Move More in May

Ah May, the month, here in Australia, where the weather really starts to cool down. We’ve been lucky so far this year in Melbourne; the sun has still been coming out most days in autumn. But the wind is definitely more biting, the nights are cold, the mornings are cold, the sun does down earlier and comes up later.

Does anyone else find this all combines to make it much more difficult to get up and move? In the morning, the bed is snuggly and warm. In the evenings it’s dark and uninviting outside. In the afternoons it’s nicer to take a break by making a cup of tea or coffee and enjoying the warmth indoors. And if it’s raining, well that just puts any ideas of going outside right out your head. Am I right?

If you’re like me, and the idea of moving more at this time of the year just seems all to hard, then you might like to join me in a little challenge I’ve set for myself this month. Move More in May, is about finding little ways to move more every day. Keep in mind this doesn’t need to be a full workout. It can be as little as five minutes.

What’s five minutes going to do you ask? It can do a lot of things. For people like me who have a chronic pain condition, a few minutes of movement can do more than an hour-long workout. If I were to go to the gym for an hour, or participate in a high energy, high impact exercise class, or go for a run, my tendons and joints would flare up and I would be in debilitating pain for days. Don’t get me wrong, I do participate in some longer sessions during the week, I’m just careful about what I pick. Pilates classes and aqua fit classes are great, low impact, activities that keep my joints moving and help to strengthen certain muscle groups. Even my work as a massage therapist is good movement, as long as I limit myself to a few days a week, with breaks between clients. In fact, if I have a couple of weeks off, my hands, wrists and elbows are worse that when I’m busy in the clinic.

Now, this little trend that I noticed got me thinking about how I can support the other joints in my body. Psoriatic Arthritis tends to attack throughout the body, so all of my joints get affected. My feet, knees, hips and lower spine are generally the worst, with high impact exercise making them far worse. But sitting around doing nothing, especially in the cooler weather, is just as bad. Joints need movement to help keep them lose — and this is true for everyone, not just arthritis sufferers. Getting up to have a stretch, go for a walk around the block, hang up a load of washing, do some squats, dance around the room…all quick things that you can do throughout the day to move more.

Remembering to get up and move more is also great for productivity and focus. This morning I struggled to get out of bed. When I did get up, I struggled to get the motivation to get dressed. Then I struggled to find the motivation to sit down at the computer and get some work done. So I pushed myself to go for a quick walk around the block. I told myself that it was only five minutes, and I could be back inside in the warmth. Not only did I feel much warmer at the end of my walk, but my head was clearer and I was itching to get on the computer and write this post to tell you all about it. So if you’re finding it hard to focus while you’re sitting at your desk, waiting for inspiration to strike…get up and move!

As you know, one of my main focuses this year is health. This means doing what I can to improve health. Improving health doesn’t always mean losing weight, and it doesn’t mean trying to turn yourself into someone you’re not. It does mean doing what you can to improve your quality of life and you enjoyment of life. Five minutes a day might not help you lose 5kgs, but it will help you improve your fitness. I know that by going for a walk around the block, once or twice a day, over time the tendons around my joints are loser and causing less stiffness and pain. The muscles I’m using are getting a little stronger. In a week or two I’ll probably start going around two blocks. If I keep going, and I can keep the flares at bay, then I might be able to go back to doing 30-minute walks again. And if not, at least I’m moving in ways that keep the stiffness and pain at lower levels. If I’m moving easier and I’m in less pain, then I consider that an improvement in my health.

For some of you, five minutes a day might help you to lose some weight. If you can jog around the block, or jog one block, walk another; then you are increasing your heart rate. Do that 2 or 3 times a day, and your five minutes has become 15. Over time that will become easy and you can increase the time. But you have to start somewhere.

Doing short, quick activities is also about finding that elusive motivation to move more. I’ve been skipping my aqua fit class recently because the idea of heading out in the cold first thing in the morning, getting into the water (which is never quite warm enough), then getting out and waiting for a shower (wet, cold and shivering)…well it’s just not enticing. I know I’ll feel better afterwards, but getting there is just hard. However, by adding some extra, smaller, blocks of movement during the rest of the week, my body starts to look forward to the next session of moving. I sleep better at night. I wake up better in the morning. I notice my body feels loser. I’m in less pain. So then it’s easier to push myself out the door for that morning aqua class.

So I’m going to motivate myself and make myself accountable by posting to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each day in May to let you know how I’ve moved more that day. It could be a walk, some weeding in the garden, some push-ups or a heap of extra house cleaning, an exercise class, and session of dancing — all of these things are movement and all of them will help my goal to move more in May. If you would like to join me, let me know what extra movements you aim to do in may, and use the hash tag #MovingMay in social media to help keep the rest of us motivated!

Interested in massage therapy, infant massage, meditation and general wellness?…what a coincidence, so am I! To follow my blog head to Mind Body Continuum.

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