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How To Work Towards A Safe, Active Lifestyle, By Wendy Hassenpflug

How To Work Towards A Safe, Active Lifestyle, By Wendy Hassenpflug

Wendy Hassenpflug, owner of Vayu Yoga®, shares tips on how to live life healthier, happier and more completely.

By Wendy Hassenpflug, MS, E-RYT

A lifestyle trend has occurred that has created terms such as “sitting disease”, “forward-head posture”, and “sedentary physiology”.  The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that roughly 20% of American adults over the age of 18 meet the government’s recommended guidelines for physical activity.

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This means that 80% of American adults are not meeting the recommended guidelines, and are living sedentary lifestyles.  A new study published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, determined that inactivity can detrimentally change your brain’s structure and function. These statistics mean that most Americans do too much sitting – at work, in the car, at home, and even vigorous exercise may not be sufficient enough to counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.How To Work Towards A Safe, Active Lifestyle, By Wendy Hassenpflug

Think about it, how many hours do you sit during the day?  Include eating, at your computer, watching tv, driving, at a desk, and any other activities that require you to sit.  If you are sitting for 6-8 hours a day 5-7 days a week, this results in between 30 and 56 hours a week in a seated position. The Mayo Clinic states that 50-70% of American spend 6 or more hours a day sitting. Now consider how many hours you work out each week, once a week, twice a week, maybe even three times a week? How long is your workout?  Let’s say you do a one-hour workout three times a week. The ratio of how many hours you work out, to how many hours you are in a seated position, is 3 hours versus 30-56 hours.

So what does this tell us?  We need to make some major changes in our lifestyles to incorporate more activity so that we can lead healthier lives.  The negative consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle are exponentially increasing.  The term “sitting disease” is leading us to chronic illnesses, poor posture, weak and non-flexible bodies, along with neck and back pain. 

Posture Issues

“Forward head posture” has become a common posture problem that can lead towards back and neck pain, restriction of breathing, osteoporotic fractures, and headaches.  This posture is created from spending long periods of time at a computer, or on a cell phone or Ipad. The newest division of exercise physiology is ‘sedentary physiology”, where scientists are studying the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. If we want to take some major steps towards improved health then we need some educated advice on how to shift from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one.  

First of all we need to understand how our environments influence our activity level.  The availability of attractive and safe stairwells, bike and walking paths, parks and exercise facilities, have a direct impact on who will use them.  If a stairwell is well-lit, clean and cared for, then people are more likely to use it in lieu of the elevator.  If bike and walking paths are well-maintained, well-lit, and monitored regularly for feasibility, they too will be used more often.

If exercise facilities are affordable, stocked with well-maintained equipment, and provide safe instruction then people are more likely to go to the gym.  Schools and businesses could offer incentive programs that support healthy lifestyles, like walking programs, or offering extended lunches for an exercise break, and then time to eat.  If we as a society, can start to break through the emotional and physical blocks that are preventing us from being active, then we can make this much needed shift from a sedentary nation to an active nation. 

The next step is to change the way we think about exercising, or ‘working out’.  Isn’t it interesting that when children participate in games, sports, or physical activities, it’s called ‘playing’.  But when adults do these types of activities, it’s called working out, or exercise. What if instead of calling it working out, we still called it playing?  What if we shifted the way we think about associating the word work with physical activity and just found ‘play-tivities’? An effective ‘play-tivity’ for someone that has been sedentary, needs to be simple to do, enjoyable, and something that keeps you motivated.

A well-rounded program will include: aerobic or cardiovascular activities, strength training and stretching.  This means that you will need to incorporate a variety of activities into your ‘play-tivity’ regime.  An excellent starting point may be to walk for 15-20 minutes a few days out of the week, do a circuit on the strength training machines at the gym 2-3 days, and take a yoga class 2-3 days. This is where the fun begins: find physical activities that you enjoy, and if you don’t like your first choice, then try something different until you find something that makes you happy and motivates you to want to do it again and again. 

