When you have a physical, mental, or emotional ailment, it is very likely that your doctor will give you a prescription. And if you choose to take the prescription, it is extremely important that you take the exact dose, no more or no less. The very same thing is true when your physical therapist gives you daily exercises. Think of this as an “exercise prescription,” and follow exactly as indicated for optimum results.
Let’s explore this in more detail. Your doctor may prescribe specific drugs for specific problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, LBP, anxiety, headaches, etc. Most people heed the side effect warnings which may be printed right on the bottle of pills. Many of them are very serious and may even cause death if taken improperly. Even if taken properly, all medications have some side effects, because they are changing your internal chemistry artificially. Even though it may help the original problem, you may end up with another, different problem, which is sometimes worse than the original problem.
There is another, different prescription for all these same ailments. If taken properly, this prescription has no side effects and can help equally as much, or even exponentially more. This prescription is EXERCISE! Of course I also recommend getting the right nutrients with quality plant foods, but for now we will focus on exercise.
Long before medicines were even invented, it has been known that exercise is not only good for our bodies, but absolutely essential for our overall good health. We are dynamic, not static, beings. We are always changing: Making new blood, healing injuries, etc. We are literally renewing almost every single cell in our bodies all the time. Exercise helps keep that renewal process running smoothly. It was never a big revelation because in the past our lives were overwhelmingly active. Daily life required walking, climbing, cleaning, pushing, pulling, planting, harvesting, lifting, etc. Now we have medical studies that prove what previous active generations already knew: Movement is good for us. But in the last 40-50 years we have slowed down, moving less and less than our fore fathers and mothers. Many people sit all day, from the car to the office and back home to the couch.
And now we are surprised that our general health is not as good, and we want the latest medicines to fix it. However, the better long term answer is one we once knew and abandoned: Exercise. Yes, “move it or lose it” is the truth! Exercise will decrease high blood pressure, decrease and stabilize blood sugar, decrease stress, anxiety, and muscle tension, lower the resting heart rate, decrease pain, improve digestion, boost endorphins and improve circulation. And that is just the beginning. If you could make a pill with this many benefits, you’d make millions! And absolutely no negative side effects! Wow!
But what kind, how much, and for how long? These questions are answered by a proper exercise prescription for you and your individual needs. We all need to view exercise as a prescription. Just like you are told never to to take anyone else’s medication, you should never do anyone else’s exercises.
You also need a knowledgable professional, like a physical therapist or a trainer, who can evaluate all your injuries, body ailments, and strengths, to give you the “how much.” If you don’t do enough, it may be of too little benefit. And if you do too much it could hurt you just like medication. Also, just like medications, you need to use the right exercises. If you do the wrong exercise for your specific needs, you may end up making your condition worse. Time and again I have seen patients no do enough of the exercises I prescribe, and wonder why they are not improving… or they do too many and wonder why the problem is inflaming… or they invent their own hybrid exercises that they “thought would help” because someone who supposedly had the same problem told them it would work.
The bottom line is that you should find a professional and follow his/her exercise prescription as specifically as you would a prescription for medication. Do the exact exercises as they were taught to you, with the exact number of repetitions, using the exact weights, exact positions, and exact workouts per week for the exact amount of time you were instructed. And always communicate with your therapist or trainer. If you do, you will get exactly what you wanted: Good health, less pain, and a balanced, well-functioning body that will be able to do almost anything you may ask of it.
Ken Dill, a nationally ranked tennis player and high school coach, is a physical therapist specializing in manual therapy, low back pain and sports orthopedics. Ken has taught as an adjunct professor at UD and authored, “Tennis Elbow…A Closer Look,” “The Healthy Back School” and “Clinical Applications of Water Therapy.” Contact Ken at Kenneth.firstname.lastname@example.org.