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The Importance of Fitness in the Era of COVID-19

As we continue to struggle to flatten the coronavirus curve by implementing different protective measures, another health crisis is brewing as we become more isolated and less mobile than before the pandemic. COVID-19 is having a ripple effect on various aspects of our well-being that aren’t specifically associated with contracting the virus. Moreover, we are facing the reality that the virus is not going to go away any time soon.

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.

Today, 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!

Learn more about restoring health with lifestyle practices!

Register now for Cate Reade’s webinar on this topic. This webinar will give a basic overview of the principles and practices of why and how lifestyle choices can help prevent, manage and reverse chronic conditions.


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/
protein-food-muscle

The Athlete’s Kitchen: Nutrition Tactics for Building Muscles

 Most athletes want to have strong muscles to be more powerful, help prevent injuries, add protection for contact sports such as rugby or (American) football, and yes, to look buff. They wonder: What can I eat for more muscle, strength and power? The standard belief is eat extra protein, but more fundamental than food is doing some form of resistance exercise. Lifting weights is far more powerful for building muscle than is eating extra protein (unless you have been eating a protein-deficient diet). 

trainer-and-client-exercise-fitness-machine

Healing is a Skill

One aspect of training and conditioning the human body the right way, that I find particularly fascinating, is the anabolic effect that occurs, and the healing response that it creates. Anabolic, or anabolism, refers to the metabolic process of building up tissue structure in the body. You can easily remember that anabolism refers to building up when you think about anabolic steroids – the performance-enhancing drugs that bodybuilders, baseball players, and others have used to gain bulk. However, we are not talking about artificial anabolism through taking anabolic steroids here; we are talking about the body’s natural and healthy anabolism. Many times, this anabolic effect gets discussed among athletes and strength coaches in terms of getting bigger, faster, and stronger, or amongst fitness enthusiasts in terms of shedding fat, looking lean and ripped, and feeling great. However, when we think about anabolic response from an injury standpoint, one of the best parts of an elevated anabolic effect is the tissue growth and healing response it stimulates.

To further discuss anabolism in the body, we must understand that metabolic processes are controlled by our body’s hormones. Hormones regulate many of the major physiologic processes in our bodies. These processes include metabolism, appetite, strength, lean muscle mass, body fat percentage, body composition, tissue integrity, heart rate, blood pressure, energy and fatigue, mood, sex drive, emotions, and stress. Many factors affect hormone levels, including nutrition, sleep, physical activity, and physical, emotional, and mental stress. We cannot control all of these factors, but we are able to control some of them.

One major factor influencing hormone regulation that we as humans are (for the most part) in control of is physical activity, aka exercise. The type of exercise is important. The intensity and the duration of exercise are the two main factors to consider when thinking about how hormones will be influenced by exercise. This is why I say training the body the “right way” will produce an anabolic effect. We will get back to exactly what the “right way” is in terms of hormone regulation in the next section. For now, let’s finish discussing how these hormones are promoting a healing effect in the body.

Basically, exercise is really a form of trauma to the body. Correct exercise training is a controlled, mild form of trauma done in a very specific way to produce a very specific result. So one main, and very cool, thing that happens when you consistently train your body the right way is that you are actually teaching your body how to recover from damage. You are training your body to recover from trauma. You are literally teaching your body how to heal in a more efficient manner. The way I see it, healing is a skill. You can train yourself to be better at that skill!

During our one-hour webinar, we will take a look at some of the science and practical application of how this works to give you the knowledge and skills to train your ability to heal.


Dr. Donnie Richardson, DC, CCSP, DACBSP, CSCS, is a Sports Medicine Specialist and Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Dr. Donnie has worked for the Many United States National Teams since 2008, serving as both a team doctor and sports performance coach, traveling both nationally and traveling internationally all over the world with our countries top athletes. Dr. Donnie also owns and operates his own private practice in Los Angeles, Universal Sports Performance, offering services ranging from sports medicine, injury diagnosis, physical rehabilitation, physiotherapy, injury prevention, sports performance training, personal fitness training, nutrition and diet programming, among other health care services.

back-pain

Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom

I’ve heard a saying regarding pain in the body, “the victim screams while the criminal is silent.”

When Tom Myers, internationally known fascia expert and author of Anatomy Trains, said this he was referring to the interconnected relationships between the soft tissues in the body. The pain is not always, and actually not often, being generated where it hurts, but rather is in response to an imbalance somewhere else.

For example, consider pain on the top of your shoulders. You know the spot, where you have those annoying, chronic knots that hurt like crazy when you apply pressure. Why do you have that tightness? Is there something wrong with those muscles? A problem in your shoulders? Your neck? Maybe. . . Or perhaps, the tightness signals a compensation in those muscles for something else going on in the body. The upper back/neck muscles are the victims screaming, while the real perpetrators—a hip disparity, lower back dysfunction or weakness in the core is silent.

Modern medicine is symptom-oriented, focused on relieving the pain often without looking deeper to find out WHY the pain is occurring. Medical professionals have become very good at treating painful symptoms. Unfortunately, these dedicated healers often overlook or lack the time needed to investigate the cause of the pain. This leads to an unending cycle of symptoms and invasive procedures.

You’ve probably heard stories of people who have had multiple joints replaced or repeated back surgeries. Chronic pain and joint degeneration is caused by stress within the body. If the cause of this stress (e.g. muscles imbalances) is not addressed the stress will just be redirected to other joints and soft tissues.

Misaligned Posture Was the Cause of My Chronic Symptoms

When I had my third knee surgery, on the same knee, I told the doctor I felt like there was something bigger to these injuries. The majority of my surgeries were to repair “wear and tear” issues that developed slowly over time. I didn’t understand WHY I was having these problems while my competitors, who probably logged more bike miles than me continued to pedal pain free.

It wasn’t until starting posture therapy and seeing my position that I realized the knee wasn’t the problem. The cause was the position of my spine! Too much forward rounding in my upper back and shoulders which was balanced by an equally exaggerated curve in my lower back in the opposite direction.

This position increased the forward tilt of my pelvis and changed the orientation of my hips that internally rotated my knees. Not long after my last knee surgery, I had hip surgery, again on the same side. The knee and hip were the victims being damaged to the point of needing repair while my curved back and shoulders didn’t make a sound.

After my final knee surgery I had not taken action to find and correct the cause of my pain so the cycle continued damaging my hip. Only by reducing the dramatic curves of my back, which created a positive chain reaction on the alignment of my hips and knees did my frequent trips to the operating room end. Now I am hot on the trail of the criminals, which is silencing the victims.

Join Jessica for her upcoming webinar on this topic: Posture: The Undiagnosed Cause of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

Article originally printed on thepfathlete.com. Reprinted with permission.


Coach, author, and former professional athlete, Jessica Kisiel, MS, is passionate about helping people who are in chronic pain maintain an active lifestyle. She has overcome many injuries herself, including severe hip osteoarthritis. Using her professional knowledge and personal experience, Jessica has guided hundreds of clients out of pain and back to activity and competitive sports.

During her healing, she discovered Posture Therapy, which turned out to be the missing piece in her recovery from hip, back and neck pain. When she was a patient, she began the certification process for The Egoscue Method® and continued her posture training to receive credentialing from the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI). Unique in holding both these designations, Jessica is sought out by people worldwide in search of answers to their pain. Jessica’s story, and much of what she gained through her recovery process, is explained in her book, “Winning The Injury Game”.