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Exercise and Cardiovascular Disease

Regular exercise has a favorable effect on many of the established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For example, exercise promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure. Exercise can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood (the low-density lipoprotein [LDL] level), as well as total cholesterol, and can raise the “good” cholesterol (the high-density lipoprotein level [HDL]). In diabetic patients, regular activity favorably affects the body’s ability to use insulin to control glucose levels in the blood. Although the effect of an exercise program on any single risk factor may generally be small, the effect of continued, moderate exercise on overall cardiovascular risk, when combined with other lifestyle modifications (such as proper nutrition, smoking cessation, and medication use), can be dramatic.

Benefits of Regular Exercise

  • Increase in aerobic capacity
  • Decrease in blood pressure at rest
  • Decrease in blood pressure while exercising
  • Reduction in weight and body fat
  • Reduction in total cholesterol
  • Reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Increase in HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Increased insulin sensitivity (lower blood glucose)
  • Improved self-esteem

Physiological Effects of Exercise

There are a number of physiological benefits of exercise. Regular aerobic exercise causes improvements in muscular function and strength and improvement in the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen (maximal oxygen consumption or aerobic capacity). As one’s ability to transport and use oxygen improves, regular daily activities can be performed with less fatigue. This is particularly important for patients with cardiovascular disease, whose exercise capacity is typically lower than that of healthy individuals. There is also evidence that exercise training improves the capacity of the blood vessels to dilate in response to exercise or hormones, consistent with better vascular wall function and an improved ability to provide oxygen to the muscles during exercise. Studies measuring muscular strength and flexibility before and after exercise programs suggest that there are improvements in bone health and ability to perform daily activities, as well as a lower likelihood of developing back pain and of disability, particularly in older age groups.

Patients with newly diagnosed heart disease who participate in an exercise program report an earlier return to work and improvements in other measures of quality of life, such as more self-confidence, lower stress, and less anxiety. Importantly, by combining controlled studies, researchers have found that for heart attack patients who participated in a formal exercise program, the death rate is reduced by 20% to 25%. This is strong evidence in support of physical activity for patients with heart disease.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

Unfortunately, most Americans do not meet the minimum recommended guidelines for daily exercise. In 1996, the release of the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health provided a springboard for the largest government effort to date to promote physical activity among Americans. This redefined exercise as a key component to health promotion and disease prevention, and on the basis of this report, the Federal government mounted a multi-year educational campaign. The Surgeon General’s Report, a joint CDC/ACSM consensus statement, and a National Institutes of Health report agreed that the benefits mentioned above will generally occur by engaging in at least 30 minutes of modest activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Modest activity is defined as any activity that is similar in intensity to brisk walking at a rate of about 3 to 4 miles per hour.

These activities can include any other form of occupational or recreational activity that is dynamic in nature and of similar intensity, such as cycling, yard work, and swimming. This amount of exercise equates to approximately five to seven 30-minute sessions per week at an intensity equivalent to 3 to 6 METs (multiples of the resting metabolic rate*), or approximately 600 to 1200 calories expended per week.

How Can a Personal Trainer Help?

If you have cardiovascular disease or are at risk for developing disease, you may be apprehensive at starting an exercise program. You may have questions such as:

  • Is exercise safe for me?
  • How long should I exercise?
  • How frequently should I exercise?
  • Do I stretch before or after exercise?
  • Can I do strength training and lift weights?
  • How do I know if I’m exercising at the right intensity?
  •  What if I develop symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea?

A personal trainer or exercise professional can answer all of these questions for you and establish a well-rounded exercise program that is safe and effective.

