Movement as medicine

About three months ago, I joined a great local gym called Durbrow Performance Training (also owned by a female entrepreneur!) in East Somerville. It’s not a traditional gym with treadmills and weight machines. Instead, I sign up for classes to do personal training programs in a group setting. It’s been a terrific experience! My body is sore half the time nowadays, but I have noticed a definite improvement in strength, energy, and mood.

In the clinical setting, I see a very strong correlation between movement and pain. The more regularly someone moves – whether it’s walking, yoga, strength training, or swimming – the less likely they are to suffer from chronic pain. Two concrete examples come to mind:

  • Among my patients is a 70-something “gym rat” (You know who you are!) who looks 15 years younger than he actually is. He uses trigger point dry needling to manage his ankylosis spondylitis and intermittent joint pain, but for the most part, he is very active and does pretty much everything he wants. He still works full-time as an engineer and has not made up his mind whether or not to retire in 2020.
  • In my recent trip to Hong Kong, I arrived at 6:30am after a 15+hour flight. I used to have chronic back pain, so I was worried about the effect such a long journey would have on my back. Due to the timing of my arrival, I couldn’t really go to bed and spent the day exploring the city on foot. According to the Health app, I walked 22,656 steps or 9.86 miles in total. My feet felt like they were about to fall off, but my back was fine for the entire time in Hong Kong. Compare this to the trip back to Boston, when I arrived at 8:30pm, got home, had dinner, and went to bed. My lower back ached for about a week afterwards.

For me, the biggest push for starting a fitness program is the fact that my father just celebrated his 80th birthday, so there’s a good chance I’m stuck in this body for another half a century… and I can’t exactly trade it in for a new model in 10-20 years. I think it’s ironic that we as a society take better care of our cars than our bodies. Most people will take their car in for all the scheduled maintenance but skip their annual physical for years. (Why do we take our bodies for granted, rarely giving it the nourishment or care it deserves, and then get surprised and angry when things break down? Hmmm… this topic deserves its own post.)

Interestingly, my measurements after three months of also supported another pet theory of mine that weight is totally dependent on food. I lost 3.5 inches but gained 3 lbs. because my self-control went AWOL for the last two months and Brownie Brittles were Buy One, Get One at Costco. (It’s all your fault, Costco!) It certainly did not help that the gym is across from the phenomenal Deano’s Pasta factory store AND around the block from Louie’s Ice Cream. If nothing else, I think this is proof that God has a sense of humor.

I was hoping the 2x/week workout would get me beach ready in 3 months but I could not, for the life of me, stay on the wagon for my diet. Therefore, I head to the Cape next week: stronger and feeling too good to care about how I look in a swimsuit.

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