As the new year begins, thoughts about our health and how to improve it, naturally loom.
I acquired an apple watch in part to provide accurate feedback on my progress. As we know, humans are not always accurate or objective reporters of our behavior. I assumed an electronic device will keep me honest.
In our first week together, the watch reports that I have failed to meet the exercise goal. A medley of feelings flood my brain like strident notes emanating from a discordant symphony. I wonder if I really need another voice telling me to shape up.
I fight back. "You're not perfect either," I say to the watch. "You neglected to give credit for a flight of stairs I climbed, or time I spent stretching on the mat."
But of course, arguing with an electronic device is laughable and a waste of time.
To get at the nitty-gritty of the struggle, Newton's Law of Inertia comes in handy. Simply put, the principle states that an object will remain at rest until a force is applied to it. Like every other body at rest, we experience inertia and have to apply force to put our reluctant bodies in motion. The effort equates to work!
In addition, we have to cope with our intra-psychic "saboteurs," those myriad voices that race through our brain and impede our intra-psychic "saviors" from taking positive, constructive action.
Sadly, some of us wait until late in the game. Mr. N. suffered from a very rapid heart rate exacerbated by emphysema from years of smoking. Emergency care saved his life. A course of physical therapy helped him recognize the value of incorporating exercise into his daily routine.
Sabotaging messages include the following thoughts:
Exercising doesn't really make a difference.
No one cares.
No one knows if I exercise or not.
I'd rather eat or do anything else.
The temperature/weather is too hot/too cold
I'm going to die anyway.
I'm too old to start now.
But Ms. K. an 88 year old proves that it is never too late to begin. She said, "I understand now why I need to exercise. I feel better without discomfort in my back and knees on the days I stretch."
Once I put the saboteurs in perspective, I recall the words of a yoga instructor from years ago who spoke of maintaining the triad of flexibility, strength, and balance of all our muscle groups.Helpful too is to think of the few minutes of exercise as the most important of our day. I've discovered that 15-20 minutes a day grants hours of pain-free living.
Exercise is not meditation. This is not about staying in the moment. If we're swallowed up in the discomfort of the moment, we're less likely to repeat the ordeal/tedium. At first, then, we need to set our sites on the future--imagining the beautiful, healthy, erect body and capitalizing on the benefit of hours with no pain.
Exercise becomes easier as we build it into a routine. The consistency, a little each day, is more advantageous than infrequent bursts of extended workouts.
After it becomes routine, exercise can become a kind of meditation. Yogis and long distance runners describe the meditative benefits.Helpful tools include listening to music that distract us from the effort and tedium. Also giving rewards like eating breakfast afterward.
Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness (1962) includes gentle, easy, equipment-free exercises that can be performed in 11 minutes.
The New York Times 7 minute workup, a bit more strenuous, is another valuable reference.
Two weeks have passed and my Apple Watch and I have come to terms with each other. I do 15-20 minutes of stretches and add 10,000 steps of walking which I achieve rather easily by engaging in the activities of daily living (commonly referred to as ADL) This is as simple and economical as it gets.
The good news is that we have choices: Whatever exercise you choose is fine.
The only choice we best eliminate is the choice to do nothing.
Conclusion: This equation is simple:a few minutes of discipline equals hours of comfort, pleasure, a lengthened lifespan, and less time spent on medical procedures.