A personal trainer will tell you what types of aerobic exercise are most appropriate for you and devise an exercise program tailored towards your needs. This will include guidelines for frequency (how many times per week), intensity (how hard you should exercise), and duration (how long each exercise session should last). A well-designed exercise routine will start with a warm-up that includes dynamic movements designed to raise the heart rate, increase core temperature, mobilize the major joints in the body, and prepare the body for more intense exercise. Warm-up can be followed by either aerobic exercise or weight training. Your trainer can monitor your heart rate and blood pressure during both activities to make sure you are exercising at the proper intensity. If heart rate and blood pressure get too high, your trainer will have you decrease the intensity of exercise or stop. If you develop any symptoms while exercising, your trainer will be right there to advise you and check your vital signs. Weight training is very safe as long as it is performed with proper supervision. Your trainer will recommend the most appropriate exercises for you to do and emphasize proper breathing and technique. Under the guidance of an exercise professional, you can help to improve aerobic capacity, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, improve good cholesterol, lower blood glucose, improve muscular strength, increase joint range of motion, and lower weight and body fat. All of these will result in a lower risk for developing cardiovascular disease or if you already have disease, it will decrease the chances of subsequent cardiovascular events. Most importantly, working with an exercise professional will extend your lifespan and greatly improve the quality of your life.


Eric Lemkin is a certified personal trainer, strength & conditioning specialist, corrective exercise specialist and founder of Functionally Active Fitness. Lemkin has been a certified personal trainer for 17 years and has helped people ages 8-80 reach their fitness goals through customized personal training – specializing in exercise for the elderly or handicapped. 

References

  • Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009 [PDF-2M]. National vital statistics reports. 2011;60(3).
  • Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association . Circulation. 2012;125(1):e2–220.
  • Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2008 [PDF-2.7M]. National vital statistics reports. 2012;60(6).
  • Heidenriech PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, Butler J, Dracup K, Ezekowitz MD, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123(8):933–44.
  • CDC. Million Hearts™: strategies to reduce the prevalence of leading cardiovascular disease risk factors. United States, 2011. MMWR 2011;60(36):1248–51.
woman-walking-dirt-road

Restoring Health: A Lifestyle Rx

America is in bad shape. According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), 60% of adults are living with one chronic disease and 40% have two or more.(1)  Astoundingly, 12% of adults are living with 5 or more chronic conditions(2) including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, coronary obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension. A concept people need to understand is that these diseases can be prevented, managed and even reversed with lifestyle choices.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a bright light on how our level of health can literally be a matter of life or death. A study of thousands of patients hospitalized with the novel coronavirus in the New York City area found that 94% had one chronic disease and 88% had two or more. The most common conditions included hypertension, obesity and diabetes.(3) In May of this year, the CDC reported that people with an underlying chronic illness had six times the risk of being hospitalized and twelve times the risk for dying.(4)

Boost Health & Immunity

Now is the right time to take small steps to improve health and build immune resilience with daily lifestyle choices. While there isn’t one diet, exercise regimen, or stress-relieving technique that is good for everyone, there are principles to follow that can boost health and vitality at any age.

There is a huge misconception that our genes determine our health destiny. This simply isn’t true. The study of epigenetics shows that we have the ability to change the expression of our genes by the way we think, feel, move and eat.(5) Each of our daily decisions and choices can increase or decrease inflammation in the body, moving us towards disease or back to health.

Acute & Chronic Inflammation

Our immune system uses the ancient, biological pathway of inflammation to protect us against injury and infections.(6) When you cut your finger, immune cells are sent to kill invading bacteria and begin the process of wound healing. This is acute inflammation that goes away in days or weeks when the body is healed.

One the other hand, chronic inflammation lasts a long time, from months to years.(2) It’s basically an abnormal immune response that causes damage to cells, tissues and organs. Oxidative stress plays a big role; it occurs when more free radicals are produced within cells than the body can neutralize.(2)  As you can imagine, when more damage occurs than can be repaired, health problems crop up.

It is now widely accepted that chronic inflammation is at the root of most, if not all, chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cancer, arthritis and joint disease.(2)

Lifestyle Matters

The good news is that deliberate and healthier lifestyle choices can prevent, manage and even reverse chronic inflammatory disease, the most important cause of morbidity and mortality facing people today.(7) It’s empowering to know that if you have, or want to prevent a chronic disease, you can regain your health and vitality by choosing real whole foods, optimizing sleep, reducing stress, being social, and moving more.

You may be thinking, “How the heck can simple lifestyle decisions address the complexities of chronic conditions?”  The body has an innate ability and intelligence to heal itself. You experience it each time you cut your hand; you wash the wound, put a bandage on and don’t have to think about it.

The research also supports it and I have lived it; by utilizing the power of lifestyle medicine I was able to restore my health from the ravages of chronic Lyme disease. You just need to provide the right environment for healing. This is not an easy task, but it can be done with time, effort and a plan.

