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Prescription for good health diet and exercise flat lay overhead with copyspace.

Medical & Fitness Integration… a HEALTH-E-FIT!

Year after year, the IHRSA Trend Report continues to state that there will be an increase of trillions of spending cost in healthcare spending, with aging Baby Boomers contributing heavily to the total over the next decade. At least 50% of adults between 50-64 years of age live with at least one chronic condition. More than 44% of US consumers take at least one prescription medication daily, and the 50+ age group accounts for nearly 3/4 of spending on prescription drugs. The most commonly prescribed drugs for 40- to 60-year-old adults are for high cholesterol, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes and hypertension.

As more individuals who actively participate in the US healthcare system seek solutions, the more we need to do for positioning our programs and facilities to address their non-traditional needs. As with any other business, we must change, modify and refocus our service delivery system as our client profile and the associated service needs change.

In April 2017, I made the decision to solely focus on developing a Medical Fitness Service to champion the Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) initiative through HEALTHEFIT. Despite being created in 2007, EIM remains an untapped service that has not only been ignored by fitness professionals but also by healthcare as well. Exercise is Medicine®, a global health initiative managed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), encourages primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans and to refer patients to evidence-based exercise programs and qualified exercise professionals, especially those with the Exercise is Medicine credential.

In reviewing the multiple areas that we could contribute positive health outcomes, we decided to focus on the following:

1. Orthopedic Pathology

  • Acute Low Back Pain, Low Back Pain and Sciatica, Shoulder Impingement Syndrome, Rotator Cuff Pathology, Hip Replacement, Full Knee Replacement, ACL, Meniscus Pathology, Patella-Femoral Syndrome, Osteoporosis

2. Cardiovascular Disease

  • Hypertension, Coronary Artery Disease, Peripheral Vascular Disease, Alular Heart Disease

3. Pulmonary Disease

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD], Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema

4. Metabolic Disease

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Obesity, Blood Lipid Disorders

HEALTHEFIT’s medical fitness services incorporate a Triangle Treatment Protocol® including: EIM, DNA based nutrition, and Behavioral Medicine. Depending on an individual’s employer benefits plans and/or health insurance, either all or part of these medically directed services can potentially be reimbursable. Creditability is very important to the medical industry therefore we had to ensure that we differentiate our staff from the everyday personal trainer.

While credentials are indeed important, the ability to translate this knowledge into patient specific program design and treatment progression processes is the real professional test. Our medical fitness providers are fitness professionals who have a comprehensive knowledge of special populations. I have been able to create a new professional that is gaining the trust of physicians and health insurance. Our recruiting, orientation, and onboarding process has been the difference in separating HEALTHEFIT from other programs and gaining acceptance with Virginia Premier as their exclusive in-network medical fitness provider and out-of-network
status with Anthem and Cigna.

Want to learn more? Join David for his upcoming MedFit webinar on this topic:


David Rachal III is the founder and CEO of HEALTH-E-FIT, a medical fitness based facility in Chester, VA, where he’s created a scalable system that engages, educates, and empowers physicians and medical fitness providers to work together. His facility uses exercise and nutrition as medicine making prevention, treatment, and long-term management accessible for all. David’s contributions to the fitness industry also include training hundreds of private clients to success and educating over 1,000 trainers in the past eight years as a Fitness Presenter and Certification Specialist with nationally recognized organizations. David holds an MBA with a focus in Healthcare Management. He holds many specialty training certifications, including the ACSM ‘Exercise is Medicine’ credential, the FMS Functional Movement Specialist, and NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator.

ORTHOPEDICS CONSULTATION WOMAN

If You Can’t Beat It, Use It: An Exercise Guide to Post-Joint Replacement Wellness

It all started over 40 years ago, when I chose as my sport – some would say, my life – the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do. I was young, fit, pretty strong and, unbeknownst to me, very flexible – perfect for the art of kicking high and hard. Once I got hooked on it, I was in the gym a few hours a day, 6-7 days a week…for the next almost 20 years. That did not include the running I did to get my cardiovascular conditioning primed for the art and sport I was practicing at high levels of both skill and competition. I knew then, at age 19, that I was going to pay for the training and abuse I was putting my body through, but not until I was older, say, 40 or so.

