Updated: Jun 21, 2020
Movement is Medicine
When most people think of medicine, they imagine pills to be taken, injections to be endured or surgeries to help diagnose and treat diseases. However, one of the strongest forms of medicine isn’t something you can buy at a pharmacy or get in a doctor’s office. This type of medicine is simply movement and it’s something that can easily be taught.
Movement is an ideal medicine. It’s extremely effective, free, low risk, abundantly available, socially acceptable and simple to do. When compared to traditional treatments, such as drugs and surgery, the risk to benefit ratio frequently is far superior. A regular dose of movement can help to:
Improve memory and cognitive function
Improve your sleep
Reduce stress levels
Help with anxiety and depression
Support social connectedness and happiness
Lower your risk of many chronic disease including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers
Important as the previous reasons are, there’s one reason that tops them all. The ability to meet the demands, both expected and unexpected, of everyday life because you have achieved a basic fitness level.
Unfortunately, most people approach movement with the same aversion they express towards a hypodermic needle or the awful-tasting medicine we sometimes have to swallow to “feel better.” As children we didn’t feel this way about moving our bodies. Kids typically view physical activities like skipping, jumping and running as exciting play to be enjoyed. In our hyper-busy, remote-control oriented culture, barriers to exercise and fun abound. Long workdays, difficult commutes and balancing family or job obligations leave many Americans chronically exhausted, stiff, sore and unable to even perform the most basic of tasks such as squatting, reaching, or bending down without pain.
How can a Physical Therapist help to improve your functional fitness?
Physical Therapists are the movement professionals of the medical world. Physical therapy is the health profession whose primary purpose is the promotion of optimal health and movement by preventing or correcting impairments in body structures and function, activity limitations, participation restrictions or environmental barriers as related to movement and health. A physical therapist can help educate you and tweak the way you move to prevent aches and pain as well as ward off serious injuries like “throwing out” your back. To help you become – and stay – physically active try implementing some of the following steps into your life:
1. Recognize that your body needs movement to be healthy. We know that when we are hungry we should eat, and when we are tired we should sleep. But when we get stiff, achy and tired, we generally don’t recognize these signals as cues that our body craves movement. Instead, we misinterpret them as a need for rest, which makes us stiffer, achier and even more tired. This is why the saying “Motion is Lotion” is so true. Joint movement can provide “lotion” (lubrication) to painful joints, improve the way your body perceives pain and can even prevent some pain before it starts.
2. Make a commitment to movement. Design your own personal activity program. This does not have to be a gym program but rather try to schedule fun activities and movements into your weekly plan.
3. Avoid sitting for prolonged periods. Whenever you must sit for an extended length of time, take regular stretch breaks and short walks.
4. Make the active choice. When you are faced with the choice of moving more or moving less, move more. For example, choose the stairs over an elevator, park in the farthest spot, walk to the store, turn off the TV and go out to play. Get rid of the negative mindset of trying to expend as little energy as possible and adopt a pro-active attitude that eagerly looks for opportunities to move.
5. Understand the importance of attitude. If you say, “I can’t,” then you won’t. For example, don’t think of your “bad knee” and “good knee” but rather your “better and getting better” knees. Believe in your ability to achieve goals and improve rather than on a negative mindset.
6. Remember that doing something is better than doing nothing. Three minutes of stretching, a two-minute walk, even a 30-second deep breath all can contribute to better health.
Whatever your age, there’s strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and even happier life. Find the joy in moving. Let go of all preconceived notions regarding exercise and activity and just go outside – or inside – and play.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”
- George Bernard Shaw