Simple exercises for good health

June 1, 2010 3:09:18 PM PDT
We frequently hear the advice to move and exercise if we want to do the best for our health. Moving our bodies can mean stronger muscles and bones as well as stronger hearts and lungs.

While regular exercise benefits, so can other once-in-a-while movements.

The two movements that one could incorporate into good habits will specifically help two groups of people.

First, anyone who is tense during the day or who spends a day working.

Second, anyone who is a person of a certain age -- an age when falling becomes a concern.

The benefits of yoga are well known. It builds strength, stretches muscles and calms the soul, but no need to wait for that class after work.

You can do some yoga right at your desk, starting with something called a cat curl.

"Many times we sit all curled over like that. We put too much pressure on our back, so all a cat curl does is you look up and exhale and you roll through," Judi Bar explained.

Bar, a yoga therapist at the Cleveland Clinic, says office yoga can also be a helpful relief.

"The idea is to open the side of the body so we get more space in the lungs. The idea is always about getting more oxygen. Sitting up straight, using our core to hold us up -- so just take an arm and bend. If we don't want to use the arm we can just bend over one side and bend over the other," she said.

So for older people who may not be inclined to exercise, there is another helpful movement that they can consider. It's dancing.

Two recent studies of seniors by University of Missouri researchers found that seniors who participated in dance-based therapy improved balance, gait and overall functionality.

These improved movements can reduce a person's risk of falling.

"They did dance steps that were choreographed. And what they found was that with these individuals they actually had greater walking speed and they improved balance," Dr. Ronan Factora said.

Dr. Factora says it's not just dancing seniors can benefit from, but any regular mobility in their lives.

"Physical activity of any sort, even simple walking 30 minutes a day, four days a week, confers a lot of benefit for cardiovascular health and anything that is good for the heart is good for the brain," Factora said.

If doctors were to sell the best anti-aging medicine they had with a good guarantee of better health, they would call it moving or exercise.

The body is the vessel of health, so keeping it functioning as long as possible involves keeping it moving as long as possible. Even with these two simple, but helpful movements.