I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I open the top drawer of my desk and I point as the client looks on. I tell the person that I wish I had a magic wand that I could take out to cure their health issues, especially the overweight and obesity. I also tell them I wish I had a pill they could swallow and it would fix their issues. Neither I nor anyone else has any of those items. But if a person is willing to put in some work, there is ONE thing that probably has more influence on your health than anything else.
Imagine that you went to your doctor and the news isn’t great. He tells you that you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, you are now diabetic and you seem to be suffering from depression. This is definitely not a good report. Most likely your doctor will have to figure out which and how many medications he is going to prescribe for each disease you have. And then he will decide what he is going to give you prophylactically so you don’t end up with heart disease. Then he might send you to a specialist (endocrinologist) for your diabetes. He might also send you to a dietician to help you learn how to eat right and lose weight. In the end, you will get a battery of medications and you will have to remember what to take, how much to take and when to take them. Most of all, most of these meds will be treating your symptoms, which is important, but is not really treating the underlying cause of your problems.
Clients come to see me all the time with multiple health issues. The older we get, the more likely it is that one or more adult diseases will creep up on us. Although many of the people that come to see me are already on medication(s), they are looking for a way to better their situation and reduce their dependence on drugs. Drugs can save your life and in many circumstances, you will need to take them. But more times than not, certain lifestyle interventions can solve your problems and enhance your quality of life. But let’s not forget that all drugs have side effects. Some of them are more pronounced and some less, but what if there is a way to avoid taking medications and suffering from the side effects?
Some recent research caught my attention last week that just proved something that those of us who prescribe exercise in order to better people’s health really knew intuitively and from a lot of other smaller studies. ACTIVITY AND EXERCISE ARE SO POWERFUL, THAT THEY CAN PREVENT AND ALLEVIATE 35 DIFFERENT DISEASES!
In a review of the latest science, Booth, Roberts & Laye (2012) point to 35 chronic diseases and health conditions that regular exercise and physical activity do much to prevent. Booth and colleagues also indicate that 92% of adolescents and 95% of adults in the U.S. do not meet minimum guidelines for physical activity. This is the current challenge for personal trainers and coaches like myself to make a difference in people’s lives. Can we get our clients to make exercise and activity part of their lives?
Let’s remember that our ever-growing reliance on technology—including automobiles, elevators, remote controls and energy-saving devices—explains the prevailing lack of physical activity. In a study by Professor Franklin in 2008, he also underscores that regular physical activity, not a drug or pill, is the best strategy to combat sedentary death syndrome (SeDS)—chronic, potentially life-threatening disease caused by an inactive lifestyle. What are these 35 preventable diseases?
- Low cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max)
- Coronary heart disease
- Endothelial dysfunction
- Peripheral artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Accelerated biological aging/premature death
- Type 2 diabetes (including insulin resistance and prediabetes)
- Metabolic syndrome
- Colon cancer
- Breast cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Balance problems
- Bone fracture/falls
- Gestational diabetes
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Hemostasis (blocked blood flow)
- Deep vein thrombosis
What holds us back from trying to work activity and exercise into our lives? Especially when the amount needed is something that we CAN all fit into our day. I coach some of the busiest people you can meet. Whether they are deans or principles of schools, or they run large businesses and have to travel frequently, we work together to find a way to create a new lifestyle where they can get everything done they need to do, and include exercise. Let’s look at the other side of this equation. What is more likely to happen if you ignore activity and exercise? Booth, Roberts and Laye point out the following:
- Proneness to visceral obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Weaker immune system
- Less executive control of the central nervous system; memory decline
- Sarcopenia and loss of strength
- Reduced skin-wound healing
- Lower oxidative capacity
- Higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression and anxiety
- Artery stiffness
- Higher risk of breast, endometrial and colon cancer
- Elevated risk of osteoporosis
- Loss of coordination and balance (higher risk of fracture/falls)
- Decreased function of joints, ligaments and tendons
- Elevated risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and peripheral artery disease
- Hypertension, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol, low HDL (good) cholesterol
- Increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Is it worth it? Should I leave the status quo and increase my chance of poor health or should I sit down with a wellness or health coach who can help me figure out how to include these essential elements of health into our life? A good coach will figure it out together with you. Your input is the most valuable ingredient in finding the time and motivation to succeed. It doesn’t take hours a day to achieve good health, but you do need to invest some time and some effort into exercise and good, sensible eating.
Let’s start to do what we need to in order to stay off the meds, or reduce the meds you are already on and possible eliminate some of them. Making time to exercise and be active is ONE pill that can eliminate 35 diseases and that will “add hours to your day, days to your yea, and years to your life.”