Senior woman with help of physiotherapist

Cancer Wellness Within Healthcare – A Date With Destiny

There are three distinct areas of exercise as it relates to healthcare – and reimbursement. Most trainers and fitness professionals are aware of cardiac rehab, which actually began in the US in the 1960s, but gained ground as a reimbursable health care service in the 1980s. At that time there was a lot of good exercise and sports medicine research available in peer reviewed publications, and there was a push on the part of health care to include cardiac rehab as part of rehab and health promotion services. The fact that most cardiac programs were reimbursed up to 36 sessions was a plus.

The second area of healthcare that is relatively new is the Silver Sneaker’s program – started in Arizona in 1994, it quickly grew to the nation’s leading reimbursable wellness program for seniors. It was accepted by Medicare Plus

Active seniors

Choice, and a host of other health plans across the nation – so that within a few years of its inception, seniors from anywhere in the US could take advantage of free exercise and health classes at area health clubs, YMCAs, and JCCs. The program was recently sold to Healthways health systems from Nashville for over $400 million – a testament to the interest of such programs within the healthcare industry.

The third area is the use of exercise therapy in worker’s compensation programming. Over the past decade there are some significant programs implemented that contract with large employer groups and HMOs to use exercise both in a preventive and therapeutic format. These programs include strength and aerobic training geared to improve functional strength, reduce WC costs and reduce lost work days. Clearly these areas of clinical exercise have set a precedent regarding both the use of fitness programs in healthcare, and reimbursement for these programs through third parties.

Enter Cancer Wellness. There were few programs for cancer survivors for any type of health program in the early 1990’s. A few health clubs and hospitals had specialty exercises for persons with cancer, but programs really started to grow when Dr. Meryl Winningham from University of Utah began publishing the first sports medicine research in the field in the 1980’s (which became more widely read in the mid 1990’s), and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong made his remarkable comeback from cancer in the late 1990’s. Over the past decade the number of health clubs and hospital wellness centers that offer cancer exercise programs has grown exponentially. There are now hundreds of programs in existence nationally – in clubs, private training centers, Pilates studios, and hospitals. More are interested, but the main question remains – is this program reimbursable?

For those in health promotion who haven’t noticed – reimbursement has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Programs that historically received reimbursement (such as cardiac rehab), have been cut dramatically (while, ironically, cardiac operations and prescription medication costs have escalated three-fold). However – that doesn’t mean that reimbursement doesn’t exist for health programs, you just have to know where to look. An example is smoking cessation classes. Instructed by counselors and physician assistants, most of the reimbursement for these classes (and nicotine replacement therapy) is funded by state tobacco settlement grants and initiatives, which is very helpful in terms of passing along savings to patients.

Is reimbursement possible for cancer wellness? Select groups from areas in the US are working with local health plans, or pharmaceutical companies to capture their markets in terms of offerings to patients. For those who are interested in looking towards reimbursement for their program – here is some advice for getting started:

  1. Find out how many persons in your region are cancer survivors. Your local cancer treatment center should have statistics. Most areas have well over 1,000 new cases per year. You may also market to persons who have had cancer diagnosed years before. They may still attend support groups, or be on mailing lists from the same cancer centers.
  2. Establish a relationship with a local oncologist or treatment center. You may be able to hold exercise programs on-site and bill through your community local oncology or rehab clinic. This is similar to billing for group therapy or physical therapy. However – it should be remembered that this is a wellness program, and there are specific wellness codes that physicians and billing departments can bill under.
  3. Know your billing codes. In order to receive any form of reimbursement – you should know the system you are working in. There are resources that may assist you in learning coding for wellness programs, and you should take advantage of them (see resource section).
  4. Know what outcomes you are interested in reporting. For many cancer patients, a reduction in lymphedema, less pain and fatigue, and increases in fitness parameters are an excellent way to show that the program is working well. Improving these outcomes will also boost attendance, which is another important aspect of the program (compliance).
  5. Look for local sponsors. A proposal to local pharmaceutical reps may increase your odds of receiving reimbursement – through a third party such as a pharma company. They often set aside money in their budgets for health programs, and cancer wellness may fit the bill very well.

