The Nine Essentials of Health, # 2: Stretch/Exercise
I believe I have the Neanderthal gene active in my physiology. I’ve never been tested, but I’m VERY light skinned (I am in fact, pink, because my skin is so translucent that my coloring – apart from my freckles — is due to capillary visibility), we have red hair in my family, and I couldn’t do a split to save my life.
I can’t do anywhere near a split in any direction. I do a “V.” Or rather, an “A” without the bar in the middle. But there might as well be a bar in the middle, because I can’t split my legs any farther than an A can flatten itself out and remain an A.
Yet, every morning, I embarrass myself before my mirror, stretching my short little A legs as far as they can go in every direction. Why?
Because I’m 46 years old and I have run out of time.
I see it. I stand in the mirror and look at myself. Yes; for a woman my age, I’m pretty darned good-looking. I’m still proportional, the lines on my face are mostly laugh lines, and I was even carded last summer in Charlotte airport when I ordered a glass of wine (my daughter hates when I repeat that story).
But I take a closer look at myself. I have this bit of jiggle just below my belly button that I know is a signal for low back instability. Indeed, I have been getting stiff in my lumbar and sacral region after a full night’s rest. The front of my neck has the beginnings of those tell-tale folds that used to be known as the “dwaddle” on the show Ally McBeal. The dwaddle is also a tell-tale sign of instability in the cervical spine (neck). My neck muscles are beginning to atrophy, and when that happens, look out chiropractor! I’m also getting loose in the triceps, which is making me crazy, and my rear-end…well, let’s just say that I’ll report back to you on that in six months.
I walk about four miles a day, like any normal New Yorker. That’s why I look as good as I do – particularly my legs. But I’m going through a change of life, and I know that change is signaling a reduction in my ability to hold calcium in my bones. If I don’t get serious about weight-bearing exercises now, that calcium won’t stay in my bones.
My ligaments and tendons get their nourishment from a “pumping” action as I move. They lose the ability to receive nourishment over time if I don’t move my body in all directions! Soon they will lose all flexibility and be as brittle and short as scar tissue. Any free mobility — and pain free mobility – will be gone! And that includes the spine. Once the spine loses flexibility and starts to produce scar tissue in place of healthy tissue, that’s all she wrote. No more pain-free days ever again! Tons of money at the chiropractor or God forbid, the orthopedic surgeon, and she’s going to tell me I knew better all along.
She’s right. I do. I knew better all along. In fact, I tell my patients every day that they have to do these things called stretching and exercising. They have to. This isn’t an option. You have to sleep, you have to eat, you have to go make potty, and you have to exercise and stretch.
Look. I know how hard it is to get your rump up and make stretching and exercise a priority. Everything, absolutely everything seems to take precedence! Getting the kids to wherever, getting to work and back on time for everybody, running that dumb errand that you’ve needed to run forever, just chilling the “f” out after being run ragged all day…stretching and exercising on a regular basis seems as far-reaching a possibility as living on a luxury cruise liner.
But there is no two ways about it. You have to do it. There is simply no other way to be present for your job, your family, and your ability to enjoy your life in any way resembling healthy than to take two hours out of every four-to-five days – that’s eight to ten hours a week — and do this seemingly impossible thing.
I must tell you: the cushiest patients I have are the ones who have been exercising and just need a quick adjustment to right that little subluxation that popped up in their spine. It’s so nice, because they are so present in their bodies that I don’t need to convince them the sky is blue. They tell me: “Doc, the sky is blue, and I need an adjustment here and here and here…”
I’m playing with the idea of opening an office in a gym. What a simple, easy life not to have to convince somebody to shell out money for six weeks of three-times-a-week chiropractic care in the hopes that they might be functional at the end of it if they listen to me and just include stretch and exercise in their daily routines! All I would ever need to do was quick-adjust some bouncy healthy spine and they can say, “thanks doc!” and be all better! Whew. Talk about The Life!
What about all that money I could make on the hapless stationary souls who ruin their spines sitting at desks for 10-30 years, or the day laborers who never balance their workaday physical toil with stretching and exercise, or the parents or caregivers who drive minivans full of kids and groceries for 10-20 years…what about all the money I could make off these folks who are now left with wrecks for backs that they want me to “fix” as soon as possible?
I take no joy from telling someone they need a year’s worth of intensive care with me. They take no joy in that either. They go crying to their surgeon’s office that their chiropractor tried to rip them off by insisting they needed 18 months’ worth of three-times-a-week care, so they spend tens of thousands of insurance dollars torturing their physical therapist by expecting miracles from them and/or surgery that very often has permanent long-term negative repercussions. No one wins there except the pharmaceutical and insurance companies.
I’d much rather have the happy occasional patient than the sad invalid who keeps telling me, “I didn’t do anything! Why am I like this? Why can’t you fix me?”
Because you didn’t do anything. That’s why. And you’ve run out of time.
I’m not even talking about the other health benefits, like heart, lung, anti-cancer, mental, emotional, digestive, sexual and reproductive, anti-aging, anti-diabetes, on and on and on…
There are not “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts,” about it: you will end up in someone’s doctor’s office, and then the rest of your long life, with calamitous health issues, or you will get off your duff and stretch and exercise 8-10 hours a week.
And I mean, “STRETCH and exercise!” Not just one. You must stretch before and after exercise! Every day!
There are bags of resources on this, so I will only belabor you with my own website: fitzpatrickspinecenter.com, under the “links” tab, I have mined Youtube for some great examples of dynamic and static stretching. Have at them.
What’s the best exercise? Fluid-type exercises. Swimming, hydraulic weight-bearing, marital arts, yoga, Pilates. What’s the best way to exercise? With professional training, well-rested, well-hydrated, with a not-full-but-not-starving belly, AFTER DYNAMIC STRETCHING! What’s the best post-exercise activity? STATIC STRETCHING! And water. And a small healthy snack. And more water.
Next time: #3: Proper Inner and Outer Environment.
Truthtime Question: Gallup reports that there has been no major change in the amount of Americans – around 51% — who exercise three times or more a week on a regular basis. Are you one of them? How often do you stretch and exercise?
Posted on 11/21/2012, in Uncategorized and tagged Ally McBeal, Cervical vertebrae, Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, Chiropractic, Health, Medicine, Muscle, Neanderthal, New Yorker, Physical exercise, stretch. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.