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Conduct Yourself Well

By Dale Anderson, M.D.

Have you J’ARMed today? If not, you’re missing out on some serious health benefits.

So what exactly is J’ARMing, you may ask. In a nutshell, J’ARMing is short for (j)ogging with the (arm)s—the sweeping motion orchestra conductors make with their arms as they lead the musicians. Conductors have known about the benefits of their baton-waving arm movements for years, and they live…and live…and live to prove it. In fact, great symphony orchestra conductors live, on average, five years longer than the general population. They are healthier in both mind and body than others their age.

Several years ago, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company published its findings of a longevity study of conductors. In examining 437 active and former conductors, researchers reported that mortality among conductors was 38 percent below their contemporaries in the general population. How’s that for some incentive to J’ARM?

Fortunately, there is a bit of a conductor inside each of us; we just need to re-tap our childhood memories and actions. Think back to your childhood for a moment. Many of us marched around our parents’ living room pretending to lead a marching band or a large orchestra. We would hoist our arms high in the air and march around to the music, or dance with all limbs—arms and legs.

Today, moving your arms like an orchestra conductor can offer 12 positive benefits:

1. Improved posture

2. Muscle strength and flexibility

3. Improved blood circulation

4. Better balance

5. Weight loss

6. A gentle shoulder and back massage

7. Reduction of your physiological and mental ages

8. A positive attitude and readiness for laughter

9. A “wash” for your brain that removes annoying distractions and makes you smarter

10. Higher self-esteem

11. Elevation of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals

12. For stroke patients, it may help re-connect some of the injured neural pathways

J’ARMing 101:    With all the benefits J’ARMing offers, you’re likely eager to start. Here are some guidelines to get you going.

Choose your J’ARMing instrument: To become the great conductor of your “body orchestra” you need a baton. This can be imaginary, but it is preferable to be a bit more conventional and find a reasonable facsimile as you begin to J’ARM. You can use pens, pencils, knives, forks, spoons, brushes, and other implements. Many people prefer chopsticks, because they lend a special aura of talent and symbolize the good health principles of healthy Asian cooking—high fiber and low fat.

Select the right music: If you’re going to conduct, you need some music. Music is standard fare in most aerobics classes, as instructors know that music lifts the moods and helps regulate breathing. So as you begin to J’ARM, choose music that is upbeat, complete with positive lyrics. If you prefer music without lyrics, then Baroque era music is a good choice. Baroque composers chose the beat, tempo, and harmony for their music precisely. According to some reports, musicians in this period believed that particular sounds and rhythms could literally put human minds and bodies “in tune,” producing healing and calming effects. Whatever you decide, just be sure you choose music that strikes a personal chord and lifts your spirits. If you’re stumped, here are a few upbeat popular songs to consider: Put on a Happy Face; Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here; Oh When the Saints Go Marching In; This Land Is Your Land; Oh, What a Beautiful Morning; Happy Days Are Here Again.

Pick a location: Be creative when looking for times and places you can J’ARM. You can J’ARM whether standing or sitting, and virtually any time of day. Some popular places to J’ARM include:

  • In the shower

  • While cooking (Note: this is fun but it can get messy)

  • While getting dressed

  • First thing in the morning

  • Just before lunch or dinner

  • While in your car, sitting at a stoplight and listening to the radio (Give the driver in the next car something to talk about)

  • In a private place at work for a few “feel good” moments of J’ARMing

In short, you can J’ARM just about any place at about any time. Even while lying down you can visualize yourself J’ARMing and enjoy some of the same benefits.

Let go a little: Unleash your childlike qualities and approach this more as play than exercise. Sometimes beginning J’ARMers feel they look silly. That’s okay. Look silly! After all, what form of exercise doesn’t look a little silly? Actually, it’s the people who refuse to exercise who are truly being silly.

Ready, Set, J’ARM! Grab your baton, turn on the tunes, and stand in front of a full-length mirror to see your entire “performance.” If you’re worried that your neighbors may think you’re a little nuts, draw the blinds. Even better, invite them to join you! J’ARMing is a great way to “stick” together.

Now you’re ready to conduct yourself well. Raise your arms up high. Move your arms comfortably in all directions as a conductor does to the music’s beat. Have some fun and do so with exaggeration and with enthusiasm. There’s no right or wrong way to J’ARM. Sing along with the music if you like. Who cares if you’re a little off-key! Remind yourself that you are the conductor. Allow yourself to feel the music. Increase your aerobic benefits by standing, dancing, or marching around. And sneak peeks at yourself in the mirror. Take a mental “snapshot” of your grinning self and conjure up that happy image throughout your day.

J’ARMing gives you the excuse to be childlike again, to let yourself go with the musical flow and reinvigorate both your mind and body. Recapture that excitement from your childhood—the feeling of being in control, of moving out of yourself, leaving stress and pain in their tracks. Once you start J’ARMing on a regular basis, you’ll agree that this is one exercise that provides more fun than you can “shake a stick at!”

Remember that life is not a dress rehearsal. It’s the real thing—the only show in town. Therefore, make sure you begin and end each day on a high note. The more you J’ARM, the more you can say that you are conducting yourself well.

Read other articles and learn more about Dr. Dale Anderson.

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