Health Care Collage Words Medicine BackgroundWhat to do once you’re up and running? In the first year it’s important to have a working budget. This may only lend itself to 3-5 patients coming to your program to start. Once they experience the benefits of exercise and wellness, they will quickly tell their fellow patients. It’s also important to spread the word via small group lectures and fitness demonstrations. Since most cancer centers have monthly support groups, it’s a great place to conduct a 30 minute lecture and demonstration for local survivors. Next – a couple of sample articles for the local newspaper (perhaps a series) on the benefits of exercise for cancer survivorship. There are new research reports out each month. Lastly – call your local radio show and book a time to discuss exercise for cancer survivorship. They would love to have a topic like this for their time slots.

The initial year is a “make or break” one for survivor programs. In my experience with many of my national programs – those that got some funding, and did some promotion have programs that have grown. Those who relied solely on patient membership fees in many cases have not been able to grow their programs. Funding is important, and reimbursement may be a part of patient’s health plans, so it would benefit you to contact local health plan reps to see if they cover the cost of post rehab exercise, and/or health club membership for their members.

Cancer Wellness is one of a handful of growing wellness programs in this country that health specialists AND physicians are looking to for avenues of increased reimbursement, or sponsorship. There are many local and regional resources (cancer treatment centers, non profit organizations and foundations, pharmaceutical companies, and regional HMOs) that may be interested in funding such programs. It is up to you to start looking for financing as you start your education program. This will ensure future success at both the educational AND financial levels.


Written by Eric Durak, Medical Health and Fitness ©2011-2014. Eric Durak is the President of Medical Health and Fitness, and Director of the Cancer Wellness CEU Program in Santa Barbara, CA. He is also the author of The Reimbursement Book for Health and Fitness Instructors . Contact him at edurak@medhealthfit.com / 805-451-8072. www.medhealthfit.com

References
Durak, EP. The important link between exercise and cancer. ACE Matters. Pg. 13, Sept. 1999
Author – Exercise reduces cancer treatment side effects. Health News. 12(9):pg.8, 2006
Jones, LW, Denmark-Wahnefried, W. Diet, exercise, and complementary therapies after primary treatment for cancer. Lancet Oncology. 7(12):1017-26, 2006.
Korstjens, I, Mesters, I, et al. Quality of life of cancer survivors after physical and psychosocial rehabilitation. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 15(6): 541-7, 2006.

running-bleachers

Kick up the Cardio

Currently, health clubs offer a variety of cardio and strength options. They offer a plethora of equipment and classes yet attrition remains high. By combining the science of cardio and strength training with a motivated and energetic instructor new programming combining….

Breast Cancer Survivor

Breast Cancer and Exercise

The most common issues that plague post-mastectomy patients are upper-crossed syndrome and range of motion limitations in the affected shoulder. Upper cross syndrome is the combination of protracted (rounded) shoulders, forward head, cervical lordosis, winged-scapula, and thoracic kyphosis. As a result of these postural deviations, mastectomy, lymph node dissection, and/or radiation, the chest muscles may become tight, shortened and spastic. This not only exacerbates the postural deviations, but may limit the ability of the patient to move their arm/shoulder through flexion, extension, abduction, and external rotation. While this is a general statement, the majority of patients will present with these symptoms. This is compounded even more if the woman undergoes reconstructive surgery. Not only with it further exacerbate upper-crossed syndrome, it will create a muscle imbalance in the area of surgery, if either the rectus abdominis or latissimus muscle are used for reconstruction.