Shifting from a sedentary to an active lifestyle is crucial for your health and well-being. Choose your activities wisely, ease into them at first, build up to your ultimate goals.  Here are some statistics that may encourage you to begin your shift towards an active lifestyle:

  • Sedentary lifestyle is responsible for an estimated $24 billion in direct medical spending
  • The American Heart Association states that walking 10,000 steps a day causes 90% reduction in heart attacks
  • The American Diabetes Association claims that 10,000 steps a day results in 50% reduction in Type II Diabetes
  • Only 20% of Americans report regular sustained physical activity (activity of intensity lasting more than 30 minutes for 5 days or more per week)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services states that active adults should:
    • Do a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic activity every day (walking, swimming, bicycling, running)
    • 2-3 days should include muscle strengthening activities 

When it comes to our health and well-being, some important things to consider are activities you can do that help strengthen and balance your mind, body and spirit.  Exercise, a proper diet, and a sufficient amount of sleep each night are all components that aid in improved health and well-being.  It seems simple enough, but when it comes down to it, things will always try and get in the way of our personal health. 

Related: Vibrant Living – Vayu Yoga Articles

We all know what to do: what to eat and what not to eat, or that any movement is better than sitting all day, it’s just finding the will power to make the healthier choices. The best way to find that will power is to be who you really are, which will inspire you to do what you need to do in order to have what you want.  Most people wait to have something in order to do something that will allow them to be someone else (Ideal Life Vision, 2014). What if we end up waiting too long for something to change before we make that shift?  Let’s discuss some steps to take that are more proactive and less reactive with our health. 

As you begin to start that shift towards an active lifestyle, do a little research, and brainstorm on activities that you enjoy doing that involve physical movement.  If you don’t know how to do these activities, then find a professional that can teach how to do them.  For example, if you are thinking about developing a strength training program, you will need some basic knowledge of how to create a fitness program, or how to use the machines at the gym. 

You can hire a personal trainer to assess your current fitness level and then provide you with techniques to strengthen without injury.  Ask your prospective trainer what type of exercise they specialize in and look for someone that is familiar with any of the following: Corrective Exercise, Exercise Therapy, Holistic Health & Wellness, Sports Medicine, or Functional Exercise. Trainers with these types of specializations will be more familiar with how to assess, motivate and educate you in an individualized manner more specific to your needs.  

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Did you know that a yoga practice can help alleviate the aches and pains of living a sedentary lifestyle?  Typically people that lead sedentary lifestyles try yoga to relieve their back or neck pain.  People that sit for long hours really need to focus on stretching their hip flexors and quadriceps, and opening up their chest muscles. 

However, the tighter the hip flexors and chest muscles are, the more at risk they are for over-stretching.  Finding the right type of yoga class, and an instructor that can guide you towards proper alignment, is crucial for someone that leads a sedentary lifestyle.  Let your body be your best guide when finding a yoga style that helps you balance your mind, body and spirit. 

If you listen, your body will tell you if you chose wisely or not.  A yoga practice should leave a student moving easier and more efficiently, with a renewed energy to take on the rest of the day with joy.

Vayu Yoga® provides a broad range of specialty instruction that pertain to training the body and mind via floor-based yoga, aerial yoga, YogaWall®, Pilates®, and other related stretching and therapeutic practices.  We offer many styles and levels of yoga, including Restorative, Meditation, Gentle, and Therapeutic Yoga.  We provide personalized attention to our students through small group trainings (1-8 students). Vayu Yoga® gives students the tools they need to perform a safe practice for their individual bodies, teaching how to listen to their bodies, and create a strong awareness in their practice. 

About Santa Clarita Vayu Yoga® Owner Wendy Hassenpflug

Wendy Hassenpflug is an E-RYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher), through Yoga Alliance, Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Pilates Teacher (Pilates Method Alliance), Certified Personal Trainer (National College of Exercise Professionals). She holds a Master of Science in Kinesiology and a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science, and has over 26 years of experience as an educator in secondary and higher education.

Wendy teaches private, duet, and small group trainings at her studio Vayu Yoga®, located at 24353 Main Street Newhall, CA 91321.  Visit for more information or to schedule an appointment or book a training. 

Wendy hosts “Vibrant Living with Vayu Yoga®” on AM 1220 KHTS radio in Santa Clarita, CA, Tuesdays from 11:00am till Noon.  Click here to listen to podcasts.

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How To Work Towards A Safe, Active Lifestyle, By Wendy Hassenpflug

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