifications for different abilities, you'll be able to tailor your workout to meet your needs and achieve your goals.
One of the best things about Balance Exercises for Fall Prevention is that it's an audiobook, so you can listen and follow along while you exercise. This makes it easy to stay focused and motivated, even when you're feeling tired or uninspired. With regular use, you'll see improvement in your balance, coordination, and overall health, and you'll have the peace of mind of knowing you're reducing your risk of falls.
So, why wait? Start your journey to better balance and fall prevention today with Balance Exercises for Fall Prevention. Whether you're looking for a comprehensive exercise program, a way to stay active and independent, or simply a way to improve your overall health, this audiobook has everything you need.
Try it for free with a 30-day, no-cost trial of Audible.
And recovery requires you to patiently peel back those onion layers
Late last year—as in, days before the Christmas break—I walked away from my job for the same reasons. I had hit a wall and it was impacting my physical and emotional health. I equate my burnout to a raw onion: it makes your eyes water, leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and can cause indigestion.
I had had enough. My body had had enough. Right before I packed it in, every work email was triggering a fight or flight response: sheer panic about more tasks and responsibilities landing on my plate.
Post-resignation hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. It’s been messy and complicated. And it still feels like an onion, where peeling back the layers of recovery requires strength. Not to mention patience in dealing with that sticky onion layer that doesn’t want to let go.
As I’ve peeled these layers back in my own life, I’d like to share with you some of the layers I’ve been through, in hopes that they might help you in your journey back from burnout.
1. Get comfortable with discomfort (yours and others). The discomfort is just one of many layers you need to peel away, and this one has multiple layers. I’ve had many sleepless nights since I left my job. At first, it was all about my brain processing what had led to the moment when I decided that quitting that very day was the best action. The discomfort here came from reliving a lot of little things that, taken on their own, shouldn’t cause employee burnout. But added up with all the other little things, well, let’s just say the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
The next layer of discomfort came from thinking about my colleagues. I felt like I was letting them down by leaving with work on my plate, some of which they would have to pick up and manage along with their own workloads. Unmanageable workloads seem to be quite common in many workplaces, and a wise friend advised me that it wasn’t my responsibility to sort it out for everyone.
A further layer of discomfort reflected back on my actions, when I started thinking, “what was I thinking?!” You know, that I quite possibly made a wrong choice. In the end, I know in my heart that I made the best choice—the only choice--for me at the time. The discomfort comes from acknowledging and sitting with these uncomfortable thoughts, instead of dismissing them outright.
2. Take some time. At some point, I’ll return to paid work, of that I am sure. But for the moment, I’m taking time for myself—to breathe, to recover, to reset. Of course, I’m still promoting my books and thinking about new books that I might write in the future. But if and when I do return to the paid workforce, my books will once again become a weekend side hustle. For now, though, I’m enjoying having time on weekdays to work on them, with no pressure. I hope you too are able to take some time to recover.
3. Reject the tired recruiting belief about “finding a job while you still have a job.” Have you had someone spout these supposed words of wisdom to you? That the “best time to find a job is when you already have a job.” Have you said them yourself? I would argue that’s not always true. If you’re suffering from even the early stages of burnout and you jump ship for another organization, you’ll just transfer your burnout baggage to another employer. While it can be considerably less stressful to job hunt when you’re currently receiving a regular paycheque, it may be tough to present your best self during interviews if you’re already burnt out. Take it from me. Enough said.
4. Be kind to yourself. It can be easy to feel like it’s your fault when your mental wellbeing takes a hit in the workplace—as it does in the case of burnout. It’s not your fault you are experiencing burnout. I tell myself that every day; maybe one of these days I’ll truly believe it. And I hope the same goes for you. Remember why you left in the first place. It was the best choice at the time, so don’t feel guilty that you cut and ran—and I’ll endeavour to keep it in mind too. Bottom line, you need to look out for yourself.
Conclusion. There you have it, my onion layers I’ve been examining as I reset and move beyond burnout. I’m sure I’ll discover more layers, more lessons. When I do, I’ll share them with you. For the record, I try to keep my eyes dry as I peel onions, with varying degrees of success.
It’s another new year, which some see as an opportunity to change their behaviour and incorporate healthy new habits into their daily lives. Can you relate? Have you set a new year’s resolution to, for instance, join a gym and get fit? When I used to teach group fitness classes, I’d often see a bump in attendance figures at the beginning of a new year.
Instead of new healthy habits, I’m pausing a long-standing habit. This new year, I’m taking a break from exercise. You can too and still feel good about yourself and your physical wellbeing.
Let me explain. Although I’m not exercising per se, I’m still staying physically active. How is it that possible, you ask?
Physical activity is not an all-or-nothing thing. In fact, physical activity lies on a continuum, from NEAT to elite. Let me break it down with a few definitions first.
Physical activity encompasses all activities, at any intensity, including exercise. 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 exercise.
NEAT relates to moving about in daily life. Our bodies need both exercise and non-exercise activity, but much of that non-exercise activity has been lost to technology and labour-saving devices.
So, you see, I’m taking a break from exercise, but I’m still moving lots every day. My exercise break isn’t permanent; it’s just a temporary pause while I recover from an injury. I’m still staying physically active with lots of NEAT/incidental activity, because I know that all activity leads to benefits for both physical and mental health. That’s because I don’t live to exercise; I exercise to live. And I want to live a long time.
If you’re not up to joining a gym this month, if you don’t want to live to exercise, you don’t need to.
Let’s reframe physical activity: All exercise is movement, but not all movement is exercise. No special equipment, change of clothing, fancy exercise sequences, or location changes are required to just get off your butt and move more. If you move more, you will feel better. Guaranteed.
Want more tips to help you incorporate non-exercise activity into your life? Check out my first book, Move More: Your Life Depends On It.
Do you have a desk-based job? Are you a professional sitter? The knowledge-based economy means that many adults sit at their desks and in meetings for hours at a time every day. Productivity, profit, and professionalism lead people to remain seated at all times. But we're not in an airplane, and there is no turbulence (hint: you can get up and move about the cabin). This physical inactivity is prematurely aging our mostly sedentary bodies when we sit at a desk all day. It is killing us.
Being sedentary for too long impacts your entire body—your brain feels sluggish, your joints hurt, your muscles stiffen, and your mood turns generally gloomy. I think we can all agree that it’s difficult to be a productive person when you feel like that.
What can you do to address it? Here's a simple exercise that you can easily incorporate into your busy workday: Active Sitting.*
Active sitting helps us engage our muscles, strengthen our bones, and improve our posture. Instead of outsourcing the role of our muscles by slumping in our seats, we should sit tall. Aim for five minutes of active sitting every hour.
To start: Begin by sitting in a chair that has a firm seat.
Shifting forward: Sit up straight in your chair. You can slide your bottom forward so you’re not leaning back in the chair, or place your bottom right at the back of the seat with a tall back. Place both feet flat on the floor in front of you. If your legs are shorter and you can’t touch the floor, you can place a large book or block on the floor to support your feet. Don’t roll onto your tailbone. Imagine you have a tail and you want the tail behind you so you can wag it. Often, people roll backwards so they’re resting on their tailbone instead of their sit bones—these are the bony part of your bum, the lower edge of your pelvis.
Shoulder position: Drop your shoulders away from your ears. It should feel like you're letting them slide down your back.
Head position: Pull your head and neck back so your ears are sitting over your shoulders, not pushed forward. Your head is now positioned over your centre of gravity, which is allowing you to strengthen your bones by loading them. Feel your muscles and bones at work.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.