The best advice is usually information that has been touted for centuries. It seems as if every month new medical recommendations are broadcasted regarding what supplements to take, which antioxidant foods to eat, and which vaccinations to have or not have. Throughout history, health issues have been of foremost concern and thoughts on best practices have been shared by physicians and other health advocates. Benjamin Franklin is a good example of an impactful non-physician good health proponent. Everyone knows his quotes: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Mr. Franklin was the founder of the idea that an individual should take an active role in maintaining his or her own health. The key to having a healthy, long life is relatively straight forward—take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get good sleep, and exercise.
The common denominators amongst the healthiest people are almost universal, that some kind of exercise has been a consistent presence throughout their lives and that they are not overweight. Usually, pain in an area of the body is an important signal that lets us know that we’re not doing something right. For example, acute pain can occur when we lift something too heavy and may be relatively easy to remedy by not continuing to do that. On the other hand, chronic pain can occur by being overweight for many years which ultimately affects the joints and causes degeneration and pain in those areas of the body. Once the joints have suffered from too much stress and start to change and wear down, the process can’t be reversed. The process can be slowed down; however, by taking off the stress on the joints, i.e. losing weight, and increasing muscle mass to protect the joints, i.e. exercising to increase strength in specific areas of the body.
It’s never too late to start investing in your physical health and strengthening your body. The really good news is that even small bursts of exercise can improve your health. Studies have shown that people who live in two- story homes have better cardiovascular health and live longer than those who don’t. The energy it takes to climb a flight of stairs exercises the heart enough to keep it fit, if done on a regular basis. A good fitness plan doesn’t have to be a burden and should be something that you actually look forward to. Start with small goals and build on them. If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, start with 15-20 minutes a day, twice a week, doing something you enjoy. It can be as simple as taking a walk, but be sure to quicken the pace or include hills. Work towards a long term goal of exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. A good isometric core strengthening exercise plan is best for people who have mobility or back pain issues, and these can also increase heart rate for cardiovascular health.
Programs to maintain a normal weight or to lose weight with a healthy eating plan are more available than ever. The Mediterranean diet has long been regarded as a healthier approach to losing weight. Lean protein, vegetables, limited fruit and healthy fats are the basic building blocks of the regimen. High protein intake reduces glucose “swings” which lowers the hunger cycle and also increases muscle mass which increases baseline metabolism. LeanMD is the program that I teach and promote in my office for people who need to lose weight as a component of the pain management plan, but also for those who want to avoid chronic pain. Remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” –Benjamin Franklin.