By Kathy Smith
I'm honored to be a longtime board member at the USC Davis School of Gerontology; the experience has been an ongoing education in the art of active aging.
We get regular updates on research and developments, and I was intrigued to read a recent study on chronic stress and its effects on the brain.
We've known for years that chronic stress is linked to neurodegeneration (every bit as scary as it sounds), but now we know why.
A USC study by Kelvin Davies revealed that stress -- both physical and mental -- can create over production of a protein (called RCAN1) in the brain that eventually leads to disease.
So while it may be an exaggeration that "your job is killing you," or whatever your greatest source of stress may be, one thing is clear: Eliminating stress and replacing it with energy is key to your physical and mental health.
How do You Get More Energy?
The issue of energy is a matter close to my heart, both professionally and personally. Professionally because the question, "How do I get more energy?" is on everyone's mind. And personally because, with my 60th birthday approaching, I get so much joy from having the energy to enjoy an active lifestyle.
After 30 years in this business, my greatest pleasures in life are watching people transform their lives so they can go on hikes, walk and jog on the beach, dance, play tennis, travel, exercise, and live out their passions. While there's no magic pill for this transformation, there are simple techniques that can take you from listless to energized and give you the ability to go out and play.
It's a lesson I learned at a young age.
When I was 17, living in Illinois, my Dad died of a heart attack. Two years later, as a college student in Hawaii, my Mom and Stepdad were killed in a plane crash. I was 19 years old, living in the chaos and confusion of the 1970s, completely alone.
Needless to say, I felt confused and lost. I didn't have the energy to go to class, or see my friends, or do much with my life in general.
But luckily, I did discover running. I started going on short jogs, and I noticed that, with practice and persistence, I felt significantly better afterward. This led to an interest in other forms of exercise, like strength training and yoga.
Yoga was a life changer for me; it got me back on track and transformed my lifestyle. I was amazed at the result. My head was clear, I was focused, and I felt that spark of vitality. I discovered that what we do with our bodies affects our minds, our emotions, and our energy.
Want to see for yourself? Try this quick, simple, restorative exercise below to let that positive, boundless energy back into your body.
I call it the 'Half Shoulderstand.'
The Half Shoulderstand
Place a bolster lengthwise about a foot from a wall. To get into position, sit on the bolster with your left side toward the wall. Begin to lie back, and pivot your lower body toward the wall, extending your legs upward. Use your hands to provide support as you do this.
Lie down perpendicular to the wall, with your lower back and hips on the bolster and your legs extending up the wall, ankles together. Rest your palms on your belly, at your sides facing up, or on the floor over your head, in the shape of a diamond, with your elbows bent and fingertips touching. Hold this pose for two to ten minutes.
The biggest eye-opener for me is the stillness and peace that gentle, restorative exercises can provide. I discovered that yoga and other simple restorative exercises tone and strengthen your body, increase circulation and oxygen flow, energize you for the day and help unwind in the evening.
They are the key to youthful vitality and boundless energy.
Need an all-natural sleep aid?
For more techniques on rejuvenating, relaxing and recharging, check this out: My Energize & Restore Kit includes a PM program to help you relax and de-stress before you hit the hay, and an energizing AM program to restore and renew you in the morning.
Try it tonight!
Need some more energy? It's simple …
All You Have to do is Relax
Yes, it seems like a contradiction. But when you think about it, the concept of "energy" has been misrepresented over the years. Take the classic Energizer Bunny, for example. All he does is go, go, go, beating his drum with vim and vigor, until suddenly, his battery runs out, and he's down for the count.
Most of us don't run on Duracells. And the "go, go, go" mentality can be exhausting, especially as we age. The trick is to find a level of calm energy that we can maintain throughout the day, and even throughout our lives.
But where does that come from?
The answer may surprise you: One of the best sources of energy is exercise. Yep, it's a Catch 22: Working out boosts energy, but if you don't have the energy to start moving in the first place, how do you break the cycle?
- First of all, keep it simple. Create a workout routine that balances higher-intensity exercises with more moderate, restorative moves. Yoga and Pilates offer gentle yet effective techniques for staying fit without feeling depleted afterward.
- Go long, go slow, and have FUN. You know by now that I'm a big advocate of interval training (bursts of high-intensity activity that boost metabolism and burn more calories). But don't discount the power of long/slow training. I've been an advocate for this type of gently-paced exercise since early in my career.
In fact, some of my earliest titles, like the workouts on my Fat Burning Classics compilation DVD, incorporate the long/slow technique, and the classic 80's soundtrack, hairstyles and leg-warmers might just energize you with a smile and a chuckle.
- Recharge & Rejuvenate. Getting back to that Energizer Bunny idea, if you need to recharge your battery, you've got to plug into the ultimate energy source ... sleep.
I just took a trip to London with a group of girlfriends, and by the fifth day of schlepping, sightseeing, walking and dining, my fellow travelers all marveled at my consistent energy. And my secret is simple: 7-8 hours every night, even across the pond. Of course, it's common sense; if you are rested, you'll feel rested.
But a lack of shut-eye also wreaks havoc on your hormone balance and metabolism, which is why we reach for sugary, fatty foods when we're sleep-deprived ... and nothing zaps your energy like junk food.
About the Author:
Kathy has stood at the forefront of the fitness and health industries for more than thirty years with a collection of books, videos, audios and DVD's on walking, cardiovascular health, nutrition, strength training, yoga, Pilates, menopause, dance, and all-things-exercise.
As President of Kathy Smith Lifestyles, she has sold over $500 million in lifestyle products and fitness equipment. In addition to her DVD library, Kathy is an accomplished author, with bestselling titles including Feed Muscle Shrink Fat Diet and Moving Through Menopause.
She has also contributed her expertise on health and wellness to countless media outlets, including the LA Times, USA Today, The Today Show, Oprah, The View, Larry King Live, and many more. Smith recently launched Ageless with Kathy Smith, a new age-fighting DVD workout line with award-winning producer Acacia. The first workout, Staying Strong, was released in May 2011, with Total Body Turnaround coming out nationwide in November 2011.
Kathy has teamed up with Pivotal 5, the industry trendsetter in hand held fitness, to successfully launch two lines of products. In 2009, Kathy Smith partnered with Rejuvenation Prevention + Rehabilitation™ to create a line of seven products targeting the "Actively Ageless". These products pioneered the category of fitness over forty targeting key areas of interest including toning and firming to balance and mobility. Each item comes complete with DVD featuring Kathy Smith's uniquely designed workouts targeting total body fitness and overall wellness.
In 2010, Smith helped develop the Kathy Smith Healthy Living brand exclusively for Ross Dress for Less® stores. This exclusive brand promotes the active living across all fitness levels with the Healthy Living System to guide customers to the correct equipment based on their fitness goals.
Kathy can be reached at KathySmith.com.