“One size fits all” is an erroneous premise, be it with hats, socks, or fitness. As a fitness professional, I get leery of statements that “everyone can do this workout.” Sure, everyone can, but does everyone want to?
Let’s be honest, what motivates you isn’t going to motivate the next person. And you’re more likely to stick with a program if you find it motivating. So how do you figure that out? My suggestion is that you break it down by the five W’s of fitness.
The five W’s can be traced back to Aristotle. They’re an investigative device that have been used by journalists, police, and authors, to name a few. In Aristotle’s case, he was examining ethics and determining voluntary versus involuntary action.(1) If an action is voluntary, these 5 questions should have answers:
And in the case of choosing of workout that’s right for you, it’s very much a voluntary endeavour. So let’s dive in and examine each component.
“Why” appears last on this list. But the past decade has seen the order and prevalence of the five W’s flipped, thanks in large part to Simon Sinek’s 2009 book, Start with Why.(2) Beginning with the end — why — will help to answer the other W’s in the case of fitness too.
Why exercise? For the fun of it. I’m not being facetious, I truly mean that. Think about it: if you enjoy your workout regimen, you’re more likely to stick with it. But there are many other reasons you may choose to begin a new exercise program, and equally solid reasons for why you will stick with your current workout.
I’ll help you begin your thought process by sharing my “why.” For me, I want to live a long and healthy life. So I exercise for life. And disease prevention, because exercise IS medicine. That was easy, now it’s your turn. Is it because you want to go for a walk with your spouse? Do you want to have the energy to play with your grandchildren? Do you like the feeling of strength from lifting heavy weights? There is no wrong answer here.
The first “who” is of course you. But that can be the beginning or the end of it. If you feel motivated to exercise on your own, or if you prefer the solitary aspect of solo workouts, there’s no need to include others. This is your fitness journey and yours alone. I get it if you want to opt for solo workouts. When I’m teaching group fitness classes or training private clients, I’m working on their fitness goals. So when it comes time to do my own workout, I prefer being with my own thoughts and going at my own pace.
But that may not appeal to you. Perhaps you want the company of a friend or loved one, the anonymity of strangers in a group class, or the motivation of a personal trainer. If external accountability is important to you, you’ll probably want to recruit someone else to propel you forward in your fitness journey.
At a broad level, fitness can be divided into four main components: cardiovascular or aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance. But that only scratches the surface of what, exactly, you can do in terms of exercise. Different things will appeal to different people. And at different times in your life, the “what” of exercise will also change.
Take me, for example. In my twenties, my go-to workout was cardio via running, including training for and competing in road races. I did it all: 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon. In my thirties, I discovered flexibility training with Essentrics. In my forties, I started picking up dumbbells and barbells to incorporate strength training into my life. And as I get ready to enter my fifties, I do all the same balance exercises that I teach to my senior clients. I do a little bit of everything in the “what" category, but in different proportions than in the past.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you prefer to exercise in the middle of the day? When you choose to get physically active will also dictate whether you’ll stick with your program. Although I get up early, I’m not a fan of early morning exercise. For me, early mornings are all about easing into the day. I once tried to teach an early morning Essentrics class. My body was there, but my brain and vocal cords preferred to stay at home. I was a babbling idiot, trying to string together coherent sentences. And I failed miserably. So, learn from my missteps: understand your motivation levels at different times of the day. It’s another key factor in sticking with it.
I’m not just referring to time of day, but also number of times per week. Your body needs and craves movement every single day. If you think “getting it over with” in one monster session will get you through the week, think again. You may be overdoing it with too much exercise at once, and risk an injury as your body and mind tire and lose focus on proper form. Remember, I want you to exercise for life. As in, a daily habit that you’ll maintain for the long term.
There are so many options for where to workout. Weather permitting, outside is one of my favourite locations for exercise. You can also join a gym, but you don’t have to. Lots of people opt for exercising at home, which is why I go to my clients in their homes. I want to them to feel confident about exercising anywhere, including their own living room.
And if you don’t want to hire a personal trainer, you can always use workout videos, streaming services, or YouTube to find a workout that’s right for you. That’s what I do when I don’t feel like heading outside or to the gym — I head to my living room instead. And often, I’ll work out in my pjs, because, why not?!
So there you have it — the five W’s of fitness. I hope this list will help you make choices in your own fitness journey. And remember, one size doesn’t fit all.
