Fitness: Real, Easy, Fun and Flexible

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As a physical therapist, I’ve witnessed firsthand how movement can positively affect lives. I think it’s fair to say we’ve all seen our share of fitness “fads” in magazines and on television. In my opinion, most of what we see is grounded in one singular recommendation: movement. Whether you call it exercise; power yoga; weight lifting; cycling or aerobics, each requires movement of your body.

Here are a few recommendations that I share to make a fitness routine real, easy, fun and flexible:

1. Be real. Not everyone wants or needs to strive to be a bodybuilder. The most basic exercise programs or physical activities should be something you believe you can accomplish. Low weights and high repetitions go a long way toward maintaining and building the muscle mass needed to not only feel great but also look great. I recommend owning a set of three to five-pound dumbbells and ankle weights at home. All it takes is simple exercises 20 to 30 minutes a day with your weights to start feeling a difference in your physical well-being. Weight training three times a week can both maintain and increase the physical strength needed to live a healthy and rewarding life.

2. Be Easy. Choose fitness activities that you would want to do and require you to move. There’s nothing more motivating than engaging in activities that make you happy, smile and feel accomplished. Additionally, it is important to set fitness goals that work with your lifestyle. Walks through the neighborhood, golf lessons or playing with grandchildren are all examples of engaging physical activities that may help keep you active and engaged.

3. Be Fun. Find your “happy place” to be active. Being active doesn’t require a regimen of the same humdrum exercises that you repeat every day in the same location. Variety is essential, especially when it comes to bettering your life! You can vary your fitness routine by adding new activities or new places to exercise. Take your home exercise routine on the road with you when you vacation. My parents are avid RV’ers, and when they travel, they stay active by moving their fitness routines outdoors and often meeting others along the way.

4. Be Flexible. Cardio and weightlifting exercises are emphasized heavily for maintaining fitness. However, without flexibility, muscles and joints do not work as well. A good stretching routine combats delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and poor posture that many of us have at some point in our lives. The best flexibility activities are those that are gentle and sustained. Floor stretches are great to support a healthy back and neck, while standing stretches provide flexibility and improve balance. Seated stretches can be done when you must remain in a seated position or if it’s more comfortable for you to stretch sitting down. No fitness goals can be achieved without consistent efforts towards maintaining flexibility. Muscles are adaptable tissues and muscle flexibility allows your muscles to support you in living an active, long and healthy life.

As you continue your fitness journey, be real, be easy, be fun and be flexible! And most of all: Be Well!

Tyra Mitchell, PT, DPT, MHA, CLT is a Physical Therapist and Healthcare Leader at Ochsner Health System (New Orleans, LA). Dr. Mitchell is licensed to practice Physical Therapy in Louisiana and Georgia. Her practice includes adult, geriatrics, hospital, skilled nursing facilities, sports medicine, orthopedics, home health, critical care and a host of other clinical settings. She earned a degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University (GA) and a Master of Health Administration from The George Washington University (DC). She is a certified lymphedema therapist. Dr. Mitchell serves as faculty in the Kinesiology program at the Tulane University School of Professional Advancement and the graduate Physical Therapy program at the LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans. Dr. Mitchell is a native of New Orleans, LA where she currently resides.

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