Professor Sir Muir Gray is talking about the four or five ‘S’ words in relation to exercise. “There is ‘Strength’, which is muscles and bone because it will also increase bone strength, there is ‘Suppleness’ which is soft tissue, there is ‘Stamina’ which is cardio and lungs and there is ’Skill’ which is the brain and nervous system. You should also add onto that ‘Psychological’ benefit too.”
Professor Sir Muir says that different exercises will have different ‘S’ benefits. “But all physical activity has a psychological benefit – cognitive and emotional. You want to exercise to stimulate different parts of the body.”
As we age, he says, our resilience reduces “every year a little bit more, every diagnosis a little bit more,” so we should be looking to increase our resilience when we do exercise. In addition to that, when disease comes along, people do less. So we need to compensate for these things when we exercise and try to do more and do more to increase our resilience.
Tim Harris, Goldster fitness trainer agrees. “There’s never just one type of way to keep a body healthy,” he states, “You need different aspects to tie it all in together. In terms of overall physical health there are the following categories:
- Cardio vascular health – (predominantly the stamina ‘S’) brisk walks, jogging, cycling, swimming, things that are healthy for the heart.
- Muscle Strength and resistance training (the strength ‘S’). “Everyone needs to be strong,” comments Tim, “and it even affects the way you digest things and weight loss is more controllable with healthy muscles.”
- Flexibility through stretching (suppleness ‘S’). “This is where you test muscle elasticity with yoga and pilates,” says Tim.
- Balance – tai chi and yoga. (skill ‘S’) “Anything that makes your mind focus on a certain limb or a certain path. The mind speaks to muscle – it’s mind and motor skills,” he continues.
What’s more, according to Tim doing different types of exercise is crucial for cognitive function, keeping the brain active and talking to the body; which can reduce the risk of dementia. “Testing what your body can do on a day to day basis, keeping your mind and body on the ball, can prevent against cognitive decline and dementia.” Doing different types of exercise improves memory and general alertness, improves emotional wellbeing with the release of endorphins and also group classes - whether online or in person - are good for social engagement.
Doris Schierer, Goldster’s Tai Chi and Qi Gong instructor encourages Tai Chi as part of an integrated exercise regime where it can increase strength and suppleness: “Tai Chi is often called a moving meditation and balances body, breath and mind. Looking at the body first, we need to release tension and we do this via shaking bouncing and stretching and also self massage. Looking at the breath, we view breath as a flow of energy which we do not want to interrupt. We start breathing consciously into the abdomen and calm the flow in and out.”
With the mind, says Doris, we also try to clear it of disrupted thoughts and to integrate it with exercise. “The slow moving practice will challenge all the tiny stabilising muscles in our joints and in our feet. Our brain is constantly in conversation with tiny muscles that stabilise us and then the brain starts retaining that information and storing it as muscle memory.” What this produces is better balance, better stability, strength and suppleness.
If this all sounds overwhelming and you’re lacking motivation to get started, then Jude Hirschheimer, Goldster Pilates instructor, has wisdom. “Start with one – one minute, one exercise, one rep, one class. Whatever it is that you can manage is an important step and can be built upon. That’s how you can create positive change in your body.”
She believes that there’s one practice that everyone should incorporate into their daily routine and that’s breathwork. ‘Learning to breathe well is so important for our health in every way, it creates strength in our body, calm in our mind and can affect every single system in our body in such a positive way.”
Jude’s top advice for anyone who wants to make the most of the Goldster learning experience and integrated exercise, is as follows: “Start slowly, even if it means watching classes initially, get a feel for them and see which classes resonate with you. Try a class, it doesn’t have to be the whole class, see how it feels when you’re doing it. Schedule it into your week and write down the times of the classes that you’d like to do, in a paper diary or on your phone, making that commitment to yourself each week will help to create that long -term, healthy habit.”
Amen to that – now all you have to do is to get started!