The Basics: Building Your Base with an Active Lifestyle, Good Nutrition, and Preventative Care – Part I

July 11, 2012

Part I – Active Lifestyle

Throughout our lives we must learn to successfully interact with our environment in order to meet our wants and needs. Our bodies are beautiful and unique tools to utilize for this purpose! The human body is made up of 206 bones, and there is a lot of activity going on inside those bones. Bones store minerals and fat, and produce blood cells. Bones are constantly rebuilding. This process of rebuilding allows the bones to regenerate in approximately 7 to 10 years. Imagine that, a new skeleton every 7-10 years! Well, maybe not exactly, but it is nice to know that you aren’t working with the same old bone tissue your entire life. Bones provide protection, such as the skull which encases the brain, or the ribs that surround the heart and lungs. Bones provide our bodies with structure and stability, connecting with one another at joints to allow for movement. Although genetics has an impact on our bone structure, the stress we place on bones through physical activity increases the strength of bones. That is why physical activity is essential for improving bone density. It is important to note that too much stress on the bones and joints can actually cause damage. It is important to be safe, and know your limits.

Muscles are the drivers of our movement, and attach to bones via tendons and connective tissue. There are generally two types of muscle fibers, fast-twitch and slow-twitch. The different types of muscle fibers support power (fast-twitch), and endurance (slow-twitch). Keep in mind that both muscle fiber types can produce power and endurance, but each fiber type tends to have a propensity for either power or endurance. Through muscle contractions, we jump, run, walk, talk, breath, swallow, blink, and much more. Again, genetics plays a role in the composition of our muscles, but the way we train (or don’t train) our muscles impacts how they function.

As an aside, we must not forget the brain. The brain is of great importance, but that will be discussed in another post. Briefly, just know that without the ability of the brain to dictate our movements through the brain-body connections provided by our nerves, this beautiful movement would likely not be possible.

So why does all of this matter, other than my love of the human body? Well I’m so glad you asked! It is important to have healthy muscles and bones. When we spend our days sitting and being idle, we cause our muscles to become weak, our bones to lose density, our circulatory and respiratory systems to become weakened, and our ability to interact with the world around us to be compromised. Being active, then, is a vital part of life. That alone gets me fired up and excited about moving!

I know everyone may not feel the way that I feel. Developing and maintaining an active lifestyle can be a major challenge. There are many obstacles, and maybe some of the following apply to you. You are busy with life. There are work and family obligations, hobbies, socializing, chores, errands, cooking, and heaven forbid you sleep. You don’t want to be active. There are so many other things you could be doing, and to be active, you would have to get up, move, sweat, and be sore. You are not comfortable exercising in front of others. Everyone else seems to know what they are doing, is in great shape, and for some reason it seems like they are watching your every move with criticism. You have not had success with exercising in the past. There has been pain, injuries, unmet goals, and disappointment.

I understand. I have met challenges in my life. There have been things that I didn’t want to do. There are things that I don’t want to do now. But, there are times when things must be done. You may be tired, but you have to take care of the children. You may be busy, but you have to eat. You may be dealing with something, but you have to give that presentation. This is life. We often find that we must do things that we do not want to do. If we don’t, there will be consequences. The benefits outweigh the costs. You are important. Your body is your vessel. It is what you were gifted with. Maybe it doesn’t do the things that someone else’s body does, but it is your body, and it is amazing, and beautiful. Honor your body. It is a precious gift, and you only get one in a lifetime.

So, how do you start an active lifestyle? Just start moving. Be more aware of how you spend your time during a typical day. Are you sitting during a majority of the day? Do you get active with loved ones by going for a walk or outdoor activities? Do you get involved with activities when you are at home like chores and playing active games? Do you spend a lot of your free time seated in front of the television? Do you find the closest parking space possible when you go out? Do you take the stairs from time to time? Do you spend a lot of time seated during your commute? If you realize that you spend a majority of your time at school, work, and home sitting or lying down, then it may be time for a change.

Now, do you want to become physically active? If so, ask yourself why you want to be physically active. List the reasons on a sheet of paper, or type them up. Why is it important to you that you be physically active? What are the benefits? What are the costs? Then come up with 1 long term goal, and 1 short term goal for how you will become and/or remain physically active. Post this goal somewhere that you will see it daily, like on the bathroom mirror. Be committed to your goals. When it comes to being active, consistency is important. It is not easy to be consistent. Things come up and priorities change. There will likely be times when you neglect your body and your physical activity. I know I have. When that happens, you must keep moving forward and not be too hard on yourself. When you fall down, get back up, and don’t beat yourself up for falling.

Alright, part II is on the way, so be ready to learn about nutrition! For fun, try an internet search for “calories, burned, activities.” There are some sites that list the amount of calories you burn during different activities. Of course these won’t be 100% accurate, but it gives you an idea.

~ Cece

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