a trainer helping a senior woman doing fitnessThe most important factor in the safety and efficacy of the exercise program is the initial assessment. At the very least this should include a comprehensive postural assessment as well as shoulder range of motion measurements taken with a goniometer. The well-trained fitness professional will be able to deduce, from the results, which muscles need to be stretched and which need to be strengthened. By selecting the wrong combinations of exercises, the results may not only be undesirable, they may in fact be detrimental. For example, if a client presents with moderate to severe upper-crossed syndrome, performing any kind of “pushing” exercise that would involve the chest muscles (chest press), could make the syndrome even more pronounced by causing the pectoral muscles to tighten and contract. Instead, the goal need to be on stretching the chest wall and strengthening the opposing muscles in the back; particularly the scapular stabilizers.

Prior to adding a load (resistance) of any kind, the patient should have close to full range of motion through the particular plane of motion. Without correcting the range of motion first, the patient will reinforce the negative movement pattern by performing strength training exercises throughout a limited pattern of movement. Therefore, initially the focus should be on range of motion exercises. These may include very basic exercises that the patient can do on their own; front wall walks, side wall walks, pendulum swings, and corner stretch, or active isolated stretching that can be executed with the assistance of a professional. The combination of both will increase the speed of improvement in most cases.

Once close to full range of motion is achieved, the emphasis can be on strength training. Not only will this help to correct the postural and range of motion deviations, it will help increase bone density and lean muscle mass. Many women will either be of menopausal age, or thrown into menopause from their cancer treatment. With estrogen no longer being produced, the risk of osteoporosis increases. To make things even more complicated, the long-term side-effects of chemotherapy include osteoporosis, diabetes, and damage to the heart and lungs; all of which can be avoided or improved through proper exercise recommendations.

The last part of the equation is the risk of lymphedema of the affected arm/shoulder. Lymphedema is the swelling of the extremity following the removal of, or radiation to the lymph nodes on that side. Even if someone has undergone a sentinel node biopsy, and only had one node removed, they can still get lymphedema. Lymphedema is progressive if untreated and can be very painful and disfiguring. It can happen at ANY time after surgery; one hour or fifty years. The risk doesn’t increase or decrease with time, however a higher percentage of body fat, infection, age, and poor nutrition can all increase the risk once someone is at risk. In my sixteen years of working with cancer patients, I would say this is the number one “overlooked” issue amongst cancer patients. More often than not, they will not even be told about lymphedema. Following lymph node dissection and/or radiation, the lymphatic pathways do not operate with the same efficacy that they did previously. Therefore, we no longer know what the individuals exercise threshold is. It is critical to START and PROGRESS SLOWLY. This allows for a gradual increase in frequency, intensity, and duration of the exercise program. If at any point there is swelling, the patient should be advised to stop exercising and see their doctor immediately to determine if, in fact, they do have the onset of lymphedema. They should come back with a medical clearance form and the exercise instructor should take a step back with the frequency, intensity, and duration to the point prior to the onset of swelling.

Putting all of these pieces together is very much like solving a mathematical equation. If you are missing any of the information, you will never solve the problem. A typical exercise session should begin with cardiovascular exercise. This too should be gradually increased at a rate that the client is comfortable with and their body responds favorably to. They should stay well-hydrated, they should not wear tight-fitting or restrictive clothing on their upper body, and they should not overheat (all of these factors can increase the risk of lymphedema). Following the warm-up they should be instructed to do a series of lymph drainage exercise to open up the lymphatic pathways and prepare the body for exercise. I reference these exercises in CETI’s Cancer Exercise Specialist Handbook and Breast Cancer Recovery with the BOSU® Balance Trainer Book.

