Exercise = Non Essential?
As Americans, we have long been missing the point of exercise and fitness. We have distorted what the intent of exercise is. We have taken a modality that helps us prevent disease, sickness, and increased longevity and turned it into a vanity project. While the trend is to become more extreme and intimidating, we are losing and pushing away those who need exercise the most.
Right now, more than ever, exercise should be about preserving where you are and combating a serious health crisis in COVID-19. Not only is exercise important to fight the most pressing health crisis we possibly have ever faced, but the lack of this fitness can lead to the destruction of quality of life. There are many factors that are diagnosed and others that are natural progressions of aging that are deterred through a healthy exercise regimen.
It is well documented that there are serious health threats to us as Americans brought about by insufficient exercise and poor nutritional habits. This list of threats includes heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, infections and diseases of the lungs, and metabolic syndromes categorized as obesity and diabetes. In addition, other factors that prevail but are often overlooked are increased body fat percentage, sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), loss of strength, decreased coordination, decreased balance, and decreased cardiovascular capacity.
Should we look for another pill? I advocate we utilize one of the most proven medical interventions know to all humanity-EXERCISE. The objective should always be to use less medication not more. If none of the factors listed do not scare you into submission for starting or continuing to progress your fitness journey, then I applaud you. However, I feel that the last two months may have helped to prove that it does not take long for one or more than one of these health markers to become present in our lives.
Exercise is important to help decrease body fat, manage blood sugar, keep hormones balanced, enhance the immune system, and make one happier as an anti-depressing stimulant. Of course, strength training helps develop strong bones and muscles, maintain coordination, and balance, and make us more resilient to injury and pain. The return on investment in one’s self through exercise is incalculable.
So I ask, IS EXERCISE ESSENTIAL?
Exercise Now to Prevent Falls Later
It is easily agreed upon that falling down is not fun! It is embarrassing and often times confusing why we fall. Sometimes we are simply not paying attention to what we are about to encounter, and other times we fall standing up. Just taking a step up, down, or even back can get us into trouble. Though this can be a traumatic event you are not alone. The incidence of falls are are drastically higher that you might think.
The statistics compiled by the National Institute of Health (NIH) related to falls are staggering. The following data was reported in a study in the Public Library of Science. Twelve percent of U.S. adults reported falling in the previous year for a total estimate of 80 million falls. On average, 9.9 million fall-related injuries occurred each year. Of all fall-related injuries among adults, 32.3% occurred among older adults (65+), 35.3% among middle-aged adults (45-64) and 32.3% among younger adults (18-44). Among U.S. adults, the total lifetime cost of annual unintentional fall-related injuries that resulted in a fatality, hospitalization or treatment in an emergency department was 111 billion U.S. dollars in 2010.1
What Causes Us To Fall?
There are a myriad of reasons that we make take a tumble. One of the most obvious reasons we fall is due to the loss of balance. Whether we fall due to uneven surface or just the natural process of aging and loss of coordination, we need to know the risk factors. One may find it intriguing that middle-aged adults were the highest category to suffer fall-related injuries. This is the time during our life that we are going the many changes. We begin to lose strength, we often begin to add medications to help with physiological problems that cause loss of balance, and our sight and hearing begin to fail. All of these factors and more can and will continue into older years as defined by this study.
Prevention is the key to avoiding becoming one of the statistics. Sure accidents happen, but a sound strength training program can help prevent or decrease the injury rates of a fall. Improved muscle strength, balance, and proprioception developed and maintained during middle-age may be carried over when an individual gets older, aiding in the reduction of falls and fall-related injuries in the older adult population.1
Now is the time to maintain or even improve your strength, balance, and coordination so you can maintain a fall-free lifestyle.
Santosh K. Verma, Joanna L. Willetts, Helen L. Corns, Helen R. Marucci-Wellman, David A. Lombardi, andTheodore K. Courtney: Falls and Fall-Related Injuries among Community-Dwelling Adults in the United States
Finding Your Balance
Do you ever get frustrated with the whole weight loss game? Well, that is exactly what it is. It is a game. For many of us it is a game that we are constantly losing. The game seems simple. It has been said more than once before, “It comes down to calories in vs. calories out.” Finding the balance is easy. If you have a caloric deficit you should lose weight right? Not so simple!