Taking Action

Changing your lifestyle habits can feel overwhelming. To help you embrace this challenge, think about this analogy, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!”   Any healing journey begins with awareness, learning and exploration; then gradually taking action, one small step at a time.

Start today by exploring lifestyle behaviors that decrease inflammation and can put your health back on track so you can live with less pain, more energy, and greater vitality. A lifestyle prescription to restore health includes:

  • Reducing stress with deep breathing.
  • Getting good quality sleep by going to bed and rising at the same time.
  • Eating a plant-based diet rich in a rainbow of vegetables.
  • Hydrating with filtered water in the morning and during the day.
  • Nurturing relationships and engaging with positive people.
  • Moving well with good posture when performing daily activities and exercise.

Be proactive, make one hour a week to learn more by reading books, researching on PubMed.gov, listening to podcasts, attending lectures and webinars so you can find the strategies and practices that work best for you. As you begin to feel better, you will naturally be motivated to continue learning and making better lifestyle choices because healthy feels so good!

Find a Fitness or Allied Health Pro Near You

Search the free MedFit Network directory to locate a professional near you! MedFit Network maintains a free directory of fitness and allied healthcare professionals who can work with individuals with chronic disease, medical conditions or the senior population.


Cate Reade, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist and Functional Medicine Practitioner candidate on a mission to improve functional mobility and health span utilizing the power of lifestyle medicine. She has been teaching, writing and prescribing healthy eating and exercise programs for over 25 years. Today, as CEO of Resistance Dynamics and inventor of the MoveMor™ Mobility Trainer, she develops exercise products and programs that target joint flexibility, strength and balance deficits to help older adults fall less and live more.

 

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
  3. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/nearly-all-nyc-area-covid-19-hospitalizations-had-comorbidities-67476
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/Novel_Coronavirus_Reports.html June 19, 2020
  5. https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/epigenetic-influences-and-disease-895/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6345337/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23974765/
Instructor Showing Health Results On Clipboard To Senior Couple

Respiratory Disease and Exercise

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hundreds of millions of people suffer every day from chronic respiratory diseases (CRD).  Currently in the United States, 24.6 million people have asthma1, 15.7 million people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)2 while greater than 50 million people have allergic rhinitis3 and other often-underdiagnosed chronic respiratory diseases.  Respiratory diseases do not discriminate and affect people of every race, sex, and age.  While most chronic respiratory diseases are manageable and some even preventable, this is what is known about the nature of chronic respiratory diseases4:

  • Chronic disease epidemics take decades to become fully established.
  • Chronic diseases often begin in childhood.
  • Because of their slow evolution and chronic nature, chronic diseases present opportunities for prevention.
  • Many different chronic diseases may occur in the same patient (e.g. chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancer).
  • The treatment of chronic diseases demands a long-term and systematic approach.
  • Care for patients with chronic diseases should be an integral part of the activities of health services, alongside care for patients with acute and infectious diseases.

Exercise and CRD

If you are a health and fitness professional, some of your clients may be suffering from a chronic respiratory disease and you may be an important source for relief.  Moderate exercise is known to improve use of oxygen, energy levels, anxiety, stress and depression, sleep, self-esteem, cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and shortness of breath. While it might seem odd that exercise improves breathing when one is short of breath, exercising really does help one with respiratory disease.  Exercise helps the blood circulate and helps the heart send oxygen to the rest of the body.  Exercise also strengthens the respiratory muscles which can make it easier to breathe.

Beneficial Types of Exercise

There are several challenges to exercise prescription and physical activity participation in this population, but a large body of evidence demonstrates important health benefits from aerobic exercise.  Resistance training has also been shown to increase muscle mass and strength, enhancing individuals’ ability to perform tasks of daily living and improving health-related quality of life.5

Aerobic exercise is good for the heart and lungs and allows one to use oxygen more efficiently. Walking, biking, and swimming are great examples of aerobic exercise. The guidelines are approximately the same as generally healthy individuals.  One should attempt to train the cardiorespiratory system 3-5 days a week for 30 minutes per session.  One should exercise at an intensity level of 3-4 on the Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale (Scale Rating from 0 Nothing at All-10 Very, Very, Heavy).

