Featured in Napa Valley Register: How to age backwards

By Julie Webster
Sept 13, 2020
Read original Napa Valley Register Article Here

“If you want to age backwards then you must choose to move!”

This quote from Miranda Esmonde-White, the founder of Essentrics, says it all. As I meet people in life, I can almost tell immediately if they have chosen a life of physical activity or a sedentary lifestyle. It shows not only in how they move but also in their approach to life!

julie webster essentrics
Julie Webster, a health counselor, massage and neuromuscular therapist and author, teaches Essentrics, described as “a dynamic, full-body workout.” Photo by Sanny Stonemetz

Since moving from Napa to Colorado, this has shown itself even more. I live in an area at the base of a group of 14,000-foot peaks called the Collegiate Peaks. The lifestyle here is one of outdoor activity and movement. I’ve met skiers who are still aggressively skiing the black diamonds well into their mid-70s, people in their late 70s-80s that are hiking long distances and boaters who are still kayaking down the Arkansas River in their later years.

Of course, this isn’t the norm for most adults but the reality is they are staying vibrant and healthy because they are moving. They are continuing to be engaged in life on all levels, including one that makes them be more physically active than is expected for someone their age.

These people have one thing in common that anyone who moves or exercises a lot has — a love for their activity. Rather than think about the drudgery of exercise, find something that you look forward to doing not only because you feel good after but because you love it!

Essentrics has done this for me and many of my students. Rather than doing something that feels like work, we all come together because we have such a great time doing it! Perhaps it is because the moves feel like life. We move in all the directions our bodies were meant to without the stress of excess outside forces such as weights. And we can all come together to do it regardless of our age or fitness levels.

Essentrics is different than most forms of exercise in that it has some great components:

  • It takes your body through every conceivable direction of movement as you would do in life. Watch a child move and you will see they move every which way all the time. Are you still doing that?
  • The movements are constant. Rather than hold a posture, such as yoga does, we find that very end of a stretch and then immediately move out of it. This helps to keep your brain from telling that body to tighten up to hold a position.
  • No weights are used. Our limbs and torso are our weights. Try holding your arms up by your sides for even one or two minutes and you will feel just how heavy those arms are. Or when we reach up and over our head, we are taking our body out of gravity, which requires strength to move both farther away and back to center.
  • Balance is increased through being barefoot. This keeps all the bones and joints in our feet mobile and strong. When we are always wearing shoes, our feet get lazy.
  • There is a constant connection of the muscle to the brain through contracting a muscle followed by relaxing it, using breath to allow relaxation to increase a range of motion, and various other techniques.
  • There is a tremendous focus on the core muscles including the Transverse Abdominis, a muscle that can actually act as a girdle to support our torso and especially low back. This muscle is often overlooked in most exercise routines.
  • There is a great emphasis in opening up the joints by working the direction of elongating the muscles. This subtly creates longer, leaner and actually stronger bodies.

I am 61 and have been doing Essentrics for 4 ½ years and I am continually amazed how much better I feel than all the years of being a gym rat. I love the freedom that comes with regular movement and the strength I have gained from doing Essentrics regularly and consistently.

The changes have been subtle because my body has been able to change as it was ready. It has also provided me with a greater quality of life doing the other things I love doing such as hiking.

In my Essentrics classes, I have had students as young as 24 years old working out with people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. Age isn’t a barrier because we are all exercising at the level our body is prepared to move. As we get more flexible and stronger we move farther and farther. And it truly is a great feeling.

Now that we are spending more time at home, it is even more important to move not only for our physical health but also for our mental health. The classes on Zoom make it easier to move more regularly. I have folks who tell me they worked out in their pajamas or forgot to comb their hair. It really doesn’t matter since you aren’t being seen. They come more regularly because it is easy – no planning to go somewhere to exercise. Once you overcome the idea that Zoom is difficult, than it is all a piece of cake. All you need to do is show up and have fun.

If you need encouragement to give it a try, check out Miranda Esmonde-White who at 71 years old is not only so full of life but is stronger and more flexible than anyone I know, including me! But then she’s been doing it for the better part of 30 years. No wonder she is such an inspiration.

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