Epilogue: How Much
You may be wondering why I haven’t addressed “how much” you should workout. While this is an important topic, the answer is likely not going to motivate you to get moving. And frankly, it’s the same for everyone; the guidelines apply to all and thus fit in the realm of “one size fits all.” Be that as it may, I’ll share the “how much” with you now. Perhaps it will encourage you to get moving.
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week to maintain optimal health.(3) Although some health and fitness professionals recommend five bouts of 30 minutes each, it’s really up to you how accumulate your activity. Indeed, the guidelines highlight that the bouts be 10 minutes or more.* And we’re talking here about aerobic physical activity — hence the emphasis on “moderate to vigorous.” The point is to get your heart rate up. They also recommend two days to four days per week of strength training activities and four to seven days per week of flexibility and balance training. (4)
*The US Physical Activity Guidelines were updated late last year, and they dispensed with the “10 minutes or more” guidance, in favour of physical activity in any amount.(5) This shift emphasizes the cumulative effect of physical activity throughout the day.
Ottawa is a great city for walking. It’s a walkable city, until it isn’t. This reduction in walkability is a direct result of wintry conditions: icy sidewalks, unplowed sidewalks, and blocked crosswalks are just a few of the problems that impact our ability to walk safely and avoid falling.
In early January, I participated in the Snow Moles’ Walkability Audit of Old Ottawa South. The Snow Moles is an initiative of the Council on Aging of Ottawa. Snow Moles are volunteers who report on what it’s like to walk outside on a winter day in Ottawa. The information they gather will be used by Seniors Watch Old Ottawa South (SWOOS), OSCA, and the Council on Aging of Ottawa (COA) to inform the City and others of ways that winter walkability can and should be improved.
Falls are not age-specific, but your risk of falling increases as you age. And if sidewalks are slippery due to snow and ice, anyone is at risk of falling.
Intrepid volunteers like the Snow Moles are making the sidewalks safe for walking. But before you leave home, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of falling.
As a fitness professional, I often get asked about the “best” exercise for a particular fitness goal or body part: eg, “What’s the best exercise to improve my balance?” Or, “what’s the best exercise to strengthen my quads?” The best exercise is the one you’re going to do.
The exercises listed below are some of my clients’ favourites, and include both strength and balance components. Both are key factors in fall prevention. Strong muscles and bones allow us to lift our legs and feet over obstacles like pesky snow banks that haven’t been cleared. Or your big toe: when the muscles along the shin bone are weak, it’s more difficult to lift the front of your foot off the ground as you walk. Then your own body becomes a trip hazard.
And balance is a critical component of walking - because walking is essentially a weight transfer and balance exercise. One foot, then the other. Repeat. If you’re having trouble with balance, how will you be with walking? Well, walking will also be difficult, and that’s when you’re most likely to risk a fall.
Try these exercises in your home. Focus on slow, purposeful movements. Hang on to something solid if you need help with balance. And make sure the area is free of obstacles if you’re moving around.
Draw the letters of the alphabet with your foot to strengthen muscles around your ankle.
High March (Stomp)
Lift one knee to hip level and hold for 5 seconds. Lower the leg and switch sides.
Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart. Rise up onto the balls of your feet, avoiding leaning forward. Hold for 3 seconds, then lower.
Face your kitchen counter and hang on with both hands. Open your legs to shoulder width and lower your behind down and back as if you’re sitting in a chair. Keep your back straight, knees above the feet, and weight on the heels. Push into your heels to come back up to standing.
Switch Up Your Walking
Sideways walking strengthens little-used muscles along the inside and outside of your legs. Backwards walking helps you strengthen your brain-body connection by creating new pathways in your brain, teaches your body to rely on the messages the nerves in your feet are sending to the penthouse, and it improves coordination in your lower body. NOTE: make sure the space is clear of obstacles and hang on to something solid.
Stand on one leg and try to hold for 30 seconds. Put your foot back down and repeat on the other side. To make it more challenging, try turning your head to one side.
As we age, our balance is impacted negatively by our aging bodies:
cells die in our vestibular system, which is connected to the centre in our brain that controls balance;
- our vision declines and with it, our depth perception;
- changes to our blood pressure may cause dizziness, lightheadness or blurriness;
- we lose muscle mass, strength, and power — this can slow our reaction time if we trip;
- our reflexes and coordination also decline; and
- a variety of health problems may also impact our balance, including arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. (1)
Regular physical activity is key to maintaining good balance. An exercise program that focuses on specific balance exercises as well as core strengthening and movement patterns will improve balance and stability, not to mention daily function. Working on improving your balance and strengthening your muscles will increase your confidence and reduce the risk of a fall.
