Dear Family Whisperer: 10 Keys to Being Healthy Without Exercising

Dear Family Whisperer,

I hate to exercise but I want to be healthy and also age well. Is there anything else I can do? Is it possible to be healthy and NOT exercise?

--- Melinda Blau

Yes, the question above was submitted by me. But I suspect that the so-called elite fitness movement (think Cross Fit and other drill-sergeant regimens), left many of you behind — and that if you’re not interested training like a Navy Seal — you might want the answer, too.

Truthfully, I don’t want to “train” at all. I don’t like to exercise. And I’ll probably never prefer movement over cerebral activities — like lying on a bed reading, watching TV, or sitting at a computer writing. But I know that woman does not survive on mind games alone. Inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. In

In short, sitting could literally kill me. So here’s what I tell myself....

1. Think movement, not exercise. This is not a semantic reframe. Exercise makes you move, which is good for circulation, muscles – the whole body. But there are many ways to move. Figure out what you love most or, if you’re like me, what is least objectionable. My mainstay movement is walking because it requires no equipment and I can do it anytime, anywhere. Best of all, I can do it while talking, another favorite activity!

2. Do what you ordinarily do. I’m no trainer, but many decades ago, I wrote an article for Self after spending five active, self-indulgent days at Rancho La Puerta. My assignment was to tell readers how to “bring the spa home” – in short, to incorporate intentional movement and relaxation into activities you do anyway.

• Plant your feet and twist at the waist as you sweep or vacuum. • Rotate, flex, and point your feet in hot water when bathing. • Tense and relax your wrists and shoulders when you first sit down at your computer. • Stand one-legged when you’re chopping vegetables for tonight’s salad. • Soak in a hot top for 10 minutes with your eyes closed and covered with cooled cucumber slices,

3. Trouble sustaining commitment? Imagine the alternative. Fear can be a powerful motivator. I already “feel” the march of time when I get up from a chair. I don’t want to become too frail to play one-on-one in the driveway with my grandson – so keep I moving.

4. Get the whole family involved. Not moving is a family problem. Sedentary adults and children lack stamina, strength and flexibility and are likely to become less healthy over time. So, if you have a partner and kids in residence, make movement a family project. Help everyone identify their personal favorites. Try each other’s activities. Kids love it when Mom or Dad climb the jungle gym or try to balance by walking a narrow curb.

5. If you live alone, stay connected. Movement loves company. Find someone who is willing to cheer, coach or — even better — be active with you. Their support, even by phone or text message, can give you that extra push. One of my off-site cheerleaders is my uber-fit, always-in-motion daughter, a health promotion specialist and EMT by profession. When I listen to her war stories, I feel grateful to not be one the old ladies who end up in her ambulance.

6. Don’t dream too big. You set yourself up for failure if your first goal is an hour’s worth of activity. Start way smaller – five or ten minutes — and be proud of yourself for each second you stayed with it.

7. Figure out what kind of “schedule” fits you. Many exercise gurus tell you to mark off daily exercise periods, as you would any appointment — say, every morning at 8 am, go for a run. If that works for you, great. It never has for me. I do better if I focus only on today and promise myself that at some point during this day, I’ll walk for at least 45 minutes.

8. Keep movement in mind. During the day, repeatedly ask yourself, “Could I do this another way?” Instead of sitting at your computer, take a walk and dictate while moving. Instead of traveling by elevator, take the stairs. Walk, rather than waiting for the next bus.

9. Remember that the little moments add up. Let’s says you can’t, or don’t want to, do more than 15 minutes of anything. Not to worry. Brief spurts of energy can get your heart rate up. Even if you devote only short spans of time to stretch or strengthen, you’ll feel some benefit. And some is better than none.

10. Be kind with and to yourself. Most days, I do my 45 minutes of walking and log in my three miles. Sometimes, I fall short. But any success is better than not trying at all, so I congratulate myself for the intention!

Hi, it’s Melinda. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Do you have a question about your family or a relationship? No topics are off limits, and it’s all anonymous. Ask via Twitter @MelindaBlau #DearFamilyWhisperer, or click on this link For everything I’ve every written, check out my website.

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