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Healthier Together Series: 7B. Physical Activity – Stimulus to Change

robert-collins-tvc5imO5pXk-unsplashWe are always changing. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on many factors, some of which are in our control and some of which are not in our control. The best part — We Are Designed to Thrive! Provide your body the right environment, and your body can heal, regenerate, and thrive. This is reassuring.

Throughout the Healthier Together Series, we continue to share the ways in which we can help create the right environment for your body to thrive.

Nutrition provides your body with the “supplies” to create new cells and to do what it needs to do. Depending on the nutrition you provide, you will have healthier or less healthy cells and you will have better or worse function of those cells in your body. So we can make choices about our nutrition.

Physical activity, is the way we signal to the body that we need to be alive and that we need to “change” or adapt to be able to thrive. It is actually the stimulus for change. In fact, if you decrease your physical activity enough, your body starts to decay. This leads to rapid aging and decline in function. The good news – it doesn’t have to be that way and you can turn it around. Even if your body is not in its best state right now, or you feel unwell, or you have chronic health concerns, or if you are in good shape and want to continue to be well and maintain your independence and freedom as long as possible, over the long term, by moving your body, you stimulate your body to continue to “change” to stay functionally “young.”

When you make choices to power your body with the essential nutrients – like water, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins (vegetables), you provide it with everything it needs to repair itself the best it can. Then, when you make the choice to move your body, regularly, in health-promoting ways, you stimulate your body to heal, regenerate and thrive. Your body can and does the work to “get better.” Physical activity is one of the areas that is in your control and can be a powerful stimulus for your body to heal, regenerate and thrive. The choice is yours. For me, I’m heading out with family for the evening walk around the neighborhood to connect and provide that stimulus for change. =)

5 Exercises to Maintain Fitness While Traveling

Side View Photo of Woman Doing Lunges Against Black BackgroundIf you travel frequently and your workout schedule gets thrown off, let me share with you 5 moves you can focus on to help you stay fit while traveling. Of course, there are great apps that you can use, and the famous 7 minute workout, but if you like another option to keep it simple, here’s the 5 main moves.

To increase resistance, if there is no gym, pack some resistance bands or use your body weight. Do these movements slowly to really engage the maximum muscle fibers.

  1. Sun Salutations: 90 seconds for each sequence. You can download a sequence online.
  2. 2 x PUSH: Push up, Push forward (90 seconds each, learn the proper position of your hands and wrists first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
  3. 2 x PULL: Pull down, Pull in (90 seconds each, learn the proper position of your hands and wrists first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
  4. LEGS: Squats and/or Lunges (90 seconds each, learn the proper form first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
  5. Photo of Woman Doing YogaCORE: crunches and/or plank pose (90 seconds each)

To really keep your body in a good place, avoid sitting as much as possible. If you have to sit for long periods of time, plan to get up at least every hour to help circulate your blood and stimulate your muscles. If possible, stand instead of sitting, and make sure you walk as much as possible. Every time you move your body, you signal to your body that you have to heal and recover. This is much better than the alternative, signalling that it is ok to decay. Keep moving as much as possible.

How Can I just “DO IT”? (Part 2)

Earlier, we reviewed BRAIN ENERGY. Today, we move onto the next concept.

Concept #2. Resilience.

Brain energy is directly linked to resilience. Resilience is your defense against things that derail you. It protects your supply of brain energy, it’s your reserve. It can be more specific to events and can include behavioral patterns you develop in response to negative influences. Resilience protects you from giving up your plans, your goals. It helps keep you moving forward.

If brain energy is the gas in your car, resilience is the size of the gas tank. The larger the tank, the more gas it holds, or the more driving possible between fill ups. Even if you end up getting lost, you will have enough gas until you reach your destination. The more resilience you have, the more you can accomplish in a period of time even when you have detours.

Good news! You can learn to increase your resilience so that you are more resilient to change and transitions…which will be topic of the next blog.

The Freedom to Choose

Today, on our nation’s birthday, I do not have to go to work. I appreciate my day is full of free choices. Every day, we make choices to move forward or to move backwards. Nothing ever stays the same. I choose today, to make choices that help me move forward.

I started my day choosing to wake up to my favorite alarm clock app. (It wakes me up when I am in my lighter sleep cycle in the 30 minutes prior to my goal wake up time. This makes wake up significantly much easier for me (as I am NOT traditionally a morning person).) Then, I threw on my workout gear & headed to the basement, my home gym. As I grabbed my water bottle, put on my heart rate monitor & started my music, I was already in such a good mood! I was awake to do something good for me and I have the ability to move my body. What a gift!