The following is an excerpt from my book, Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day.* As a Canadian, I researched and wrote about Canadians’ physical activity levels, or lack thereof. But the shockingly high levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour are seen across the globe. Indeed, the newest physical activity guidelines for Americans emphasize that every minute of movement counts, and they should sit less and move more.(1)
How Much Do Canadians Move Every Day?
Our bodies were designed to move, but how much do most Canadians actually move every day? Not enough, according to healthcare experts. And it’s costing us as a nation to the tune of 3.7 per cent of overall health-care spending.(2)
The World Health Organization defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.”(3) I don’t see anything in that definition that mentions sweating, special clothing, “feeling the burn,” or expensive gym memberships. What it does tell us is that movement—any movement—is physical activity. You need to move your muscles, or you will lose them. It’s not rocket science, people!
Increasing the physical activity of Canadians would save lives—in excess of 6,600 premature deaths, or 2.4 per cent of the national population over a 25-year period. What’s more, as a country that provides universal health care to its citizens, national healthcare costs and chronic conditions would decline with a modest increase in daily physical activity. We’re talking thousands of fewer cases of cancer (31,000), type 2 diabetes (120,000), heart disease (170,000), and hypertension (222,000).(4)
Regular movement—loading your muscles and bones by working against gravity and then walking away from your desk—is what your body needs. Statistics Canada crunched the numbers and reported that you’ll have a lower risk of premature death if you stand or walk around regularly, as opposed to staying seated for most of the day.(5)
So, how much should we move as Canadians? I’m glad you asked. Let’s have a look.
How Much Should Canadians Move Every Day?
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults need 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week to maintain optimal health.(6) In the “moderate” category, examples include brisk walking and bike riding, whilst in the “vigorous” category, jogging and cross-country skiing are listed.
So, why exercise? It improves your fitness, strength, and mental health (morale and self-esteem), and it reduces your risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity.(7)
These are the minimum guidelines for physical activity. However, Statistics Canada data indicates that only 15 per cent of adult Canadians meet these minimum requirements.(8) Broken down to a daily level, the minimum exercise requirements—which were measured with accelerometers—equate to 21.42 minutes of daily exercise.
What are Canadian adults doing with their time when they are not exercising? They’re being mostly sedentary, that’s what—over 9.5 hours per day, which accounts for 69 per cent of their waking hours.(9) And, as we saw earlier, too much sedentary behaviour is creating a global health-care crisis.
Even if you meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, sedentary behaviour in the remaining hours of your day is still detrimental to your health.(10) Those remaining hours are the focus of this book. I will help you add non-exercise activity in common sense ways. Consistent with my original goal when I first created The Move More Institute™, I will share easy to implement and low-cost or free options. Let’s go.
How Do You Accumulate Physical Activity?
Ready for some good news? The activity our bodies crave and need can happen in minuscule increments. Indeed, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that physical activity that was accumulated in sporadic bouts throughout the day still reduced the risk of early death.(11) The total amount of daily physical activity is more important than how you accumulate that activity.
What are your health or fitness goals? Disease prevention or injury prevention? Enjoyment of life? If you fall into one of these categories, there really is no need to go all out at the gym. For many people, their unspoken goals of fitness are basic to existence—prevent premature death and live life fully and pain-free. If you fall into this group, don’t despair about people who may have more specific or rigorous fitness goals. You can focus instead on accumulating small, sporadic bouts of movement throughout your day. Every little bit counts toward your total physical activity: walking to the store, taking the stairs, or getting up from your desk and pacing during a conference call. As I mentioned before when describing my mission with The Move More Institute™, I call them “snacks of exercise.” And these snacks don’t require fancy workout clothes or special equipment, or the need to shower before continuing your day. Every little bit of movement matters. Just ask actress Eva Marie Saint.
“Did you know I’m older than the Oscars? Just keep moving.”(12) Just. Keep. Moving. Those were the words Saint uttered at the 2017 Oscars. She was pondering the fact that the awards show was celebrating 90 years, and she was older at 93. And she looked fantastic, standing proudly, displaying every inch of her 5’4” frame—not stooped over and shuffling like many others later in their lives.
