To Your Health
July, 2011 (Vol. 05, Issue 07)
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In Shape for Life

By Dr. Jasper Sidhu

As we age, physical fitness tends to take a backseat. With less activity comes a long list of ailments that can be prevented through simple exercise. The key to maintaining overall health as time goes by is to get out and start moving. Whether it's in the gym or at home - physical fitness is critical when it comes to your health.

My father is 75 years old. He had bypass surgery 10 years ago and also suffers from diabetes. Apart from that, he has had neck pain and dizziness on and off for most of his life. And let's not forget the low back pain that pops up once in awhile. My friends all love meeting my dad, except in one place: the fitness center. Although he's more than twice their age, they're unable to keep up with him on the treadmill. It hasn't always been this way. My father started exercising regularly after he retired 10 years ago. Now he is in the best shape of his life. Let's talk about how you can get there, too.

Exercise Is Natural Medicine

man and woman biking - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The bad news is that after the age of 40 or so, we tend to lose about 0.5 to 2 percent of muscle each year. If you aren't concerned about looking good, then also realize that this loss of muscle is a large factor in falls in older age, which can often lead to fractures and even death. Osteoporosis is also a large risk factor for falls and fractures. The good news is there are natural ways to maintain muscle and avoid these health issues.

Research suggests that circulation is better in younger people than in older people. Simple everyday things can be done to help make blood flow identical to those of the young. Yes, I do mean identical.

When I mention these statistics to my patients, the first thing they ask is, "What wonder drug can help with this?" They are more than surprised to hear that exercise is the answer, not a drug. In fact, it's becoming more and more common these days for doctors to understand that exercise is in fact, medicine. Stick to the following blueprint and you'll reap the benefits.

Step 1: Move: Sitting Is Dangerous to Your Health

I've had many patients give me every excuse under the sun of why they can't exercise. They are not to blame for this. I understand that most people have aches, pains and limitations that prevent them from exercising. If you are one of these, then you would be happy to know that the first step in moving toward being more active is quite simple. The first goal is to avoid sitting or resting for long periods of time. A recent study found that people who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack. The shocking fact is that this is independent on whether you smoke or exercise. Sitting for long periods still increases the risk. Make sure to get up every hour, even if it is to stand or walk around the room. This small change is a significant first step in getting you moving.

Step 2: Start a Walking Program

This does not mean going out for an hour-long walk if you have been sedentary. Start with small steps. The best way to do this is to get a simple pedometer. They cost a few dollars and are well worth it. Stick to your regular routine for the first week and record how many steps you walk every day. This will be your baseline. The following week, increase this number by 10 percent. For example, if you regularly walk about 500 steps a day, increase it to 550 the week after. Do this every week until you can get to a goal of 10,000 steps per day. This is the big goal, so don't aim for it from the start. It's about aiming for smaller goals first and then reaching them.

Find creative ways to walk, rather than making it a chore. Most people are shocked to find that small breaks of walking throughout the day are sometimes more beneficial than blocking off a set period of time. If you drive to the store, park farther away than you usually do. In fact, try parking on the other side of the mall and walking to the store you need to get to. Get rid of the television remote control. If you need to change channels, walk up to the TV and do it yourself. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. You can come up with many creative ways to change up your routine.

Address any aches and pains before starting on a program. Most of my patients start off great. After a few weeks, they come back and begin complaining about aches and pains, which often forces them to quit. More often than not, seeing your chiropractic provider can help prevent this from happening. It's also wise to get screened for orthotics (shoe inserts) and get recommendations for the right shoes. A simple stretching program can also go a long way toward avoiding setbacks.