Meta Slider - HTML Overlay - Women wearing pink tops and ribbons for breast cancer on white backgroundFollowing the warm-up and lymph drainage exercises, the exercise specialist should determine what the areas of “need” are for the client. Remember to begin with stretching and range of motion exercises until they have close to “normal” range of motion. At that point the goal becomes strength training and choosing exercises that will strengthen the weaker muscles and stretch the tight and shortened muscles. Weight/resistance should also be very gradually increased and attention paid to any potential swelling of the extremity. Typically I chose exercises that will stretch the chest (chest fly, corner or door stretch, assisted stretching) and will strengthen the back (low/high rows, reverse flies, lat pulldown). They often [present with winged scapula following a node dissection. If this is the case, I will incorporate exercises that will strengthen the serratus anterior. If they have undergone an abdominal TRAM procedure, core work will be of the greatest importance in preventing, or minimizing, low back pain.

Because every muscle in the body works synergistically, an imbalance in the shoulder can lead to a multitude of imbalances from the hips to the knees to the ankles etc… Choose your exercises carefully. Put emphasis on the areas of need. This is not and can never be a cookie-cutter workout. No two breast cancer patients are the same. Not only are you taking into consideration their surgery, reconstruction, and treatment, you have to also factor in the remainder of their health history and any additional orthopedic concerns. I urge anyone who wants to work with cancer patients to undergo specialized training. It is very complex and the untrained professional can end up doing more harm than good.


Andrea Leonard is the Founder and President of the Cancer Exercise Training Institute. She is a certified as a corrective exercise specialist by The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), as a personal trainer by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and as a Special Populations Expert by The Cooper Institute. She is also a continuing education provider for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and The American Council on Exercise.

 

Physio assisting elderly woman during exercise with power band a

The Importance of Exercise Following A Stroke

According to the American Heart Association, 700,000 people annually in the United States suffer a stroke.(1)  The incidence of stroke is likely to continue to escalate because of an expanding population of elderly Americans; a growing epidemic of diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity among the general population; and a greater prevalence of heart failure patients.(2)

Following a stroke, survivors will often work with Physical and Occupational Therapists to restore strength and control through exercise programs. However, most insurance companies only pay for a certain number of therapy sessions per calendar year which can leave a gap in the rehabilitation process. It’s important to continue the exercises that a physical therapist has prescribed and progress safely through an exercise program to regain strength and functional movement. This is where a certified personal trainer with experience in rehabilitative exercises can come in. A certified personal trainer can be part of the healthcare team and can design a program which is both safe and functional.  Walking, flexibility exercises, and light strength training can help a stroke survivor continue on the path of rehabilitation. Swimming is also another beneficial form of exercise if a pool is available.

Another benefit of exercise for stroke survivors is prevention of recurrent stroke or heart attack, which occurs frequently in people who have had a stroke.(3)  Reducing risk factors can decrease the incidence of recurrent strokes and coronary events. An aerobic conditioning program can enhance glucose regulation and promote decreases in body weight and fat stores, blood pressure, C-reactive protein, and levels of total blood cholesterol, serum triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.(4) Exercise also increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and improves blood rheology, hemostatic variables, and coronary endothelial function.(5)

It is very important that a personal trainer communicate with healthcare professionals about their client after a stroke, including the physician and physical & occupational therapists to best help the client. Safety should always come first when exercising. Overexertion and pain should always be avoided. Decrease in balance, spasticity(6), memory, and fatigue is common after a stroke. Like everyone else, stroke survivors will have good days and bad days. However, modification of exercises can help after a stroke to get individuals on the path to better physical health.


Kris Pritchett Cameron is the owner of ReNu Your Life Fitness & Neuro Wellness in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise. Kris has dedicated over 20 years to the health and fitness of others. Kris has worked with all ages from children to the elderly, but her specialty is medical fitness and working with older adults. With a background in healthcare and physical rehabilitation, Kris has experience working with clients who have orthopedic injuries, arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, bariatric surgery, mental disorders, and stroke. 