And she’s right, you know. There is no secret elixir for aging well. You just have to keep moving. No fancy equipment or expensive gym membership required!
You know the drill: Time for a break! You’ve been sitting long enough; time to get up and move. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here, waiting for you. Now go move your beautiful body!
If you enjoyed this excerpt, please consider buying the book. It’s available globally on Amazon and locally in Ottawa (contact me for more details).
*Copyright 2018 Amanda Sterczyk, all rights reserved
1. Katriana L. Piercy & Richard P. Troaino. "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans From the US Department of Health and Human Services." Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 11 (2018): 1-3. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.118.005263
2. Ian Janssen. “Health Care Costs of Physical Inactivity in Canadian Adults.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 37, no. 4 (2012): 803–806.
3. World Health Organization, Fact Sheet on Physical Activity, http://www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/en/. Reprinted with permission.
4. Hayley Wickenheiser, “We must move more to improve Canadians’ health,” Ottawa Citizen, March 15, 2017, http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/wickenheiser-we-must-move-more-to-improve-canadians-health.
5. Fares Bounajm, Thy Dinh, and Louis Thériault, Moving Ahead: The Economic Impact of Reducing Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2014): 15, http://sportmatters.ca/sites/default/files/content/moving_ahead_economic_impact_en.pdf.
6. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults—18–64 years, (first viewed October 10, 2017), http://www.csep.ca/CMFiles/Guidelines/CSEP_PAGuidelines_adults_en.pdf.
7. CSEP, Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.
8. Rachel C. Colley et al., “Physical activity of Canadian adults: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey,” Health Reports 22, no. 1 (January 2011): 4, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2011001/article/11396-eng.pdf.
9. Colley, “Physical activity of Canadian adults”, 4.
10. Carol Ewing Garber et al., “Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43, no. 7 (July 2011): 1334–1359, https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx.
11. Pedro F. Saint-Maurice et al., “Moderate‐to‐Vigorous Physical Activity and All‐Cause Mortality: Do Bouts Matter?” Journal of the American Heart Association (March 22, 2018), https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.117.007678.
12. “‘I’m older than the Academy’: Eva Marie Saint hands out Oscar at age 93,” CTV News, March 4, 2018, https://www.ctvnews.ca/i-m-older-than-the-academy-eva-marie-saint-hands-out-oscar-at-age-93-1.3828591.
Everyone Loves a Good Origin Story! aka the Evolution of Amanda Sterczyk Fitness and The Move More Institute™
I wasn’t always in the fitness industry; I studied psychology at school. During my university days in the late 1980s/early 1990s, a professor announced that our generation would not have jobs for life. Instead, we would become the “continuous learning generation” and cycle through three to five career changes.
To be honest, I breathed a sigh of relief. At that point, I wasn’t entirely sure of two points:
1. that I could make a career with a Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, and
2. that I wanted a career in psychology.
The first realization drove me to extend my post-secondary study — first, to complete an honours thesis, and then to complete a Master of Arts, Psychology. And so I began my career in health promotion research. Not psychology — health promotion research — which I suppose qualifies as my first career change. And I loved it. I even toyed with completing a PhD in the field. But then research funding started to dry up, and the opportunities became scarcer.
That’s when I conjured my next career transition, which landed me in human resources. In high tech during the 90s tech boom. Talk about a trial by fire. Given my penchant for research, I found a home on the compensation side of HR. Numbers didn’t scare me, but having employees crying in my office did.
The HR career sandwiched two maternity leaves, and I realized that I loved being a stay-at-home mom. More on this later; be patient, grasshopper.
During a return to the workforce, a foot injury sidelined my hobby as an occasional runner, I was devastated to hear that I needed orthotics and “indoor shoes.” Indoor shoes?! I’m a barefoot babe, and in my world, shoes are for outside only. Sometimes.
During my first maternity leave, I had discovered the TV version of Essentrics® - Classical Stretch™ with Miranda Esmonde-White. I stumbled upon Classical Stretch again shortly after the shock of indoor shoes was thrust upon me. I’m not kidding when I say I was an “occasional runner.” I’ve never been a huge fan of structured exercise, which is partly why I stopped following Classical Stretch a few years earlier.
But when my foot problems began to recede, I decided I needed to become more diligent about working out. Let’s be clear, I’ve always led an active lifestyle — walking and biking almost everywhere, taking the stairs instead of the elevator — but at the same time, I eschewed structured workouts.
