You are a woman or a man of a certain age, meaning you can barely remember your 40th birthday but do vaguely recall something about skinny dipping in the neighbor’s pool. You know, at your present age, you should to be more vigilant about your health, but, groan, do you really have to be?
Yes. Baby Boomers are not the healthiest generation. In fact, they get far less exercise than their parents’ generation did which has led to obesity and numerous other medical conditions.
Where do you start?
Consider enrolling in a yoga class, particularly one geared toward older individuals. Yoga is probably the best exercise for those who haven’t worked out in any way, shape or form in years.
You go at your own pace. It is not high impact but, yes, you will feel it. No, you will not be expected to do a yoga headstand during the first class or ever for that matter if it is something you cannot execute or simply do not want to try. It is not a competitive sport.
The Heart and Yoga
The jury is still out on the specific heart benefits of doing yoga but there is evidence this particular form of exercise is advantageous to everyone but especially to those who have heart issues or want to ward off heart disease, which is everyone.
According to Dr. Suzie Bertisch of Harvard Medical School there is some evidence that yoga, which combines stretching, bending, balancing, deep breathing, mindfulness and relaxation, is helpful to those with cardiovascular disease.
Yoga appears to facilitate heart health because, first of all, the person is moving and any time you move and use your muscles this is beneficial to the heart. Additionally, activity prompts muscles to become more responsive to insulin, which helps control blood sugar.
Yoga helps lower blood pressure and the resting heart rate as well as triglycerides and cholesterol and, the best part, you do many of the postures while sitting or lying down. You can’t beat that!
In yoga class, you will utilize deep breathing, which decelerates your breath rate, momentarily lowering blood pressure and calming the sympathetic nervous system, which generates stress hormones. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are hard on the heart. You want to keep them at bay as much as possible.
When experiencing heart disease or recovering from a heart attack this is stressful on an individual. The person may be understandably anxious and scared. When executing yoga postures, along with the deep breathing, this allows a person to calm down, relax and focus.
Yogis believe, and often have proof, that calming the mind helps heal the body. Do not underestimate the mind-body connection.
Studies have shown eight weeks of yoga can reduce inflammation, which is linked to death in heart failure patients. Exercise, including and especially yoga, wards off depression, which can occur in someone who is struggling with heart disease or the aftermath of a heart attack and any serious illness.
Another benefit of joining a yoga class is the camaraderie you will experience. When dealing with medical problems, people tend to isolate themselves leading to the blues and certainly to lack of exercise and socialization.
The pity party can only go on for so long if you want to improve. Drag your tired old butt to a class. You will probably meet others who are in a similar situations as yours. Share your experiences. Talk about your woes. Make some new friends. Laughter is good for your physical and mental health. You need to do it more often.
Talk to your cardiologist or family doctor about yoga and whether s/he thinks it’s advisable. The answer is almost certainly going to be a resounding ‘yes.’
Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism back in the dark ages (aka before computers, the Internet and cell phones. Heck, before electric typewriters!) A former newspaper writer/columnist and photographer, her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in national magazines. A full-time freelance writer, as well as an avid gardener, an artist and yoga aficionado, Cindi is a Baby Boomer and proud of it. She has survived the gnarly challenges of the sandwich generation and lived to tell the tale. Cindi has somehow managed to stay married to her first and only husband for nearly 35 years. They are the parents of three grown children and the grandparents of one. She has five large, raucous dogs, five acres to mow on her beloved zero turn mower, and gets the biggest kick out of making people laugh on Facebook. (P.S. She refuses to cut her hair short.)