Sunday, January 8, 2017

Moving Matters! (ALS Exercise Tips)

Have you seen those funny “Mannequin Challenge” videos that are making the rounds on the internet? In the videos people strike a pose as if they are statues frozen in time while a moving camera records the scene. The challenge is to pose in increasingly unusual locations, like a TV station, a gym or at a football game.

What’s ironic is that according to the Centers for Disease Control, 90% of Americans lead such sedentary lives that they could be re-classified as statues!

I have to admit I don’t really find “Mannequin Challenge” videos all that humorous. Because - - becoming stiff-as-a-statue is one of the real side-effects of ALS! For those of us living with the condition, being sedentary IS our new normal. Or, does have to be?

In my July post, A Healthy Sit, I shared three simple steps to improve how you sit, especially if you find yourself sitting most of the day. Now, let’s add some physical movement into the mix! 

Experts are in agreement that long bouts of uninterrupted sitting have undesirable physical and emotional consequences. Studies show that sitting motionless reduces blood flow to the legs; increasing the risk for atherosclerosis and retention of fluids or swelling in the lower legs. Too much sitting also causes weight gain, osteoporosis, weakened muscles, as well as neck and back pain, lethargy and plain old foggy thinking.

Speaking of foggy thinking, the NEW news is of the beneficial relationship between exercise and brainpower. Exercise appears to help our brains resist physical shrinkage (brain size) along with enhancing our cognitive flexibility (thinking skills). And the best news for those of us whose health conditions create sedentary lives is that the exercise itself needn’t be exhausting to be effective for the brain. (How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain )

“Even a little bit of activity, spread throughout the day, is a practical, easy way to improve well-being,” says Jack Groppel, a founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.

So, even though my own level of activity has slowed way down over the past six years that I’ve been living with ALS, I’ve found that several pre-planned moving breaks sprinkled throughout my day - - help to keep my energy up and my mind alert.

Moving breaks are easy - - but without a few important helpers in place - - they can be easy to forget to do! Let me share with you what I do and how to ensure your own success:

Begin by re-framing your thinking:

1.     Instead of thinking exercise, think: moving. We’re simply making up for all the incidental exercise that comes from normal daily activities. If for example, someone else fixes all your meals, makes your bed, fetches the mail, waters the plants, etc., then you’re missing out on a lot of incidental exercise - - the simple physical movement that would have provided your body, muscles and bones with healthy activity and stimulation.

2.     Instead of thinking I can’t, think: I can’t…yet. I realize that ALS symptoms are different for everyone; some of us use walkers, others wheelchairs. For some, legs don’t move well, for others its arms. So, for your moving breaks I will have several options you can pick from.

Let’s begin with your first moving break - - right now!

·         Slide your hips forward to the front edge of your chair. Sit up as tall as you can.
·         Look up. Look side to side and all the way behind.
·         Let upper back touch your chair back, sit up tall again, drop back, sit tall.
·         Reach arms up and pretend to climb a rope; hand-over-hand.
·         Stretch legs forward and flutter kick feet.
·         To finish, return to a healthy sitting position.

Want a little longer moving break? Try this one:

Bookmark this post so you can take one more moving break later today.


I want to help you become successful at taking several moving breaks daily! So, in my next several posts I'll include more videos, tips and ideas on how to move.

Until then, YOU have a homework assignment! To select and set up your tracking method.

One of the best ways to begin and continue with a new habit is by tracking your progress. For years, our only option was writing everything down and I always relied on small spiral notebooks. But now we have Apps! No more need to put pencil to paper; they’re convenient, can be customized to your needs and there are many to choose from. Here are two that I’ve used and like:

“Habitica makes self-improvement a fun game in which  the player collects items such as gold and armor to become more powerful. Rewards are achieved through maintaining real-life goals, in the form of Habits, Dailies and To-Dos.” Free

Loop Habit Tracker:   
“Create and maintain good habits and achieve your long-term goals. Detailed graphs and statistics show you how your habits improved over time.” Free

Check them out or use another a tracking app that appeals to you. Download and set up your tracker to list two moving breaks every day. Now, every time you take a moving break - - check it off in your App. 

We’re on our way to moving!

Dagmar Munn
ALS and Wellness Blogger

Tomorrow you will have wished you had started today!
Murray Newlands

Email recipients: Use this link for internet version.


  1. svenskaengelskaarabiska


    Thank you for an interesting blog I myself have a slow variant of ALS I have shared one of the videos to my blog and to our Communion unite on Facebook in Sweden "Together against ALS"

    1. Thank you Marjo, for sharing my blog and posts with your readers in Sweden! Your blog: "Judi's Life Path" is helping those with ALS who live in Sweden. Best wishes to you my new friend! <3


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