Resistance exercise increases muscular strength including the respiratory muscles that assist in breathing.  Resistance training usually involves weights or resistance bands but using one’s own body weight works just as well depending on the severity of the symptoms.  It is recommended that one should perform high repetitions with low weight to fatigue the muscles.  This type of resistance training also improves muscular endurance important for those with CRD.  Resistance training should be performed 2-3 days a week working all major muscle groups.

Stretching exercises relax and improve one’s flexibility.  When stretching, one should practice slow and controlled breathing.  Not only does proper breathing help to deepen the stretch, but it also helps one to increase lung capacity.  One should gently stretch all major muscles to the point of mild discomfort while holding the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, slowly breathing in and out. Repeat each stretch 2-3 times.  Stretching is an effective method to warming up and cooling down before and after workout sessions.

When exercising, it is important to remember to inhale in preparation of the movement and exhale on the exertion phase of the movement.  An individual should take slow deep breaths and pace him/herself.  It is recommended to purse the lips while exhaling.

Use of Medication

If an individual uses medication for the treatment of respiratory disease, he/she should continue to take the medication based on his/her doctor’s advice.  His/her doctor may adjust the dosage according to the physical activity demands.  For example, the doctor may adjust the flow rate of oxygen during exercise if one is using an oxygen tank.  In addition, one should have his/her inhaler on hand in case of a need due to the increase of oxygen demand during exercise.

Fitness professionals can effectively work with those who have a chronic respiratory disease providing them with a better quality of life through movement.  You as their health and fitness coach can provide a positive experience to facilitate an effective path to better health and wellness.

Join CarolAnn for her upcoming webinar, Exercise and Allergies: How to Train Clients When They Can’t Breathe


Known as the trainers’ trainer, CarolAnn has become one of the country’s leading fitness educators, authors, and national presenters. Combining a Master’s degree in Exercise Science/Health Promotion with several fitness certifications/memberships such as FiTOUR, ACSM, ACE, AFAA, and LMI, she has been actively involved in the fitness industry for over 25 years. She is currently the Founder and Director of Education for Chiseled Faith, a Faith Based Health and Fitness Program for churches. Visit her website, www.CarolAnn.Fitness

References

  1. 2015. NHIS Data; Table 3-1. www.cdc.gov/asthma/nhis/2015/table3-1.htm
  2. Mannino DM, Gagnon RC, Petty TL, Lydick E. Obstructive lung disease and low lung function in adults in the United States: data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1988-1994. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:1683–1689.
  3. CDC, Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice. Allergies. https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/Allergies.html
  4. World Health Organization http://www.who.int/gard/publications/chronic_respiratory_diseases.pdf
  5. Eves ND, Davidson WJ. Evidence-based risk assessment and recommendations for physical activity clearance: respiratory disease. Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism. 2011;36(Suppl 1):S80–100. [PubMed]
Tattoos Sweat Less Gym

Tattoos & Heat Loss During Exercise

Tattoos are personal permanent images on our body that carry meaning and commemoration. At least 14% of U.S. adults have at least one tattoo and the popularity of getting inked is on the rise. Nearly 36% of millennials have a tattoo and it seems to be a reoccurring trend. The athletic community also has a high incidence of players with tattoos. 

As much color as these skin decorations bring to the body, they may actually affect cause thermoregulatory problems. This is particularly true for people with sleeves, because the arms have a lot of sweat glands. Compared to a person with no tattoos, skin with ink on it sweats about 50% less. The type of sweat released on a tattooed area contains more concentrated amounts of sodium. Dyed skin changes the saltiness of our sweat. When the dye is injected into the skin, its home is same layer where our sweat glands live. Sweat glands excrete liquid onto the surface of the skin, but before it dries or we whip it away, our skin usually reabsorbs quite a bit of the lost sodium and electrolytes. Tattoos block this reabsorption. The age of tattoo does not influence this sweat alteration. New or old, about 50% of sweat is being produced. It is possible that the sweat glands after being inflamed from the 3,000 or more needles puncturing the skin, are now physiologically different. 