References

  • American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2003 Update, Dallas TX
  • Gillum RF, Sempos CT. The end of the long-term decline in stroke mortality in the United States? Stroke 1997; 28:1527-1529
  • Mol VJ, Baker CA, Activity intolerance in the geriatric stroke patient, Rehabil Nurs. 1991; 16:337-343
  • Franklin BA, Sanders W. Reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Physician Sports Med. 2000; 28: 19-26
  • Hambrecht R, Wolf A, Gielen S, et al. Effect of exercise on coronary endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease. N Engl J Med. 2000; 342: 454-460
  • Spasticity is a condition where muscles are stiff and resist being stretched. It can be found throughout the body, but is common in the arms, fingers, or legs. Hope: The Stroke Recovery Guide. 2010 National Stroke Association
chessen2

Behavioral Bonsai: Effective Fitness Coaching for the Autism Population

“First, which hand?”

“Right hand”

“That’s your left. Which one is your right hand?”

Debbie holds up her right hand.

“That’s your right hand! Alright, cool, walking band pulls with your right hand.”

Coaching fitness programs for the autism population is taking the art of Bonsai to strength and conditioning. We eliminate noise, static, whatever you want to label as extraneous. Successful fitness and adapted PE programs with the autism population require a keen sense of senses.

How is Karl responding to directions for performing a bear walk? Can I fade my hand-over-hand prompt for Jack’s single arm Sandbell press and maintain the integrity of the movement? Is Kelvin going to get over-anxious if introduced to a new variation of the squat? Herein are some of the essential considerations for successful fitness sessions.

We start with three questions: What’s going on physically? What’s going on adaptively? What’s going on cognitively?

The answers provide a flow chart-style of contingency-based decisions? If this; then that. Autism is complicated. The strength and motor planning deficits are complicated. The odd, occasionally near-light speed escalation of anxiety and off-task behavior is complicated. What works is a rational and reliable strategy for each situation to support growth and development in each area of ability (physical, adaptive, cognitive). Taking the guesswork, or most of it, out of programming clears the path to short- and long-term benefits for the athlete.

The two most common coaching errors with respect to the ASD population are over-coaching and exercise selection (typically too progressed). Over-coaching is, by proxy, over-explaining and providing too many verbal directions at once. We often need to simplify verbal instruction for athletes with ASD as short-term recall is an issue of particular deficit. Here’s one set of directions likely to be problematic;

“First hurdle steps, then Sandbell slams, then bear walk from the blue cone to the green cone.”

Many of the athletes I’ve coached will start with bear walks. They’re not being deliberately off-task or defiant, it’s simply a matter of hard-wiring. The verbal directions were too extensive and our athlete was unable, at least for now, to hold them in place.

In the Autism Fitness Level I Certification we teach a strategy called “Label/Demo/Do & Cue” as an efficient way to teach and facilitate learning different exercises with safety, efficiency, and comprehension. Labeling refers to naming the exercise. Demonstrating is our showing the athlete proper form and performance, and Do/Cue gets them into the activity quickly so that we can coach as they learn.

In real life (IRL, LOL!) we would take each one of the aforementioned exercises (hurdle steps, Sandbell slams, and bear walks) and teach/instruct them separately. Consider that physical and adaptive skills can be mutually exclusive. An athlete might have proficiency with all three exercises, yet still require verbal direction at each stage;

“First hurdle steps”

Athlete performs hurdle steps.

“Great hurdle steps and getting your knees up! Now you have eight Sandbell slams.”

Athlete performs 8 Sandbell slams

“Those were some powerful Sandbell slams! Now bear walk from the blue cone to the green cone.”

Athlete completes the bear walk

Using this strategy we avoid overwhelming the athlete and having to back-track. We want to Label/Demo/Do & Cue because it provides the coach with more time to teach the exercise rather than explaining it. Our goal is to maximize “down” time and increase on-task behavior, wherein the athlete is learning and mastering each exercise. Given the strength, stability, and motor planning deficits common to the autism population, it is imperative that as much of a session as possible is dedicated to them being in action.

Labeling the exercise has a secondary benefit. As the athlete becomes more familiar with the name of a movement, he/she can request in or make an informed, motivated decision when an instructor provides options. We use this strategy with consistent success, asking athletes whether they would prefer to do “push throws or overhead throws first” during our medicine ball warm-up.

