October is National Physical Therapy Month. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) would like the nation to recognize the positive role physical therapy plays in your health and wellness. We are passionate about what we do! No, we don’t save lives, but we do save lifestyles and quality of life! PT’s are great people. We have a special gift to provide healthcare unique to our field. For example, while many different health care professionals treat back pain, PT’s are some of the very few working to rehabilitate stroke and head injury victims, amputees, children with cerebral palsy and other serious neurological and orthopedic disorders.
In honor of physical therapy month and the thousands of dedicated physical therapists working hard to keep you healthy and mobile, I would like to share some health and wellness pearls of wisdom.
Remember, we cannot control our gene pool or what happens to our bodies, however, we can control our lifestyles. Research suggests that lifestyle may play the biggest role on how healthy you are and how long you live. The food you eat, what you drink, if you smoke, how active you are and how you handle stress are critical factors that determine your longevity. Research also tells us that smoking, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits are the leading causes of death, in that order.
One, to be truly healthy, one must have a health mind, body and spirit. A healthy mind requires education and intellectual stimulation. The body requires a good diet and physical activity while the spirit thrives on faith and hope. Strive to find balance and address all three elements of health and wellness.
Two, keep it simple. Should I walk, run, swim, or ride? Do I use free weights, barbells, rubber tubing or lifting machines at a gym? The answer is KEEP IT SIMPLE! You don’t need to join an expensive gym with a personal trainer to get in shape. Bands, light dumbbells, walking at the mall, and biking will all get you in shape. It must be convenient and consistent. Physical activity is one of the most important factors in improving a lifestyle in a positive way. But, it does not have to be complicated. A minimum of 30-45 minutes of physical activity, 3-5 days per week will have many positive effects on your body. But, the studies also show that engaging in 10-15 minutes of activity 2-3 times per day, is also valuable to your health…even at work!
Three, be realistic. Expect that exercise will take time to have a noticeable benefit. Don’t get overly ambitious and set yourself up for failure.
Four, be religious. Be religious about exercise and diet but don’t get too compulsive. Studies show if you are too compulsive, you will probably not keep it up for life.
Five, ask a professional. There are a million misconceptions about health and fitness. For example, some people still think you can spot reduce! Ask a professional, (medical doctor, physical therapist, nutritionist, exercise physiologist), if you have a question about beginning a diet or exercise program. If you have health issues or concerns, see your primary care physician first.
Six, there is no secret to a long and healthy life. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while genes play an important role, lifestyle plays the biggest role on how healthy you are and how long you live. The food you eat, what you drink, if you smoke, how active you are and how you handle stress are critical factors that determine your longevity. The NIH research has found that smoking, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits are the leading causes of death, in that order.
Seven, find a fitness mentor or role model. I have the good fortune of meeting many patients over the years that serve as my health & fitness role models. I continue to be inspired by those who overcome their disabilities and injuries through hard work and determination to regain health, wellness and function. Find someone who inspires you!
Eight, find a spiritual mentor or role model. Learn a lesson from “the greatest generation.” The WWII generation rarely complained, worked hard and placed great emphasis on God and responsibility to family. Try to associate with people whose “glass of water is always half full.”
Nine, do the right thing. When it comes to exercise, do the right thing. Get good advice, wear the appropriate clothing and shoes and eat and drink appropriately for the activity. Walk and run in running shoes, eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables with a good balance of protein and carbohydrates. Drink plenty of water before and during endurance activities. Make proper adjustments for different temperatures.
Ten, have FUN! A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be drudgery. There are plenty of good and flavorful healthy food choices. An occasional cheat is good. Also, there are plenty of fun activities and exercise options. Run, walk, swim, bike, hike a canyon, cross-country ski, downhill ski. Use the elliptical, recumbent bike, or stairmaster, recumbent stepper. Alternate routines, cross-train, or play a sport like tennis, golf (walk the course), racquetball or squash. Mix it up. IF YOU WANT TO EXERCISE FOR LIFE - YOU MUST HAVE FUN!
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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.