One day, as I was searching for a Classical Stretch DVD online, I discovered that I could train to become a “Classical Stretch instructor” from home. You mean, I could get paid to exercise? Having the accountability of teaching others whilst working out appealed to me, because it forced me to be more consistent with my workouts. And actually get out of my pjs to exercise.
Over four years — 2010 to 2013 — I studied and passed the four levels of certification to become a fully certified Essentrics instructor.* And I taught A LOT of classes. In 2014, I was teaching 15 classes a week, in eight different locations across the city. In addition to teaching a lot, I was also travelling a lot between these classes. And spending a significant amount of time in front of my computer to market and promote the classes.
All of a sudden, my enjoyment of teaching a workout I loved was taking its toll on my body:
- I developed a serious shoulder injury from too much computer use;
- I fell down the stairs when I was rushing and carrying too much (you can’t really see the stairs when your arms are overflowing with stuff);
- I was involved in a car accident when I was hurrying to complete an errand before class; and
- I generally felt burnt out all the time.
Too much rushing. Too much on my plate. Something had to give. And it did.
Around the same time, I was reading and writing about the risks of too much sedentary time. Headlines like “Sitting is the new smoking” preceded articles that were imploring people to sit less, move more. It was from this zeitgeist that The Move More Institute™ began to take shape. Even if people were going to the gym or a fitness class on a regular basis, they still needed to get off their butts in more frequent intervals. Every. Single. Day.
I wrote multiple blog posts and social media posts on the topic. And I also created workshops entitled, “I’m not sitting anymore. What now?!” The workshops were well-received. In addition to my Essentrics certification, I began taking other fitness courses and certifications, including my personal trainer certification. I was spending a great deal of time teaching my clients about body awareness. How? By teaching them how to use their muscles for their intended purposes. Even though I worked part-time at several gyms in this period, I much preferred to meet people on their home turf. In so doing, I could show them that they could be physically active without spending tons of money. Do we really need fancy clothes, complicated equipment or expensive memberships to use our bodies? Of course not! If you choose to hire a trainer, join a gym or exercise class to workout, that’s fantastic. But it’s not the only way to move your body. You also don’t need to get sweaty to get your body working. The World Health Organization defines physical activity as "any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.”* Bottom line, all exercise is movement, but not all movement is exercise.
As I looked back over the past 10 years, I realized that I was at my healthiest when my kids were young and movement was the name of the game. We were active all day long, whether I was playing with my kids or just taking care of them and running our household. Injuries began when I was sitting too much in an office job and then running myself ragged with my fitness business.
The Move More Institute™ began to take shape. My slogan became “Move More, Feel Better.” Not exercise more. Not head to the gym and lift more weights. Just move more. My goal with movement coaching is short-term coaching, long-term results. And this goal is woven throughout my book Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day. As I say in the book’s dedication, I wrote it for people who think physical fitness is beyond their reach.
So there you have it. That’s my origin story, so to speak. After my book was published, someone asked if I had always wanted to write a book. Initially, I said no. But then I remembered a project from school; I believe I was in grade five. Our task was to create a family crest. One of the quadrants had to be how you saw yourself in the future, as an adult. I had drawn a book cover, complete with title and author - me. So I suppose I have always wanted to write a book.
World Health Organization, Fact Sheet on Physical Activity, http://www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/en/. reprinted with permission
*Classical Stretch is the name of the TV workout, while Essentrics is the live version — aka, classes and privates with instructors.
"I’m already exercising, why is my physiotherapist giving me more exercises to do?" Guest Post by Brad Lafortune, PT
Even though you may have heard the term “physio-terrorist” used before, I promise you, we physiotherapists do not derive any joy from giving you work. We do, however, prescribe just what we believe it’ll take to get you feeling better and moving more, free from pain and hesitation.
But why do we have to prescribe specific exercises if you’re already moving and keeping active? In a nutshell, we’re trying to get to the source of the issue to avoid the formation of compensations.
A physiotherapist is trained to find and treat problems in muscles, joints, and the nervous system throughout the body. During an assessment, your therapist is looking for areas of weakness, points of tension, joints with decreased range of motion, and asymmetries in the way your body moves. The results from these evaluations guide your therapist as they prescribe the right treatment for you. This treatment plan should almost always include personalized exercises, tailored to your condition and your goals.
