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Health and Wellness: need for both aerobics and meditation

Holiday 2011
By Terrilynn Grace West

2.13 grace close up

As the inclination to hi­bernate comes with the colder weather, I’d like to make a plug for honor­ing your need for stillness by practicing mediation, while not forgetting your bodies need for activity.

Choosing this topic was a good excuse for me to look up the latest guidelines about aerobics and strength training on HYPERLINK “http://www. mayoclinic.com/” www.Mayo­clinic.com. I wasn’t surprised to see that the amount of time recommended for maintain­ing a healthy body (especially heart) has increased! The good news is that the ways of fit­ting this time into your weekly schedule has become more flexible.

How much aerobics?

The Department of Health and Human Services recom­mend for most healthy adults a minimum of two and a half hours of moderate exercise (think walking, swimming, bik­ing) per week. Ideally spread out throughout the whole week.

The focus is on an active life­style. Longer less frequent ses­sions of aerobic activity have no clear advantage over short­er more frequent ones. So, for example 3 ten minute walks during a day counts! You don’t have to do 30 minutes at a time! Doing the math, it does mean that you want to be active most every day for a minimum total of 30 minutes.

Why aerobics?

We’re all familiar with the perks of preventing heart dis­ease and maintaining optimum weight with aerobics. During this time of year with less day­light, many people suffer from the ‘winter blues’ and aerobics helps significantly to keep your spirits up during these dark days of winter.

What does moderate level of exercise mean?
You can check out all the details on the Mayo Clinic website to figure out your target heart rate using their formula OR (I prefer this method) you can gauge your intensity by how you feel!

What I use is:
Light exercise: (great to be­gin after your ‘vacation’ from exercise) you can carry on a full conversation and even sing; you don’t break a sweat (unless it’s hot and humid).

Moderate exercise: (highly recommended) you can carry on a conversation but not sing; you break a sweat after about 10 minutes of activity.

Vigorous exercise: you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for a breath; you break a sweat within min­utes of activity. *Beware of pushing yourself too hard, too often, you want to support your heart, not stress it. If you are short of breath, in pain, or can’t complete the amount of time you planned for, you are prob­ably exceeding your level of fit­ness right now. Best to back off and build more gradually. Of course, if you have any ques­tions about what your best in­tensity level for exercise is talk to your Doctor.

A word about weight and exercise:

Being active is an impor­tant part of any weight-loss or weight-maintenance program. When you’re active, your body uses more energy (calories). And when you burn more cal­ories than you consume, you lose weight loss.

Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 ki­logram) of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. So if you cut 500 calories from your diet each day, you’d lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). Exer­cise along with cutting calories helps boost your weight loss. Exercise is also important for maintaining your weight and not regaining weight.

Calories and exercise

The following chart shows the estimated number of calo­ries burned while doing vari­ous exercises for one hour for a person weighing 160 pounds. Specific calorie expenditures vary widely depending on the exercise, intensity level and your individual situation. I’ve included resources on Oc­racoke that you may want to check out. Details about classes can be found on the Observer’s Bulletin Board.
Aerobics, high impact 511
Aerobics, low impact 365
*Ocracoke Free Workout by Bar­bara Jemison at the Community Center
Basketball game 584
*Ocracoke School teams (I won­der how many calories for cheer­ing?)
Bicycling, – 10 mph, 292
*Many places you can rent bikes on Ocracoke and enjoy our new off road bike path to the beach.
Jogging, 5 mph 584
Running, 8 mph 986
*Ocracoke School Cross Country team
Walking, 2 mph 183
Walking, 3.5 mph 277
*Ocracoke has so many beauti­ful places to walk alone or with a buddy.
Tai chi 292

*Ocracoke’s Terrilynn Grace teaches class at Deep Water The­ater
Strength training. Do strength training exercises at least twice a week. No specific amount of time for each strength training session is included in the guidelines.
Weightlifting, free weight, Nau­tilus or universal type 219.
Explore what’s right for you, have fun, be healthy.