The structure here is key. Providing choice between exercises sets up a few important contingencies. First, the coach is giving structure. Both medicine ball throws will be performed, however, the athlete gets to choose the order.

The open-ended option “What do you want to do?” could be overwhelming or the athlete may choose something entirely outside the realm of exercise (“bathroom” and “break” are common inserts here). Providing choice within structure enables us to teach what needs teaching and coach what needs coaching while still leading towards autonomy. Over time, many of our athletes wind up “designing” their own sessions with frequent choices being offered, usually with respect to the order of exercises.

Exercise selection is crucial. Focusing on the foundation of movement patterns (locomotion, pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, and crawling) we are able to address some of the most pervasive physical deficits common to this demographic. It is not about variety, rather building baseline skills that transfer or generalize to novel environments and situations. It can take some time for these movement skills to establish. In multiple cases learning to hinge properly during the scoop throw has taken our athletes a few years to master.

Focusing on a few exercises also gives our athletes the opportunity to learn the name and typical order in which the exercises can be performed. Whereas our warm-up/mobility section nearly always features hurdle steps, overhead resistance band walks, bear walks/crawls, and medicine ball throws (push, overhead, and scoop), our strength/focus section includes squats, presses, pulls, farmers walks, and heavy carries.

Using a “limited” selection of exercises enables our athletes to master the baseline skill (physical), become accustomed to the name and instructions around the exercise (cognitive), and be familiarized enough with each exercise that it can become reinforcing, where the athlete is motivated (adaptive) to engage.

The art of empathetic coaching requires us to ask one overarching question; What is it like for you to be coached by me right now? We acknowledge our athlete’s current abilities and make well-guided plans for their successes.

Photos provided by Eric Chessen.


Eric Chessen, M.S., is an Exercise Physiologist with an extensive background in Applied Behavior Analysis. Eric provides on-site and distance consulting worldwide. He is the founder of Autism Fitness®, offering courses, tools, resources and a community network to empower support professionals to deliver adaptive fitness programming to anyone with developmental deficits to create powerful daily living outcomes that last a lifetime.

couple biking

The Role of Exercise in the Treatment of Diabetes

Diabetes Word Cloud Concept

According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s flagship journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (1), there are more than 21 million Americans with Type 2 Diabetes as of 2010 with an estimated 7 million undiagnosed. If these numbers don’t mean much, let’s give it some perspective: in 1958 there were only 1.5 million. (Granted, the US population has increased, but only from about 180 million to 310 million, not 15-fold as in the numbers of T2D.) Furthermore, due to the now-defined pre-diabetes – or sub-clinical diabetes where the precursors to diabetes are lurking if lifestyle does not change dramatically – it is estimated that 80 million Americans are at risk. Thus, some public health officials are predicting that 21-33% of Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050. The healthcare burden this portends will bankrupt the nation. To make matters worse, the preponderance of both pre-diabetes and T2D is increasing in children and adolescents as sedentary behavior, poor diet and obesity abounds.

While prevention is optimal and much is being done in the way of public health messaging, one of the best means by which to regulate blood sugar in either healthy, pre-diabetes or T2D patients is through physical exercise. Recall above where we discussed how muscles use the sugar in the blood for fuel. The more muscles you have and the more regularly they work at some critical level of effort, the easier it is to control blood sugar. In fact, one’s levels of physical activity (PA) may be a better predictor of risk for diabetes than one’s BMI (body mass index, a ratio of height to weight.)

For the sake of discussion, we should break down physical activity into three main types – activities of daily living (ADL), aerobic exercise (AE) and resistance (or strength) exercise (RE). The MSSE article reviewed the data on all these for their impact on blood sugar, insulin control and T2D risk. Not unremarkably, the evidence strongly suggests that the more active you are, the lower your post-meal and long-term blood sugar is, the better your muscles are able to use the sugar in the blood (glucose tolerance or insulin sensitivity), the lower or lesser your insulin response is to food intake, and the lower your risk for diabetes is. What is remarkable, however, is how little physical activity is required in order to affect many of these changes and benefits.

