By: Dr. Cindy K Dao, PT, DPT, CSCS
I communicate and treat over 60 different patients a week. Week after week of these interactions, I have encountered a large amount of people in their 40s and 50s who have health issues such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, obesity, low back pain, and knee pain. Also, it is not uncommon that I have patients in their 20s and 30s with neck and low back issues.
Time and time again, I find myself thinking, “They are too young to have all these conditions!” The part that breaks my heart is when I ask my patients what are their goals for physical therapy and they respond with answers such as, “I want to play softball with my kids,” or “I want to be able to pick up my baby and hold her.” Those words should not be coming out of a 40 year old. They should be able to do these things at their age.
According to James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Arizona State University, this is the generation where kids are expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents due to their sedentary life style. I do not know about you, but that is a huge wake up call to me. That is proof that our generation has made a sedentary lifestyle the normal.
We have transformed our culture into a sitting culture. We sit and drive everywhere, sit behind a desk for hours, and then drive home and sit some more.
Sit, sit, sit. Repeat. Sit, sit, sit. Repeat.
I am a strong believer that movement is medicine. Movement heals and prevents future health issues. How?
1. Movement reduces muscle and joint stiffness.
Movement is important in keeping joints, muscles, and fascia healthy. Have you ever watched the olympics and seen the swimmers shake their arms before jumping into the pool? You and I both know that is not only fat shaking around their arms. It is loose fascia and muscles, rolling around their bone. That is some healthy and mobile body tissue!
Consistent and daily movement keeps our muscles from tightening and our spine from stiffening. Sitting for long hours causes certain areas of our body to stiffen and tighten, such as our hip flexors and thoracic spine. When this happens, our body becomes imbalanced and eventually starts having structural changes in our bodies alignment. In the long run, these structural changes lead to chronic pain in places such as our knees, neck and low back.
2. Movement improves metabolism.
Movement occurs when your muscle contract and the tendons connecting the muscle to your bones, pull and lift your bones. In order to contract your muscles, fuel and energy is required.
Just like how gas is converted into energy which is used to fuel a moving car, food is converted into energy which is used to fuel a moving body. The more you move, the more fuel your body needs. This fuel is called calories.
What is metabolism? Metabolism is the breaking down of food into energy. The more you move, the more energy your body needs. The more consistently you move, the more efficient your body becomes in the chemical reactions that convert your food into energy.
Long story short, consistent daily movement equals better metabolism.
3. Improves Mood and State of Mind
Regular and daily exercise can make your body’s sympathetic system or also known as the “fight or flight” system less reactive. A physiological change such as a faster heart beat is synonymous with both exercise and anxiety. Your body can learn to adapt to a rapid heart beat through consistent aerobic exercise, resulting in your body adapting to situations of anxiety. As a result, consistent aerobic exercise can improve your mood by decreasing your anxiety.
In addition, exercise releases endorphins such as adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. When these chemicals are released, they trigger chemical reactions in your body to cause you to feel good and improve your mood.
4. Reduces Chances of Future Diseases
Movement helps reduce the risk of chronic health diseases. A daily sedintary routine and lack of intentional movement is a recipe leading to a future of aches and pain. Or worse, leading down a path to developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and chronic musculoskeletal pain. I am sure your first reaction is, “No, that is not going to happen to me.” But most of my patients admit that their unhealthy lifestyle snuck up on them. My point is, put on the breaks and take the the time to self evaluate your lifestyle and ask yourself, “How much do I move in a day?”
By implementing movement in your everyday routine, you are allowing your joints, muscles, connective tissue, and fascia to move and maintain their mobility. In addition, you are improving your metabolism, mood, and lowering the risk of future disease. You do not have to follow the crowd and blend in. Be different and start moving. Your future self and loved ones will thank you.
The Movement Doctor
Dr. Cindy K Dao, PT, DPT, CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Photographer: Juliann Cheryl
Mayo Clinic Health System . (2015, May 26). The Importance of Movement [Web log post]. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/the-importance-of-movement
Pillay, S., MD. (2016, March 28). How simply moving benefits your mental health [Web log post]. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-simply-moving-benefits-your-mental-health-201603289350