Jazzercise classes ensure that we’re moving our bodies for an hour/day. And in fun ways that encourage optimizing range of motion, balance, cardio fitness and strength.
The authors of a new book, Built to Move - Juliet and Kelly Starrett - want us to consider how we spend the remaining 23 hours. Are there habits we could form that would better support our health as we age?
The Starretts, co-founders of San Fransisco CrossFit, were used to working with high performance athletes, but after they had children they found that people in their neighbourhood just wanted have good mobility.
What does “mobility” mean? Well, if you’ve been coming to Jazzercise regularly? You most likely already know. Juliet Starrett answers the question with a question: “Can you move your body freely through your environment without pain and can you do the things you want to do physically?”
The things one wants to do physically are personal, like bike-riding, skiing, gardening, playing with your kids/grandkids/great-grandkids, or more Jazzercise for example.
The Starretts like to start people off with the sit test. (If you’ve had knee/hip replacements or surgery your doctor may give modifications or advise against this.) Sit cross-legged on the floor and rise without using your hands. In their work they’ve seen that expanding one’s hip range of motion is quite doable, increases athletic performance, decreases the possibility of lower back pain/injury and can be a precursor to longevity.
In Japan, one of the five blue zones (regions where people live longer than average), much of a person’s life is spent on the ground - sitting, eating, sleeping. Consequently, the Starretts recommend just sitting on the floor for an hour or so each day, watching TV, doing computer work, or reading. And it’s okay to lean against the couch.
A couple of other tests they suggest are for balance, because we all know one of the worst things that can happen as we age is to have a catastrophic fall.
“Old Man Balance Test”: This is one we can do every day before class! Have your socks and shoes nearby, stand on one leg, pick up your sock, put it on, pick up your shoe, put it on, tie it, then switch legs.
“SOLEC Test”: This stands for Standing on One Leg with Eyes Closed. The recommended time is 20 seconds. Juliet says she practises this daily when she brushes her teeth. As an instructor of a couple of decades? I expected to ace this one, but as soon as I closed my eyes? I was waving like a sapling in a hurricane. It’s recommended to practise this one often because various environments can throw you off - darkness, crowds, snowstorms.
It turns out that sleep is a performance hack of athletes, with most professionals aiming for nine hours/night. The Starretts’ benchmark is seven hours; keep in mind, though, most of us lose an hour/night (I’ve been tracking my sleep for a long time and I always lose one hour). So whatever number you’re aiming for you need to spend an extra hour horizontal.
As far as diet goes, the Starretts keep it pretty simple. For as long as we’ve been recording such things, and regardless of culture, humans have been eating the following four things:
1) protein - people don’t typically get enough. We need it to build and maintain enough lean muscle mass as we age. The recommendation is two portions of meat, fish, tofu, nuts, or any other protein source/day, with a portion being what fits in the palm of your hand.
2) fibre/micronutrients that come from a variety of fruits and vegetables - again, we often don’t get enough, it’s 800 grams/day, or four big apples
3) fermented products
4) whole milk/dairy products
One more test and subsequent practise the Starretts suggest is for the lungs. Breathing is such a natural thing; we take it for granted. I know I shallow breathe, which can exacerbate anxiety. The test? Take a very long inhale, then exhale for as long as you can. The goal is 40-60 seconds before you need to inhale again. I could make it to about 35. To become a better breather? While you’re out for a walk you could do a 10 second inhale, then nose breathe out. Repeat a few times. Most of us are mouth breathers; this gets us to a deeper, healthier range.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet, and this comes up when analyzing the blue zones, is the importance of community to our well-being. We certainly get that with Jazzercise. And now you’ve got a few other tips and tricks, to keep that body healthy and moving, as the mercury dips and our days shorten.