Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What If: Health care providers worked together with exercise specialists to prescribe exercise?

Throughout 2015, we’ll be blogging about our dreams for corporate wellness, fitness, and aging well.  Some of the content will represent a gentle “poking fun” at the industry, but it’s all written to stimulate thought about what really could be if we put our heads together and started mapping out what’s really possible in the realm of individual wellbeing.  We hope you’ll join the conversation by commenting on the blogs, giving us additional ideas about which to write, and/or by finding us out on Twitter at #wellnesswhatif.

seniors_on_res_ballsYou’ve heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”, right?  The idea is that a child needs a whole village worth of support an influence, and education, and diversity to be raised into a healthy and vibrant member of society.  If we look at individual wellbeing through a similar lens, I would say that it takes a team to help an individual be well. 

When I think about the generally poor health (admittedly, I tend to focus on physical health) for adults in the US, specifically preventable issues, I wonder how much is connected to adults simply not knowing how to choose better health and how much goes back to adults making unhealthy choices even though they know better.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of external players who influence an individual’s health.  I can’t get into all of those factors here, but I do want to focus on the potential for a better relationship between health care providers and exercise specialists.  What follows are some of the historical challenges as well as some what if ideas for working better together to take a team approach on individual wellbeing.

When I was working in corporate fitness several years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for me start talking with a new member about her goals for exercise and learn that she came to see me because their physician recommended she start exercising.  In further conversation, I would learn that either the doctor provided no guidance on how often, how much, what intensity of exercise would be best, or (sometimes worse) the physician would have provided recommendations that were not practical for the individual.

It was always so helpful, when working with individuals who had a complicated health history, to get a physician recommendation that took into account that complex health picture.  With more information from the doctor, I was able to write a more effective exercise prescription.  But more often than not, the physician is hurried and filling out one more form isn’t top on their list, so I’d get an almost blank form returned with little more than their signature.

          What if physicians had more time for discussion with patients about preventive health?

I think at least some of the barrier, though I’ve never heard anyone actually articulate this, is the image of the personal trainer.  The certifications available for personal trainers are many and varied in terms of their rigor and it leaves a lot of question about credentials.  Licensure has been debated for years in the industry and although the discussion varies by state (currently Louisiana is the only state with licensure requirements for clinical exercise physiologists), I think the reason licensure is even on the table is because the disparity among requirements for certification is so widely varied, it’s tough for even a well-educated individual to get to the bottom of what “certified personal trainer” really means.

What if all certifications had to meet a specific standard that raised the bar for education and experience?

The American College of Sports Medicine released an Exercise Is Medicine campaign years ago with the goal to have physicians make regular exercise a part of their recommendations for practitioners to their patients.  The program includes guidelines for health care providers as well as for exercise specialists to interact in the best interest of the public.  While some progress has been made on the partnership between the medical community and exercise professionals, there is much work to be done to bridge that professional relationship for the improved outcomes of the patients.

 What if health insurance supported visits with a certified exercise specialists as part of a prescription for better health? (Not unlike counseling from a registered dietitian accompanies a diagnosis of diabetes.)

 
What if general practitioner offices hired exercise physiologists to counsel patients right in their offices?
 
What if medical training provided some insight into exercise prescription and curriculum for exercise physiologists provided insight into what the doctor has to accomplish with a patient in an office visit?

We have a long way to go to build a strong village that contributes positively to individual’s health and this health care + exercise practitioner discussion is only one portion of that village.  What other areas are you passionate about?  Where do we need to build a better village to help individuals make healthier choices?

 

 

Topics: wellness exercise and health what if

NIFS: Ten Myths that Fool the Smartest of Exercisers


Some of you may have already been the brunt of an April Fool’s joke today.  Let’s clear up some fitness myths so you are not the brunt of any more jokes, especially in the gym.

1. The gym negates a bad diet- You cannot out exercise a bad diet. Don’t try it; I promise your diet will win every time! Hours and hours can be spent in the gym yielding few results because a person is only changing one piece of the puzzle. They use the excuse that they can eat whatever they want because their exercise offsets the excess calories taken in. The body does not work this way. Most people do not realize the amount of calories they actually consume and the amount of time it would actually take to burn it off at the gym. It takes much, much longer to burn off that cookie than it does to eat it!

2. Spot reduction works- Don’t feel like a complete fool if you have believed this one; it is not completely untrue. You cannot pick which areas from which you want to burn fat, but you can strengthen certain muscles by performing exercises focused on particular muscle groups.  By strengthening these muscles, you will tone areas and create shapely muscles. Now comes the second piece of the puzzle; to see these muscles you must burn off the excess layer of energy or “fat” to expose these beautiful muscles you have been working so hard for. Again, the gym does not outweigh your diet.

woman using exercise band resized 600

3. I’ve never been flexible and never will be- You make yourself inflexible by never training yourself to be.  Yes, your muscles may have been tight all your life, but this is because you have never worked to train them to be anything but tight.

4. Weight training bulks you up- If you want to change the composition of your body you have to weight lift. Yes, even you, ladies; it’s not just for the guys. Lifting will not make you bulky; things like your diet and the way you train can lead to bulk. Female bodies are lacking enough testosterone to gain as much muscle mass as a male. Lifting weight will change your body composition by increasing the percentage of muscle throughout your body, leading to a higher metabolic rate and a lean, shapely figure.

5. If I’m not sore or in pain, I’m not working hard enough- Don’t seek soreness. It can come from many different factors that have nothing to do with the quality of your workout. Judge your workout by more than how sore you are. How do you feel mentally? Are you smiling? Relaxed? Have more energy? Feel accomplished?

6. Cardio and resistance training are two separate activities- Mixing the two together can be the best combination for fat loss and save you tons of time! While lifting in the gym take fewer breaks between sets or add cardio intervals in between sets. This will allow your heart rate to stay elevated and give you the weight training you set out to do with the added cardio component.

7. I need machines to get a total workout- Why not think of your body as a machine? Machines and free weights serve their purpose and can be an essential part of your routine, but don’t limit yourself. You will get stuck at some point if all you use is machines. There will be a time when these are not available to you. When performing body weight training, you are in full control of the weight (your own body weight). You are recruiting muscles, especially stabilizing muscles that tend to go unused during machine workouts. Body weight training allows you to mimic movements that you will actually perform in real life.

8. Muscle weighs more than fat- Muscle does not weigh more than fat. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. The difference is their density. As we gain muscle and lose fat, our weight may change very little even though our body composition is changing and we are becoming leaner. Don’t become discouraged if the scale is not going in your favor. That being said, don’t assume you are at a healthy weight; the number is just higher on the scale because of your muscle mass. Get tested! A body composition test is the only true measure of what your weight is actually made up of.

9. Recovery time is social time- Don’t let distractions get in your way. Hopefully you came to the gym with a purpose in mind. Do what you came there to do. Turn off your cell phone, put in your headphones, and stick to your plan. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in half the time when you are focused, then you will have more time to rest or socialize after your workout.

10. A tired mind is a tired body- Answering emails and phone calls, long meetings and appointments can make you feel drained after a full day at the office. Ditch the tired excuse. You might be tired of the work you have been doing, but your body may be looking to get rid of built up energy from the day. A tired mind does not mean a tired body! A workout can give you the extra energy and clear mind you are searching for.

Don't fall for those old tricks, re-establish your health for a better you!  

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Topics: wellness April fool's day exercise myths exercise and health