Meditation

I began meditating when my Doctor recommended it because of high blood pres­sure. It worked or me, with lots more benefits that sur­prised and delighted me. The basic added benefit for my and many people who use meditation is the increase in peace of mind. Like aerobics you basically only need your body to engage in medita­tion, it can be done alone or with others and helps you feel better overall. There is no pressure because there really is no wrong way to meditate. Coming to Ocracoke to visit, or living on this beautiful Is­land invites you to live more in the precious present mo­ment so this is a perfect place to experiment with different ways to meditate.

Ways to meditate

When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress. There are many ways to meditate, some of my fa­vorites are:

  • Guided meditation. Some­times called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher. You can even purchase guid­ed meditation CDs.
  • Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased aware­ness and acceptance of liv­ing in the present moment. You broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during medi­tation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.
  • Qi gong. This practice gen­erally combines meditation, relaxation, physical move­ment and breathing exercises to restore and maintain bal­ance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Tai Chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-chee), you per­form a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
  • Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to pro­mote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that re­quire balance and concentra­tion, you’re encouraged to fo­cus less on your busy day and more on the moment.

Fortunately, on Ocracoke there are opportunities to easily join with others to sup­port your meditation prac­tice. Ann Erhinghaus has organized a weekly 30 min­ute meditation group which meets at Oscar’s Bed and Breakfast most Sunday morn­ings at 10:15am. Folks who come simply sit in silence us­ing whatever method of med­itation suits them. At the end of our time together, there is a short time for optional shar­ing. Yoga classes offered by both Amy Hilton and Henry Schliff happen several times a week. A Tai Chi class includ­ing Qigong is also taught by Terrilynn Grace (see bulletin board for details, or call me).

Elements of meditation

Different types of meditation may include different fea­tures to help you meditate. These may vary depending on whose guidance you follow or who’s teaching a class. Some of the most common features in meditation include:

  • Focused attention. Focusing your attention is generally one of the most important elements of meditation. Fo­cusing your attention is what helps free your mind from the many distractions that cause stress and worry. You can fo­cus your attention on things as a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even your breathing.
  • Relaxed breathing. This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to ex­pand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing so that you breathe more efficiently.
  • A quiet setting. If you’re a beginner, practicing medita­tion may be easier if you’re in a quiet spot with few dis­tractions — no television, radios or cellphones. As you get more skilled at medita­tion, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most from medi­tation, such as rushing to get to the ferry in time!
  • A comfortable position. You can practice meditation whether you’re sitting, lying down, walking or in other po­sitions or activities. Just try to be comfortable so that you can get the most out of your meditation.

Everyday ways to practice meditation

Perhaps you live or visit Oc­racoke more for solitude, and you can practice meditation eas­ily on your own. Some of the keys in engaging in meditation that have been helpful to me include: deep breathing, gen­tly bringing your attention back to your breath when it wanders (and it will wander!); scan your body by paying attention to dif­ferent parts of your body noting any sensations for example: pain, warmth, tension, relaxation; walk or read with moments of quiet reflection; focus on love and gratitude allowing your thoughts to keep coming back to ‘saying thank you’. Although I often luxuriate in allowing more time for meditation, I’ve found that even a few minutes makes a dif­ference during my day. People have often asked me if prayer is meditation. I like to think about prayer and meditation as having much in common. For me the ex­perience of prayer is more talk­ing with God, while meditating is more listening.

So how do you get to Carn­egie Hall? You practice, practice, practice. And so meditation is called a practice because it gets easier and more focused the more you do it. Especially if you can resist judging yourself when your mind wanders, and instead calmly invite your attention to come back to your breath, or walking steps, or book or prayer.

I encourage you to experi­ment and you are likely to find different types of mediation suit you at different times. And whether you are exercising aero­bically or meditating enjoy being more and more in the present: healthy and well.

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