This is not a serious condition to sweat about. The body is still able to cool itself down despite tattoos covering perspiration avenues. A person who is covered in tattoos, exercising or working in high heat, or are sensitive to heat, might be at risk. When we exercise we do want to be able to cool down to keep our stamina and performance up. Research has not been adequately performed to determine if the areas of the skin lacking tattoos make up for the sweat not readily perspired by the covered tattoo areas. Don’t worry that if you sweat less you will lose less weight. We all perspire different amounts and quantity of sweat does not equate to quantity of weight loss. As soon as the body become rehydrated, that water loss is replenished. Excessive sweating for weight loss with saunas or body wraps are popular methods among wrestlers and boxers. Maybe they should skip out on marking their bodies. 

Sweat is the body’s air conditioning system. Tattoos might alter the desired temperature. 50% of NBA players have multiple tattoos and there hasn’t been a report yet of tattoo related injuries. Your skin will still get shiny with perspiration, but maybe not the same amount or with added salt. Be sure to hydrate, be sure to exercise, and be sure to get a tattoo you want to keep. 


Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough, owner of Every BODY’s Fit in Oceanside CA, is a NASM Master Trainer, AFAA group exercise instructor, and specializes in Fitness Nutrition, Weight Management, Senior Fitness, Corrective Exercise, and Drug and Alcohol Recovery. She’s also a Wellness Coach, holds an M.A. Physical Education & Health and a Ph.D in Health and Human Performance. She is a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, and published author.

 

References

STRESS pencil

A Stress Management Plan for an Aging Population

April is National Stress Awareness Month!

Fortunately today, there are many tools to help individuals cope with stress. The first step is to acknowledge that you are stressed and to know what is stressing you. Once you are aware of your stressors, you need to make a stress management plan to follow. The journey may not be perfect but it is a work in progress. Most individuals aren’t going to know how to develop a plan or where to start. A trained individual such as a certified personal trainer can help to formulate the best plan for each client and make changes as the client achieves each milestone in the process.

As many as 20% of people experience depression in their later years

A stress management prescription is also needed for aging adults since the mind and body become slower to adaptations. The stress response lasts longer and seniors experience different symptoms then younger adults. Some key symptoms can be: crying, overeating, wounds taking longer to heal, heart palpitations, anxiety and depression. As a trainer, you will most likely be working with the client’s doctor who is treating them for these symptoms. There is a myriad of modalities that you can use to help your client drastically reduce their stress levels while they heal. As a fitness professional, incorporating meditation, exercise, yoga, Pilates, and many other techniques can help your client’s symptoms improve mentally and physically. The question is can we do more than telling clients to take a class? The answer to this question is an emphatic yes!

The causes of stress for this population are also different and depend on which decade in life they are in. Some examples are: loneliness, being institutionalized, fear of having enough money for retirement, loss of independence and many other causes. The problem is that many people can’t asses their own stress level and don’t know where to turn for answers. Chronic stress is harmful in many ways, but can be minimized once the individual becomes aware of their stress level and knows there are stress management professionals who can help.

Today, 53% of Baby Boomers are using complementary approaches to try and relieve stress and help with other conditions such as: anxiety, depression, chronic pain, stress, and hypertension. Complementary approaches are not limited to but include; exercise, nutrition, yoga, Pilates and Tai-Chi. Research conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health shows that meditation can help to relieve symptoms for example chronic pain. As a fitness professional it is important to realize that these modalities must be used in conjunction with conventional medicine.

When training clients, it is important to see them as a whole person through the dimensions of wellness. As people, we have many things going on mentally and physically that are very complex. A stress management plan helps to streamline what can work best for your client and their current needs. The plan can evolve and most likely will depending on what is going on in your client’s life at the time. When you can assess and classify your clients you then know which complimentary approaches will work better for them. This will in turn, will help to keep your client engaged and on track with their goals.


Robyn Kade is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 18 years of experience in medical based fitness. Become a Stress Management Exercise Specialist today!

 

References

foam-rolling-at-gym

Why Use Foam Rollers?

We see many claims about fitness tools but they often don’t live up to the hype when reviewed by experts. Numerous claims have been made that foam rolling increases blood flow, is useful in warming up the muscle prior to exercise, and assists in post-exercise recovery. A study reported in the respected Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research determined that foam rolling is worth the effort: areas massaged with the foam roller saw increased arterial blood flow. The foam roller lives up to the claims; it is a useful tool that should be part of your exercise tool belt.

