Sustainable Fitness

“Well now” my doctor murmured. He lowered his eyes to his clipboard and raised them solemnly. His look said it all. With just one glance and for what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke. I wasn’t surprised to hear what he had to say nor was I in any position to debate the facts. For years, I lived with pain as the result of a skiing accident. I was plagued by chronic low back and knee pain as well as relentless shoulder joint achiness. After countless attempts to find the one method of exercise to cure what ailed, I found myself back at square one.

My quest to unearth one single method of exercise that kept me active, injury free and motivated was elusive. My first attempt was running. Over time, running compounded my injuries and created additional long-term knee damage. Soon after, I lost my motivation to run and became a prisoner to my stationary bike. My second attempt was bodybuilding. I was convinced that strong muscles would resolve my situation. Years later, still tormented by pain and completely defeated, I was determined to find a cure once and for all.

Finally, my doctor suggested that I combine different methods of exercise into my weekly fitness routine. I discovered that adding Pilates and hiking to weight lifting was the key. As a health and fitness professional, I concluded that integrating a variety of disciplines into working out was the most sustainable approach to keeping my joints healthy, my body strong and to remain motivated. As a result of combining a variety of disciplines into my exercise routine, I have renewed strength, flexibility, enthusiasm and a significant decrease in chronic pain. I am stronger than before my accident and can enjoy my favorite activities to the fullest.

For many people, exercise routines are sacred and the idea of change can be intimidating. Giving up my current exercise routine was the last thing I expected to do. The idea of starting a new fitness regime and jumping head first into a group class full of unfamiliar faces can seem overwhelming. Personally, I exercised alone for many years, with headphones as my only companion, so I wasn’t convinced I could easily make the switch. Honestly, embracing change was the best choice I ever made and I have never regretted the decision.

Adding multiple methods of exercise has made exercise fun in a way that it never was before, and I truly love the results. I feel better, I look younger, and I am definitely healthier overall. Adding Pilates to my routine helps keep me flexible and has eliminated my aches and pains. The Pilates reformer reduces joint and spine pressure and easily adjusts to target every body part.  The best part is that Pilates is sustainable for any age, body type and fitness level. As with any fitness program, it is important to have fun, stay engaged, remain motivated and achieve results.

Get Eight! Sleep, the overlooked component of total health

When it comes to health, exercise and healthy eating are fundamental to living a long and vital life. However, there is a key element that is often overlooked and instrumental with respect to supporting a healthy lifestyle repairing your body and optimizing its functionality. What is it? Read further for the answer.

It takes more than sound nutrition, state of-the-art supplements, optimal protein levels, proper hydration and varied workout programs to continually meet the physical demands placed on your body. Adequate sleep is an often-neglected aspect necessary for optimum muscle growth and tissue repair. The importance of quality sleep cannot be negated when trying to improve overall health. While you sleep, your body repairs and rebuilds muscles and tissues. Good sleep really is that important! Most adults dismiss the importance of sleep and its effect on rebuilding healthy muscle tissue. Often times, as adults, we accept that sleep interruptions are “normal” and that only getting 5-6 hours of sleep is a part of the fast paced, multitasking world we live in today. If you don’t allow your body to rest, you have the potential to negate all of your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Current scientific research indicates that consistent sleep interruptions can reduce your ability to cope with daily stressors, accelerate the aging process, and ultimately shorten your life expectancy. According to Dr. Michael Irwin, professor at UCLA, “Even a modest interruption to sleep cycles increases the inflammatory response in the body, which can inhibit the body’s ability to repair tissue.”

Experts suggest that you get 7-8 hours of good quality deep sleep. Unfortunately, light sleeping, where you toss and turn or wake up throughout the night. prevents your body from reaching the deep stages of sleep where repair occurs. Eight hours of sleep is ideal. However, consistent deep sleep cycles are just as important as the number of hours to aid muscle recovery. The majority of all cellular regeneration and growth happens during deep sleep. Deep sleep is very important to the release of a growth hormone that our bodies use for tissue repair. According to Dr. John Zimmerman, PhD. in Biological Psychology and Neuroscience, “We release growth hormone from the pituitary gland into the blood stream. Growth hormone has the beneficial effects of building up lean muscle mass and burning fat.” Without adequate hours of deep sleep this process cannot take place. Quality of sleep must improve in order to meet the physical demands of daily life, work, relationships and exercise.

Lack of good quality and consistent sleep habits will eventually catch up with you and cause serious health problems in the future. You may not always get the perfect night of sleep; however, creating an environment where you can get the best possible rest is a step in the right direction. Achieving quality deep sleep can be different for everyone. Factors that contribute to a good night of sleep include:

Television, computer and electronics: The light emitted by computers, TVs and electronics may lead to insomnia. According to sleep experts, artificial direct light from electronics inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, which signals the brain that it is dark, and time for sleep. Remedy; turn off the computer and TV an hour or more before bedtime.