After warming up my muscles, I started lifting weights and enjoyed the quiet in the rest of the house while I was able to focus on my body and my health. I had time to notice how much easier some of the sets were, how my muscles were ever so slightly more defined; my mind felt clear and optimistic about the day and I thought of the many patients in the past few weeks who had talked to me about their health. Specifically, I thought of the patients who mentioned joint pain during their office visit. There were 3 groups of responses to joint pain.

Some patients stated they had joint pains and stated they could not exercise and were very limited in their lives because of it. Often, they had been told they had arthritis or some other joint issue that would never be fully better or would require an invasive intervention to “improve it.” They believed it was never going to get any better. They were focused on the pain & had become a victim to the pain. Often, they would ask for a “band-aid” like pain medication. They had given up on getting better, they just wanted to mask it, even if it meant creating new problems like constipation, nausea, dependence on medications, drowsiness, etc. They were moving backwards, getting “worse.”

Several patients had joint pains and they were grateful that because they were doing some form of movement/exercise, it was not getting worse. They were grateful they COULD still move. They wanted to learn what else they could do.  They wanted their list of choices to move forward. They were focused on staying independent and working towards higher quality function from their bodies. They came for guidance & were eager to comply. If they were given a home exercise program, they would do it. If they were sent for physical therapy, they would do it. If they were sent to see a specialist, they would do it.  They knew they could make choices that could help them. They listened to their bodies and trusted they could make themselves better if they were given the right plan.

The third group of patients had joint pains and found that by choosing exercise (including yoga, home exercises, physical therapy, individual workout programs, working with a trainer, etc.), they had healed themselves or improved their pains. They felt grateful and powerful. They wanted to know what choices they could make, what they could do, to continue to stay healthy- how to improve their bodies even more. They were empowered and living life to their fullest.

As I moved onto my interval training, I considered it interesting that in my practice, these three different kinds of responses to joint pains were not correlated to the amount or duration of the pain. They were all about attitude and faith (or loss of faith) in their bodies. And of course, it’s about seeing they have choices and choosing to move forward, or backwards, every day.

As I increased and decreased the intensity of my interval training workout, I wondered how each of my patients would respond to the questions: Do you trust your body to take care of you? Do you listen to your body, understand the cues and respond appropriately? If not, do you just need to help learning? Do you believe your body knows how to repair itself and get better? Do you allow your body to recover, improve or heal by providing it what it needs- proper nourishment (what we put into our bodies), relaxation (such as meditation, journaling, emotional intimacy with another person(s))  and circulation of fluids (movement)? If not, do you want to learn what you don’t know?

If my patients have taught me anything, I have learned that we can make choices that move us forward or that cause us to slip backwards. I like forward movement better. I want that for my patients. My patients come to me because they know that, and they want help in seeing and making the choices to move forward.

In my practice, I show my patients their choices (if they do not already know them) and help them to see which ones will most likely allow them to move forward. I spend time teaching them ways to best nourish their bodies with nutrition and medication, if necessary. I have relaxation training sessions and I counsel on ways to safely circulate fluids and move our bodies. I try to give my patients more ways they can choose to move forward.

As I cooled down and stretched, I appreciated that we all have choices. We live in a country that cherishes our freedom to make choices and we have lots to choose from. Every day, we make choices about our health. We have the bodies we were given. Some were luckier than others. But we all can choose what to do with it at any moment. We can choose to trust our body will do the best that it can for us, if we give it what it asks for and needs. We have the freedom to choose every day.  As a physician, I recommend making choices that move you forward.

Welcome!

This blog brings together the most ancient medical practices with the most recent research. I am excited to share ways in which we can be healthy. While I am trained and practice in Western Medicine, I believe that health is more than the absence of illness. We can add the perspectives of traditional Chinese Medicine and more recent research in fitness and nutrition to help our patients pursue their healthiest lifestyles.

While there is a place for standard Western protocols in medical treatment, we can also incorporate more organic, natural healing techniques to address physical, mental and emotional dysfunction. As a physician, when I evaluate a person as an integrated whole, I have at hand a broad variety of interventions to address that individual person’s imbalance. In Western Medicine, we respond mostly to symptoms and focus on fixing the problem; in traditional Chinese Medicine, we focus mostly on the causes, facilitating balance and harmony within the body to allow healing to happen. We can benefit from integrating both modern knowledge and traditional wisdom.

Currently, in my practice I am finding that my more than 20 years of experience studying weight management, fitness and nutrition gives me an additional perspective that has proven to be very helpful to my patients. A significant portion of my practice is made up of people who have been referred to me specifically for fitness and weight management. I am seeing that as I educate people and help them manage their health, many other areas of their lives improve. At the same time, my patients continue to teach me. I am hoping that with this blog, I can share some of what I am learning in my ongoing studies and in my practice.