Get your daily tune-up

With the colder months upon us, it is easy to give in to the desire to curl up with a blanket, grab a good book and stay warm. We know that staying physically active has beneficial effects on heart health, weight control, diabetes management, mental health and mood.

Daily activity is also essential in keeping our physical body in good working order – similar to car and bike tune-ups. Our body requires a daily tune-up for joints, muscles and both circulatory systems in order to keep it running as smoothly as possible, allowing us to perform our activities of daily living and more.

Physical movement gets the heart pumping, which in turn increases blood flow to parts of the body, including muscles and joints. This increased blood flow exposes the joints and muscles to an increased supply of nourishing oxygen and nutrients. In addition, the joint is surrounded by soft tissue called synovial membrane; this membrane produces a fluid that acts like a lubricant, allowing bones to move past one another more smoothly (think of it as engine oil!). This active movement of the joint (weight bearing exercises play an important role) triggers a biological process where damaged cells in the joint are broken down and removed – this process is called autophagy.  It is important to respect one’s own body limit, since too much activity at once could also result in increased pain and less range of motion.

We all know how our blood circulation works – our heart, a strong pump, pushes the blood, in one phase, to the lungs for oxygenation and in a second phase, to the limbs and organs to supply oxygen and nutrients. Our arteries are elastic and help move the blood through the body.  Our veins (which return blood to the heart) are not elastic and must rely on one-way valves to keep the blood flowing upward to the heart.  With age, these valves weaken and are less effective – blood can pool in the lower limbs, causing swelling and poor circulation. This is where our “second heart” comes into play: our calf muscles. When we contract our calf muscles, like when walking (pushing off our toes) or doing calf raises, the muscles squeeze the veins, helping to push the blood upward to the heart.

Our lymphatic circulatory system is not as well known; the lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. In addition to serving as a drainage network, the lymphatic system helps protect the body against infection by producing white blood cells called lymphocytes, which help rid the body of disease-causing microorganisms. Similar to our veins, the lymphatic vessels are not elastic and rely on muscle contraction to help move the lymph fluid through the body. So, in both cases, physical movement is of prime importance to keep blood and lymph flowing steadily through our bodies for optimal performance and health.

No need to start running marathons though! The most beneficial action you can take is to limit the amount of time you sit! Sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental for joints, posture and circulation.

Plan to take some exercise classes online, take it outside for some fresh air, weather permitting, or simply get up and move around every 30 minutes to reactivate those core muscles and get those calf muscles pumping!

In need of some motivation and guidance, join one of the many online exercise classes offered on Zoom at by the Cummings Centre and check out the multitude of exercise videos in the virtual library (free for members) – try our new Walking Workout exercise programs offered 4 times per week  for a quick 30 minute workout!

To learn more, please contact [email protected]

– Annette Vezina

The Cummings Centre’s mission is to empower and enhance the quality of life of adults age 50 and over by providing dynamic and innovative programs, social services, and volunteer opportunities in a vibrant, respectful, inclusive and compassionate environment. Building on its Jewish heritage, Cummings embraces people from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

As the hub of Montreal’s 50+ community, the Centre touches the lives of 10,000 people on an annual basis. In addition to its main campus at 5700 Westbury Avenue in Montreal, programs are offered at several off-site locations including the West Island, Cote Saint-Luc, St.LaurentWestmountChomedey and Florida.

For more information, please contact us by phone at 514-343-3510, online at or in person at 5700 Westbury Avenue.