Foam rollers were once used exclusively in a physical therapy setting. Dr. Moshé Feldenkrais is credited with being the first person to use rollers for therapeutic purposes (for instance, improving body alignment, reducing muscle tightness, teaching body awareness) in the late 1950s. Foam rollers have been used by a variety of clients with conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to common orthopedic concerns. The beauty of the foam roller is that it can be used by almost everyone.

Research has shown that stretching, relaxation, meditation, foam rolling, and biofeedback techniques all ease muscle tension, which contributes to pain and common muscle stiffness. A massage is a favorite method of stretching and relaxing tight muscles. It enhances functional range of motion, aids in the healing process, decreases muscle reflex activity, inhibits motor-neuron excitability, and contributes to relaxation. However, not many people can afford a daily or weekly massage session. A regular foam roller session can provide many of the benefits same benefits as and prolong the benefits of a massage while adding diversity and challenge to your standard exercise program.

Designing a balanced exercise routine that includes flexibility movements with strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and relaxation can reduce chronic discomfort and stress. Since foam rollers break up interwoven muscle fibers and help move oxygenated blood into those muscles, they’re an excellent device with which to release tight spots in the muscles (the technical term is “myofascial release”) and return the muscles to a more optimal state. This can be done prior to exercising to improve range of motion, after a workout, or during a break at work to relax tight muscles and reduce soreness from sitting too long.


From the Foam Roller Workbook, by Karl Knopf. Reprinted with permission from Karl Knopf

Karl Knopf, Ed.D, served as the Director of The Fitness Therapy Program at Foothill College for almost 40 years. He has worked in almost every aspect of the industry from personal trainer and therapist to consultant to major Universities such as Stanford, Univ. of North Carolina, and the Univ. of California well as the State of California and numerous professional organizations. Dr. Knopf was the President and Founder of Fitness Educators Of Older Adults for 15 years. Currently, he is the director of ISSA’s Fitness Therapy and Senior Fitness Programs and writer. Dr. Knopf has authored numerous articles, and written more than 17 books including topics on Water Exercise, Weights for 50 Plus to Fitness Therapy.

Healthy-Lifestyle-Nutrition-Exercise-Medicine

Natural Prescription – An Alternative Approach

One of the best things we can do for our bodies is to “get out of the way”! Believe it or not, our body can actually do a great job of healing itself, or functioning quite optimally when it’s allowed to do so. The body does this by reacting to what “stresses” are put upon it and finding homeostasis through temporary changes or more permanent adaptations. Even the brain will make quick reactions to things in the form of neurotransmitters and neural firing or long term adaptations in adopting new ways of perceiving things or hard-wiring changes.

A statement capturing the above sentiment is from Goodheart (1989) on healing, “People are healed by many different kinds of healers and systems because the real healer is within. The various healing modalities are merely different ways of activating the inner healer.”

Are you of the Mechanist (Rationalist) or Vitalist (Empirical) Approach?

The standard or “orthodox” medical practice in the U.S. follows a mechanist approach, where symptoms are perceived as bad and should be minimized or suppressed through surgical or pharmaceutical means. This seems great at the surface level. If something is causing me pain or discomfort let me do something to relieve or eliminate that pain. If I am having nausea or diarrhea because of something in my gut, let me take something to stop the vomiting or diarrhea. Underlying this “quick fix” of symptom alleviation is THE PROBLEM. The body is trying to rid itself of the “problem” by expelling if forwards or backwards! There are many medical conditions for which it is okay to consider treating symptoms, and for some this is vital. However, it is preferable for this to be done in conjunction with identifying the source of the problem, so a long-term fix can be explored.

A Vitalist approach views symptoms as part of the healing process, not a problem that should be hidden. Many branches of health care use this philosophy including: chiropractors, osteopaths, naturopaths, and practitioners of Chinese or Indian medicine advocate this Vitalist approach. By suppressing the symptoms, the practitioner may actually be extending the illness or exacerbating the problem. Researchers at the University of Maryland found taking aspirin for the flu may prolong the illness up to 3 days. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin interferes with the normal fever response that fights the infection (Burke, 2000).