Caffeine and decaffeinated drinks: Countless studies show that caffeine disrupts sleep even if consumed early in the day. It is important to know that decaffeinated drinks are not caffeine-free. They contain roughly 15% of caffeine that, in many cases, is enough to disrupt sleep. Remedy; discontinue or significantly reduce your caffeine intake and consume caffeinated or decaffeinated beverages prior to lunch.

Pain, Anxiety, and Other Medical Conditions: A wide range of medical conditions can impact and disrupt sleep. Remedy; consult your physician for advice on how to minimize physical discomfort while sleeping. Helpful ways to reduce anxiety/stress such as “journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, reading, hot bath etc. can be helpful in mitigating painful symptoms.

Light: Too much light at night can shift our internal clock and makes restful sleep difficult to achieve. Remedy; sleep in the darkest room possible.

Noise pollution: The TV on in the next room, the neighbors barking dog or that annoying car alarm that always goes off right before you fall asleep can prevent peaceful sleep. Experts say that indoor and outdoor noises affect our ability to fall asleep and remain so. Remedy; wear earplugs or use a white noise machine to reduce the sounds that surround you.

Room temperature: Temperature extremes can affect our comfort when we sleep. Research shows that the ideal temperature range for sleeping varies widely among individuals. Therefore, there is no prescribed “best” room temperature that produces optimal sleep patterns for everybody. Remedy; find a temperature that feels most comfortable to you and stick with that year round.

In the end, what matters most is considering all components of a healthy lifestyle, including sleep. If you experience ongoing sleepless nights and find that you are not getting the quality of sleep you need, get creative and research ways that will help develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. Remember, good sleep doesn’t always have to come from a pharmacy. You can maintain a healthy lifestyle and gain the benefits of your hard work with the help of a good nights’ rest!

Complimentary Movement Therapies

Today, more than ever, we need a sustainable healthcare system.  One that implements complimentary movement therapies in conjunction with the “pill-it”, “cut-it” methods.  We can provide a more balanced therapeutic approach to pain management with the addition of complimentary movement therapies.  Movement therapies that teach the “power of the mind” and how the mind influences all bodily functions is a cornerstone to a sustainable healthcare system.  The power of the mind is inexplicably connected to every functioning part of the body and the mind influences the healing process on countless levels.  Therefore, it is so important that complimentary movement therapies teach this powerful connection between the mind and body.  How the mind effects attitudes, emotions and behaviors can be useful in the field of medicine, mental health, physical therapy and alternative movement therapies such as Pilates.  Complimentary therapies, such as Pilates, that treat chronic pain but neglect the mind-body connection is often times less effective and hinders the patient’s ability to facilitate healing.   Methods that include relearning different responses to pain, utilizing touch therapy and mind-body awareness can significantly alter the outcome of movement therapy and improve recovery.

Complimentary movement therapies have the greatest potential to improve treatment when traditional therapies are unsuccessful.  It has been well documented that patients who opt to go without pharmaceuticals and who use alternative movement therapies such as T’ai Chi, Yoga and Pilates, reported decreased pain symptoms and improved over-all physical well being.  How one feels about the therapy is as important as the therapy itself.  To find a movement therapy that works for each individual is extremely important in the success of that therapy.  We live in a society where “lack of movement” is the elephant in the room and a large majority of treatment protocols are designed simply to address the symptoms and not the underlying problem, or issue. Altering the accepted beliefs to therapy and embracing new approaches carries limitless possibilities and should be considered.

Your perception or opinion of your state of health is a greater predictor than the actual state of your health.  As a movement therapist, I have grown to understand the importance of that statement.  It is remarkable to discover the power of energy medicine and the incredible importance that the mind-body link holds to a person’s and recovery.  When the concepts of these methods are discussed with the patient, the success ratio increases.  A healthy “minded” individual has greater potential to view movement therapy with excitement, enthusiasm and confidence, which combine to effect better health and movement potential.

Commitment to an individual’s health both mentally and physically is the root of improved performance in life.  The importance of providing a proper foundation to the concept of mind-body learning and the use of energy medicine and instilling their values cannot be underestimated.  The drive to live life to its fullest is an important element to feeling healthy, fit and happy.  Often times, individuals who live in a body that functions poorly just want a way out and need proper guidance to find a healthy path.  When an individual discovers the mind-body connection or link is the “way or path” to living a healthier life, they will discover decreased pain symptoms, both physically and mentally.  Learning the skills that improve over-all health starts with the mind-body connection.  When the current, traditional mainstream healthcare industry embraces the concept of integrating mind-body connection and complimentary movement therapies, we will make monumental forward progress toward better health!