With these exercises, you and your therapist are working to resolve elements that were found to be lacking during the assessment. These exercises are specifically chosen in order to target the proper element in question, whether it’s strength, flexibility, range of motion, or balance. What’s more, specific parameters will be specified for your exercises, including intensity, frequency, and number of repetitions. These parameters play a vital role in getting the desired results from the exercises your given.
The law of parsimony states that things are usually connected or behave in the simplest or most efficient way. This law applies to our bodies and to the way we move. Muscles work in groups and chains, each with their own role, movements, and proper time to work. With that and the law of parsimony in mind, a weak or damaged muscle in a chain or group will continue to be weak, while the stronger muscles will be recruited to perform the majority of the work. This leads to muscles imbalances as well as strains of overstressed muscles if not addressed.
By creating and following a tailored exercise plan with specifically chosen exercises, these compensations can be fixed or avoided entirely.
I assure you, your “physio-terrorist” is not trying to overwhelm you with exercises. Rather, your therapist is trying to help your muscles work in harmony, sharing the workload correctly to avoid compensations and further harm.
If ever it’s too much to do or too hard to perform, just let your physiotherapist know! Your home exercise plan is meant for YOU! It can be adjusted, modified, or tweaked to suit not only your problem, but also your way of life and abilities.
Right exercises = right healing so you can move more and do more.
About the author: Brad Lafortune is a registered physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario and the founder of Function Physiotherapy. Brad is committed to providing quality care through an active, hands-on approach to better health.
What, exactly, is balance? It’s “the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall”.(1) Think about it like this: it’s your centre of gravity over your base of support. That’s why four-legged creatures have an easier time maintaining balance on slippery surfaces: they have a lower centre of gravity and a wider base of support.
We all need good balance to safely move around our world on a daily basis, but have you ever thought about it? If you’ve ever lost your balance, fallen and sustained an injury, you get it. Balance is a critical component of walking - because walking is essentially a weight transfer and balance exercise. One foot, then the other. Repeat. If you’re having trouble with balance, how will you be with walking? Well, walking will also be difficult, and that’s when you’re most likely to risk a fall.
If balance is a challenge for you, you’re likely more aware of its importance. The ability to maintain an upright position without falling over — it’s cute when a toddler is learning to walk unaided. A young child falls regularly, but over time, their balance improves and they fall less. As adults, poor balance can be life-threatening and, frankly, quite frightening.
As we age, our balance is impacted negatively by our aging bodies:
- cells die in our vestibular system, which is connected to the centre in our brain that controls balance,
- our vision declines and with it, our depth perception,
- changes to our blood pressure may cause dizziness, lightheadness or blurriness,
- we lose muscle mass, strength, and power — this can slow our reaction time if we trip,
- our reflexes and coordination also decline, and
- a variety of health problems may also impact our balance, including arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.(2)
So, how is your balance? Did you know it’s actually one of your senses?(3) The myth that we have only 5 senses - sight, taste, touch, feeling, & hearing - can be traced back to Aristotle. But scientists know that we have many more than five. These include the sense of movement, temperature, hunger, thirst, pain, balance, and proprioception. Fitness professionals in the functional fitness realm regularly refer to proprioception - your ability to sense where the parts of your body are without seeing them. You know, how you can get up in the dark and walk to your bathroom without falling over. And think about a law-enforcement official asking you to close your eyes and touch your nose as a sobriety test. That’s proprioception!
Regular physical activity is key to maintaining good balance. An exercise program that focuses on specific balance exercises as well as core strengthening and movement patterns will improve balance and stability, not to mention daily function.
- Test yourself: set a timer and stand on one leg; repeat on the other side (this is your baseline)
- Check your feet/remove your shoes to engage proprioception
- Bend your standing leg to lower your centre of gravity
- Focus on a static point (e.g., during class, not me, but a point above my head)
- Think about your joints, making them as light as possible
- Slight pelvic tilt, engage the abs
- If in doubt, reset by lowering your leg to the ground
- Airplane arms out to the side to increase your base of support
- Stand near a wall/chair or gently touch a wall/chair with your hand
- Need more help? Sign up for one of my online courses, “3 Days to Better Balance” or “Balance 2.0”
What’s on your bucket list? Are you missing out on life? Has a fear of falling or a past fall impacted how and when you go out? As we get older, the risk of falls that can injure us increases. As a result, individuals like you curb their activity levels. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you take ownership of your body, you can be as active as you like. Working on improving your balance and strengthening your muscles will increase your confidence and reduce the risk of a fall. So you can get back to enjoying your life, and continue to tackle that bucket list.