Listening to the Symptoms tell you Where the Problem Lies

Rather than reducing or eliminating the symptoms, what if we tried to increase our sensitivity to it. For example, if we took antibiotics to fight a bacteria, are we enhancing the body’s immune response to this foreign agent or “giving it” something to help, much like a crutch. A quote from unknown origin:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

This is at the heart of the Vitalist approach. The body is great at adaptation but we have to let it “learn” to adapt- not “feed” it some drug that forces it to do something. A quote from the Nobel Prize winner, Rene Dubos, Ph.D. remarks, “Good health is a process of continuous adaptation to the myriad of microbes, irritants, pressures and problems which daily challenge man.” This is also at the heart of exercise training. You must “overload” a system in order to get an improvement in function. You literally must stress it, and let it endure that strain in order to get the adaptation. Likewise, by putting your body in destabilized environments, you will gain a better sense of balance, in order to stabilize yourself. Recent evidence has found that anti-inflammatory agents actually weaken the endurance training effect.

Fortunately, medical advances have allowed us to treat many illnesses effectively and safely, and it is always advisable to follow the advice of your doctor. Allowing your body to adapt to certain stresses can be very positive in certain scenarios, but it is important to recognize when this doesn’t come at a risk of increasing morbidity, mortality, or increasing the likelihood of illness complications.

To Drug or Not to Drug: that is the Question

No one likes being depressed. About one in 10 Americans takes some sort of antidepressant medication. It is the most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S. according to a report published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (2009). While the U.S. may not be a Prozac Nation, as popularized in 1994 by the author Elizabeth Wurtzel, the rates almost doubled from 1996 to 2005 (5.84% to 10.12%). A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found it to work best in only severe cases of depression and exercise had similar effects in the short term treatment and better effects in long term treatment! The difficulty lies in getting someone to exercise when they are depressed. Thus, an integrated approach is often the best, and this includes psychological counseling as well .

Sometimes Less is More

A take away from this article should not be that standard medical care is bad. Far from it. Many M.D.s are very knowledgeable in areas outside of their standard practice and advocate expressive, rather than suppressive therapies. The take away should be to not rush for a drug to hide or mask your symptoms, but focus on what is the root of the cause, and take action to address this. The term iatrogenic is used for the inadvertent problem caused by a medical treatment. In fact, reports estimate it to be the third leading cause of death in the U.S. with 225,000 to 250,000 dying from iatrogenic diseases annually! While it is hard to say how many of these deaths could have been avoided, it is quite obvious that minimizing invasive treatments until they are necessary is the best plan of action.

Complementary or Integrated Medicine can possibly have the answer to a majority of the health issues presented. The MedFit Network believes those professionals are the future of health care.

Free Webinar with Dr. Mark Kelly

There are a ton of misconceptions surrounding obesity and being overweight. Join Dr. Kelly for this webinar to learn what is actually dangerous about obesity, and how to rethink and reprogram your brain and life toward fun and re-creation, not fitness.


Dr. Mark Kelly Ph.D., CSCS, FAS, CPT has been actively involved in the fitness industry spanning 30 years as a teacher of exercise physiology at academic institutions such as California State University, Fullerton, Louisiana State University, Health Science Center, Tulane University and Biola. He was an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, a corporate wellness director, boot camp company owner and master fitness trainer.

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The Essential Ingredient to Sticking With It…

If you’ve got this “special sauce,” you’ll overcome any obstacles placed in your way to perform your best…anytime!  Regardless of whether it’s sticking with lifestyle change to improve your health, a nutrition plan, cutting back on smoking or drinking, adhering to a medication regimen, following through with physical therapy appointments, or adhering to an exercise program, this essential ingredient will make all of the difference.

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So, your doctor told you to start exercising! Now what?

Have you ever been given this very simple, yet incredibly complicated advice from your doctor? 

“You could really benefit from starting an exercise program.” 

If so, you are lucky to have a doctor who understands the power of exercise! In fact, exercise has been proven to help prevent diseases, reduce pain, decrease dependency on medications and improve overall quality of life. (1) The benefits are seemingly endless. However, are you someone who hasn’t the slightest clue as to what to do next? Where should you go? Who should you ask for help? Fear not, because you are not alone! Take a deep breath and follow these simple steps to begin a safe, effective and lasting exercise program today. 

