Stay Healthy – Keep Moving!

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • You don’t have to trek to the gym to exercise. There are plenty of ways to burn calories, build strength, and stay limber right in the comfort of your own home.


    Exercise is a proven breast-cancer preventive: women who exercise are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than more sedentary women. 


    Yet too many of us find excuses to put exercise last on the to-do list. 


    There’s no time. It’s boring. It’s painful. I don’t like to sweat. 


    Or the trump card: I’ve been through cancer treatment and I’m just not up to exercising.


    WRONG. Valid as they feel to you, these are excuses, not reasons. Every one of them can be countered with a solution. No time? Re-prioritize, and put TV-watching last on the list. Boring? Find a type of exercise that doesn’t require concentration (e.g., treadmill), and read, watch a video, or listen to music.

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    About that pain… exercise comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s fairly simple to exercise without experiencing pain: try many different types of exercise, and I guarantee you’ll find one that’s not painful (e.g., chair yoga). 


    And as for sweat – well, clearly, you’re working harder when you sweat, so sweating is a GOOD thing. But if you just can’t stand it, choose a lighter form of exercise (walking), but pursue it for a longer amount of time.


    Now, how about “I’m not up to exercise since I’ve been through cancer”?


    Hey, been there, done that. I used that EXCUSE for at least 6 months after finishing my treatment: three surgeries, mastectomy, reconstruction, chemo, radiation, lymphedema, and hormone therapy. 


    But eventually, feeling overweight, logy, and unwell, I hauled myself out of bed one morning and decided to exercise. Somehow.


    My husband and I started with walks around the block. The “block” eventually turned into a daily 2 ½ mile brisk walk to begin each day. Gradually, watching my diet and walking, I felt better. Lost weight. Had more energy.


    And with the return of some energy, I found I was much happier moving about the house on my daily/weekly round of chores. 


    Now, I celebrate my chemobrain/forgetfulness as a positive exercise moment. Walk upstairs to get something, and forget what it is? Exercise. Make an additional trip from house to car and back because I forgot my travel mug? Exercise. It all adds up, right?


    And speaking of adding up, there are plenty of things you can do around the house every day that count as exercise – if you do them a certain way.


    1) Loading the dishwasher? Don’t try to juggle a whole tables’ worth of dishes at once. Make multiple trips. Heck, clear the table one fork at a time, if you like. The more walking you do, the better off you are.


    2) If you enjoy chatting on the phone, use your cell phone and walk from room to room as you chat. Bonus: climb up and down the stairs. You’ll find yourself more alert and a better conversationalist than if you were slumped in a chair, trying not to nod off.


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    3) Reorganize the kitchen cupboards. Look at all the pans and tools you don't need on those back shelves! Take everything down, make a pile for the Salvation Army, clean the shelves, and rearrange what’s left. Not only is your kitchen in better shape – after all that climbing, reaching, and lifting, you are, too!


    4) Walk the dog. Quickly. Most dogs, unless they’re real graybeards, are happy to trot along at whatever pace you set. Sure, they want to stop and take a sniff every 10 feet, but don’t let them. The trip out can be at a very brisk pace; the trip home, a more leisurely one, can be their time for examining all those wonderful smells.


    5) Water your garden with a watering can instead of a sprinkler. This is the equivalent of weightlifting (lugging the heavy watering can), and weight-bearing exercise (walking and bending while carrying a weight). 


    6) Wear wrist and ankle weights as often as you can. Even the simplest chore becomes a calorie-burner when it’s done with weights.


    7) If your neighborhood allows it, set up a clothesline and hang your clothes out to dry, instead of tossing them in the dryer. The lugging, bending down, and stretching tall you do while hanging clothes can pass as a legitimate workout.


    8) Play with your kids (or grandkids). They love it when you get down on the floor and have Matchbox car chases, build Lego castles, or host a tea party. Sure, it’s increasingly hard to sit cross-legged – and to get back up again! – but this discomfort is a small price to pay for the time you spend with these very important little people. 


    9) Vacuum every day. Did you know the amount of germs (to say nothing of outside debris) that comes into your house each day – not just from your shoes, but your clothes? Invest in a lightweight “stick” vacuum (battery power preferred), and run it all over the house each day. You’ll be amazed at what one day’s worth of dirt, dog hair, and crumbs looks like! And you’ll feel better after the 20 to 30 minutes you’ve spent walking around with the vacuum.


    10) Start your day with 30 minutes of calm. Call this exercise for the soul. Lie in bed and listen to a guided meditation tape or peaceful music. Have a cup of coffee on the back porch as the sun rises. Or simply sit at the kitchen window and stare out at the day, clearing your mind by listening to your breath.  


    “But I don’t have time to do nothing,” you say.


    Caring for your mind and soul is far beyond “doing nothing.” The lower your stress level, the easier it is for your body’s immune system to keep you healthy – and the more effective your day’s worth of exercise will be.


Published On: September 18, 2014