Your body was designed to last a lifetime; but you need to use it daily for lasting effects. I have created online courses that can help: “3 Days to Better Balance” and “Balance 2.0: Progressions in Motion”. Both include daily videos with exercises and instructions on how to use more muscles in daily life. You’ll also receive daily check-ins with me via email or text message - this will help keep you on track with your goals.
Here’s some feedback from participants completed my online balance courses:
“I found as I stood at the sink doing my teeth, and at the bus stop, being very aware of my standing base.”
“Wow so great for my unconscious winter hunched shoulders’ posture!”
“I really needed the 3 Day Balance work. It was great.”
A. How often do you walk sideways? It’s a great way to strengthen your inner and outer thighs - aka, your adductor and abductor muscles. Sideways walking can help improve your balance, by strengthening these smaller stabilizing muscles. And it’s great brain training too - since we don’t typically walk sideways, your body and brain have to exert more effort to move.
B. Backwards walking to improve your balance? You betcha! It’s important to rely on more than just your eyes when you’re moving around in life. Walking backwards helps you improve your proprioception, by relying on the input from your feet.
It’s also strengthening your brain-body connection by creating new pathways in your brain. AND improving coordination in the lower half of your body.
Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with basketball; some even say he’s the best player ever. I certainly think he is, but not just for his game performance. When he stepped on a court, his sheer love of the game emanated from every pore.(1) It made me want to play basketball too.
So I tried out for the women’s varsity team in my first year of university. I didn’t make the team, but I did make the training team. I was asked to be team manager of the UPEI Lady Panthers. This unpaid role had me practicing with them every day, and recording game stats both at home and on the road. We even won the Atlantic championship (AUAA) and headed to the nationals — both for the first-time ever!
I still enjoy shooting hoops, and I’m pleased to see that my son, Simon, has taken such an avid interest in basketball. In my opinion, he’s the greatest basketball player that the NBA will never know. You see, he’s got the Michael Jordan bball bug. Simon plays because he loves the game.
Last winter, as the snow began to melt, he’d regularly check the local outdoor court, desperate for the snow to be cleared. I even saw him bike away holding our snow shovel. He had decided to take matters into his own hands and rid the court of any remaining snow. Although he and his friends had found an indoor gym with a daily one-hour open court time, they wanted to get back to playing outside for as long as their legs would allow.
Last month we travelled to the west coast to visit family. On day two, Simon was missing basketball. Lo and behold, his uncle had a ball! As soon as he got the ball in his hands, we headed to the waterfront of Nanaimo, and Simon headed directly to the basketball court. He played for over an hour in less-than-ideal footwear — flip flops, he was wearing flip flops — but he was happy.
In Seattle, the focus was on shopping for new basketball shoes. And he found the perfect pair, thanks to an attentive sales associate. Simon even tested them out in the store by playing some bball with him!
Back in the lower mainland of British Columbia, his goal was to secure a vintage jersey at a Langley antique shop. No luck, but he hopped online and found a great one from the new Big 3 league.(2)
Simon has just begun his final year of high school, and I’m confident that he’ll continue playing basketball into adulthood. You see, he plays for himself, and that motivation will help him keep it as a priority, as life piles on more responsibility. Whether you’re starting post-secondary education or you’re farther along in life, fitness and physical activity often slide off the plate when there are competing priorities.(3)
Even the best of intentions cannot guarantee exercise will happen. That’s why so many fitness professionals, myself included, tell people to find something they enjoy. If you love your workout, you’re more likely to want to do it and actually make time for it. Just look at how much fun Simon has when he’s got a basketball in his hands:
It's finally August, and the dog days of summer are living up to their moniker. Since the soft launch of my new book almost two months ago, I've been working on an official book launch in Ottawa. Don't worry, you won't miss it whilst at the cottage. Although I'm announcing it today, the launch is not happening until September. The 19th, to be exact. That's a Wednesday - middle of the week, so you'll definitely be in town.
Are you ready to hear the location? I'll give you a hint first with this image:
Function Physiotherapy will be hosting the official book launch of Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day. Join us on Wednesday, September 19th, between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm, for the launch. Light refreshments will be served. There will be a limited supply of books for sale at the launch, and I'll be signing copies. If you've already bought a copy and would like it signed, bring it with you!
See you in September!!