Identify the Why! 

If a medical professional suggests you begin an exercise program, what is their reasoning behind it? While “obesity is linked to more than 60 chronic diseases”, your doctor may not be suggesting that you need to lose weight, but instead, suggesting that you need to address a specific weakness. (2) Do you have a medical condition where weight loss or improved cardiovascular health could add more quality years to your life or reduce your dependency on medications? Asking your doctor to fully explain these questions will help you understand how specific exercises can improve your physical and mental wellbeing. 

For example, if you have a heightened risk for falls, improving strength and balance is of utmost importance. However, if you are overly dependent on high blood pressure medications, your goal may be to improve cardiovascular health through aerobic activities. If you suffer from chronic pain or various forms of arthritis, the objective of your exercise routine will be more focused on enhancing mobility and flexibility, improving muscle imbalances and strength, as well as assisting with pain management through mindfulness techniques. Knowing your “why” is the first step towards clarifying your “how”. 

Invest in Yourself 

The most important things in life are NOT things. -Anthony D’Angelo 

It is rumored that Tom Brady, better known as the G.O.A.T. and the winningest quarterback in the NFL, spends over a million dollars a year on his health. Odell Beckham Jr., another famous NFL star, says that “I take care of my body each and every day. I put, probably, over $300,000 in my body in the offseason… It’s a lot to upkeep. I don’t ever want to decline.” (3) In all honesty, do you blame these athletes for spending so much money on their health when their health is their livelihood? 

When a medical professional suggests that you begin an exercise program, it is because they believe it will help your overall mental and physical well-being. While you may not be a professional athlete, you may be someone who wishes to remain active and independent for the remainder of your life. Therefore, it is paramount to invest in a certified fitness professional or medical fitness trainer to help create a program that meets your individual needs. 

Think about it like this, when your car needs to be fixed, do you try to fix it yourself or do you seek a certified specialist who will make an educated assessment, create a game plan and implement the necessary changes? I think it is safe to say that you will spend money on your car, but may scoff at the thought of hiring a trainer. What is more important? Things can be replaced, but people are irreplaceable. There are certified fitness professionals in your area you can find via a simple internet search or by posing a question on social media to your local chamber of commerce. With that being said, don’t be afraid to shop around and interview various trainers to make sure they are a good fit for you! 

Find a Match 

Find a job that you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life. -Mark Twain 

Mark Twain was onto something when he spoke about the importance of enjoying what you do! This same principle applies when you set out on an exercise journey. If swimming scares you or you have nightmares about running, then pick exercises that you enjoy. Do you love to dance? Try taking some dance classes! Do you enjoy riding your bike? Let that be a part of your new exercise routine. If you dread your exercise sessions, loathe your trainer or hate every minute of your workout, then it is not going to last. If it feels like work, it’s not going to work! Exercise should be an enjoyable, yet challenging, part of your day! 

In addition, be sure that you take the time to assess how you are feeling and clearly communicate this to your trainer. If you are feeling run down, overly sore, or under-the-weather, your body is trying to tell you something. All of these signs are extremely important when it comes to enjoying the endless benefits of making exercise a part of your life. Now, let’s take action and begin to take control of your health. 


Christine M. Conti, BA, M.Ed, is an international fitness educator and presenter. She currently serves as the Director of Membership for MedFit Network, sits on the MedFit Education Advisory Board and is a course author for MedFit Classroom. She is also CEO and founder of ContiFit.com and Let’s FACE It Together™ Facial Fitness & Rehabilitation and co-host of Two Fit Crazies & A Microphone Podcast

References

1 Roy-Britt. “How Diet and Exercise Can Prevent Disease. January 8th, 2020. www.elemental.medium.com How Diet and Exercise Can Prevent Disease | Elemental (medium.com)

2 Holland, Kimberly. “Obesity Facts in America.” Healthline. January 18th, 2022. www.healthline.com 

3 Zeegers, Madilyn. Tom Brady Inspired Odell Beckham Jr. to Invest in his Body. April 6th, 2020. Tom Brady Inspired Odell Beckham Jr. to Invest in His Body (sportscasting.com)