As far as ADLs is concerned, the general prescription is to ambulate (walk, run, bike, etc) for 30-60 minutes a day or close to 10,000 steps/day, or almost 4 miles/day. This does not mean you have to take walks that last that long; it means you should move around more often throughout the day and sit less often. In fact, some studies show that simply standing up for 2 minute bouts of walking every 20 minutes of sitting lowered post-meal blood sugar and insulin response to eating. (2) While walking is effective, new studies (3) demonstrate that high intensity interval training (HIIT), or sprinting, may be an even better regulator of blood sugar. Comparing training programs in two groups of sedentary women, one doing intervals of moderate intensity, the other at high intensity, the authors found that the HIIT group had slightly greater fat oxidation in the muscles, a roundabout indicator of improved glucose control. HIIT might also be more time efficient.

Between the two studies referenced here, and many more that have looked at HIIT programs compared to traditional long, slower/lower intensity programs, the general belief is that the more muscles that are contracting and the harder they contract, the better the short-term and long-term blood sugar control. The only caveat here is that large muscle groups or bigger body movements are necessary to see these effects; single joint/small muscle contractions will not elicit the disease-modifying effects one might be seeking. For these reasons, RT has been getting more looks when it comes to modifying risk factors for T2D. In fact, the preponderance of evidence shows that RT, at sufficiently high enough intensities to build muscle mass, improves blood sugar control both by using sugar to fuel contractions and by improving the insulin sensitivity of those muscles even after the workouts.

Overall, physical activity has been shown to be an effective, efficient and low-risk/low side-effects treatment and preventive for T2D. A single bout of exercise is sufficient to regulate blood sugar for the next 16-24 hours.

As such, it is recommended that exercise be partaken nearly every day for at least 30 minutes; if obesity is a factor in a patient’s disease, then 60-90 minutes of accumulated physical activity is strongly suggested. Furthermore, a combination exercise prescription of cardiovascular and RT exercise – either same or alternating days – is deemed optimal.

To conclude, physical activity of all sorts has been found to enhance blood sugar uptake by muscles during the session and for several hours thereafter. Thus, it is one of the best, least invasive means by which to prevent, regulate and, for early stage T2D, even reverse diabetes and its downstream effects on the heart, kidneys, nerves (especially of the lower extremities), and eyes. Besides its collateral benefits on the cardiovascular system, it may help reduce weight though it is essential in maintaining weight loss. And PA clearly improves quality of life, not just through its physical benefits but its effects on the brain and psyche, reducing the risk of depression which may be a factor in both the sequence of events leading to weight gain, the challenges of both weight loss and disease management, and the reduction in one’s ability to enjoy various aspects of life due to immobility, neuropathy, visual impairment, and dialysis.

For more information about diabetes, exercise, pharmaceutical management and research, please visit the American Diabetes Association site at diabetes.org


Dr. Irv Rubenstein graduated Vanderbilt-Peabody in 1988 with a PhD in exercise science, having already co-founded STEPS Fitness, Inc. two years earlier — Tennessee’s first personal fitness training center. One of his goals was to foster the evolution of the then-fledgling field of personal training into a viable and mature profession, and has done so over the past 3 decades, teaching trainers across through country. As a writer and speaker, Dr. Irv has earned a national reputation as one who can answer the hard questions about exercise and fitness – not just the “how” but the “why”. 

References

1. Roberts et al, Modification of Insulin Sensitivity and Glycemic Control by Activity and Exercise. MSSE, Vol. 2013: 45(10):1868-1877
2. Dunstan et al., Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 2012:35(5): 976-983
3. Astorino et al., Effect of Two Doses of Interval Training on Maximal Fat Oxidation in Sedentary Women. MSSE, Vol. 45(10), pp.1878-1886, 2013