Why do we struggle?
In order for our weight to decrease there are so many factors that must be put into the complicated equation. Not only do you have to have a caloric deficit, but there are other items that must be considered and are highly individualized. Some of the factors, but not limited to, that must taken into account for each individual are:
It is easy to see why we struggle to lose weight, even if we feel we are making our best effort. Any number of things could be restricting you from being successful.
May I suggest something?
Take the long term approach. Weight loss should be linear. It should be gradual over a period of time. To be frank, you should stop stressing over the daily numbers we see on the scale and accept and embrace where we are currently. We should enjoy the journey to where we are going to be in 6-12 months of consistently good habits. If you can appreciate that kind of thinking then you are going to have success. If it takes that long to get there then the chances of you staying there are exponentially greater. If we drop weight too quickly or see-saw with our weight then we are setting ourselves up for quick failure.
Don’t get frustrated with the process. It is not easy, but ask for help if you are struggling to lose weight. It may not be something that you can simply control through just monitoring your food intake or the amount of exercise that you are doing.
Find the balance. Find the balance between expected and accepted. Find the balance between attainable and unrealistic. Find the balance of life.
Stop Chasing the Diet Demon
I get asked all the time “what diet is the best?” To that question I typically reply the same each time, “The diet that works the best for you!”
If you have been to a bookstore lately, and yes they still exist, the amount of manusha that is spread over several isles on the topic is staggering. Where do you even begin? It is overwhelming even for me who is someone that has been in the profession for over 20 years.
Should we even list what is out there on the shelves, and even worse, the internet and social media?
If one of these happens to be your diet, please do not be offended. It may work for you. However, I am willing to bet that many of you have tried these in some capacity and have had mixed or little results. Yes, there may have been a temporary weight change. Clothes may have fit a little differently. In the end did you go right back to your familiar ways and comfort foods?
So what is the answer?
I do believe, and have for a long time, that each one of us have different dietary needs. You have to eat according to the demands placed on your body and your goals. There are so many factors that go into proper nutrition for each one of us. Factors such as, but not limited to, age, gender, height, weight, hormones, medication, sleep, activity level, and allergies just to name a simple few.
Now how do you take all these factors and fit them into a cookie-cutter diet? I suggest that you don’t. How about instead of stressing over macros, timing, and buying expensive fancy foods you just simply listen to your body. Start there. How do you feel, physically, when you eat foods that are in your diet? When are you hungry and why? Have you had success eating the foods that are in your diet currently. Can you eliminate or exchange foods in your diet and create positive changes? How long have you been eating the way you currently are? How long have you tried other methods?
If you can not answer some of these questions then maybe it is time to start with the small stuff and then worry about the complex components later. At this point I challenge you to listen to your body and take some mental notes of how food affects you and make changes accordingly.
Train with purpose
Nike has a very good commercial that shows athletes working out and everywhere they look they see "1 more rep." All of these athletes are pushing themselves to go above and beyond their comfort zone in whatever activity they are participating in to get better. They are training with purpose.
This is where you should insert yourself and ask what purpose am I training for? Do you have a weight loss goal, a race or event coming up, or simply to get better every day? There is a difference between exercise and training with a purpose and plan. Goals, as well as commitment to those will be short lived if you are just exercising. Commit to your goals and train with purpose.
A quote that I refer back to for motivation states:
A RIVER CUTS THROUGH ROCK NOT BECAUSE OF ITS POWER, BUT BECAUSE OF IT PERSISTENCE - Jim Watkins
This quote typifies the mindset you have to acquire when it comes to setting and obtaining health and fitness goals. If you are looking for short term solutions you will end up with long term failure. In this game, patience and persistence pay off.
Shane Redmond, LAT, ATC, CSCS owns his own fitness facility and has worked with youth athletes to the functional aging.