I am so proud of my book and want to share it with everyone. The book’s message is a simple one: Exercise, physical activity, practical fitness, movement. Call it what you will, just make sure you do it every day. Physical activity doesn’t need to be costly, complicated, or time-consuming. But it does need to happen every single day. No special clothing, fancy equipment or expensive gym memberships are required. Just a commitment to get off your butt and move more.
To that end, I’m thrilled with the early response I’ve received. There have been fantastic reviews for the book, both online and in person. It’s nice to run into someone you haven’t seen in a while and be told your book is fantastic and helping them so much. That happened to me one Saturday afternoon, as I walked to the library. And here are some written reviews I’ve received:
Angela: "I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I'm buying 7 more copies for presents for some of my friends. The red, white and black cover is very eye catching and dynamic and invites you to pick the book up. The style is fresh and positive. I love the frequent invitations to move my beautiful body. This book is a gentle reminder to keep moving and stay as healthy as possible. It suggests small changes that have a huge impact on our health: Age without Pain!"
Amazon Customer: "Great book on how to get more movement in your day, whether you are actively working out every day and if you are sedentary, or think you move a lot. You will be surprised. It's an easy read and informative, backed by credible references and written by a very knowledgeable author. This book needs to be read by everyone! I workout 5 days a week for an hour; I was amazed at how much I sit or stand. If you are someone e that needs inspiration to get more movement in your day, Amanda can certainly help you and you are going to feel better. Promise!"
Lydia: "This book is amazing! Amanda makes it so easy to add more movement to your day. I love the concept on nudges and creating new habits to make it more sustainable and long-lasting."
Kindle Edition Reader: "A great little gem! Filled with practical ideas of how you can add more movement to your day. I especially like the suggestion of a health SMOK break at work: Sedentary & Movement Optional Kills Early. The author point out how it's socially acceptable for smokers to take a break, yet it's not as socially acceptable to take a movement break at work. As a personal trainer, I'm always trying to encourage my clients to move more outside of their traditional exercise time. I'd totally recommend this book if you're need more ideas on how to do this, whether for yourself or your clients.”
I’ve published a few videos of the book’s content, including the introduction and the table of contents.
And I’ve had some wonderful individuals reach out to share details of my book with their audiences. This exposure has included podcasts, radio interviews, blog posts, and newsletter features. You can visit my media pages check back often to see the others!
Next on my list are workshops, presentations, and book signings. I have a few of those scheduled later this month. Please visit my events page to see the ones that are open to the public. And do let me know if you’d like a live event scheduled at your location.
Well, in addition to promoting my book, I’m still running my fitness business. So that means it’s time to get back to work on personal training and group and private Essentrics classes.
I hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as I am! And remember, keep moving.
Move more, feel better. That’s the slogan I adopted when I created The More More Institute™ in 2016. Physical inactivity is causing a global health crisis, as we download more apps and purchase more labour-saving devices to make our lives “easier.” But is easier necessarily better? I don’t think so, and neither do most health and fitness professionals. For several years now, we have been sounding the alarm. Have you been listening?
Perhaps you’ve heard that “sitting is the new smoking.” Unfortunately, our busy lives have precluded many people from making the necessary changes to their daily lives. I'm just about to publish my first book, called "Move More, Your Life Depends On It: Practical Tips to Add More Movement to Your Day". With this book, I teach people how to add non-exercise activity to their busy days. Physical activity doesn't have to be complicated or cost a ton of money, but it does have to be part of your daily life if you want to prevent premature death.
How will this book help you? I’m glad you asked. With the guidance provided in this book, you can:
- Learn how to nudge yourself to be more active throughout the day, every day
- Improve your health by incorporating non-exercise activity into your busy workday, and
- Identify and overcome barriers to being more physically active.
The book is divided into three easy to follow sections: The Problem, The Solution, and The Action Plan. If you’re stuck and not sure what to do, this book will help you change your behaviour from "mostly sedentary" to "active mover.”
To reach more people, I chose to self-publish with Amazon. The paperback and e-book versions will be available for sale later this month. If you can buy books from Amazon in your country, you’ll be able to buy this book.
For those of you who live in the Ottawa area, I will be hosting a book launch in mid-September. Stay tuned for more details.
And remember: if you move more, you will feel better.
Amanda Sterczyk is a Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. She offers in-home personal training in central Ottawa. Amanda specializes in helping older adults maintain and increase strength, flexibility, and mobility. No fitness goal is too small, in her opinion.