by Brenda Bryson
Hello my Texas friends and neighbors, I want to open up the conversation today on some topics that hopefully will encourage some comments and discussion.
When someone says “wellness” what does that make you think of?
When someone says “workout” what image does that create?
Let’s contrast that with the words “physical therapy” and what does that conjure up?
From 23 years of being a physical therapist, let me share some of the comments I get daily on this topic.
“Wellness” has no real urgency to it. It’s a term that seems to go well with a day off and a fun yoga/exercise class followed by lunch with friends. It’s paying for a massage every now and then, but it seems to have a very low commitment attached to it. Wellness also does not seem to have a high value on the credentials of who is performing the service, usually a referral from a friend saying “oh, she is really good” or “it’s really fun” will suffice (word of mouth is a great way to discover things, but sometimes you want to know some credentials).
Workout (what did you think of with this word?) in American terms it seems to have extremes, and somehow those have become norms. It seems that there is a growing problem with obesity and lack of exercise in this country
“The U.S. adult obesity rate stands at 42.4 percent, the first time the national rate has passed the 40 percent mark, and further evidence of the country’s obesity crisis. The national adult obesity rate has increased by 26 percent since 2008. COVID-19 related food insecurity puts more Americans at risk for obesity or worsening obesity.” ( source: httpss://www.tfah.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/TFAHObesityReport_20.pdf)
So, it seems like there are more and more Americans either gaining more weight and working out less, perhaps because they are working so much more just to survive, or people are on the other extreme doing ultra marathons (100KM runs), cross fit like competitions and being obsessed with macros and everything they consume. Another everyday example of an extreme is something like taking up tennis—a great form of exercise. Instead of doing an hour lesson, or one game, it has to be a 3 day tournament with 4-5 hours of activity each day.
The third word I mentioned was “physical therapy”. The feedback I get on this ranges from “I don’t need that, I’m not in a wheelchair”, “I did that once and it hurt and was expensive” and my favorite “I just take Advil every day and then I can keep going”.
My favorite term as I age (I’m 47 and keep trying to do more every year) is Functional Strength. Katie Chasey defines: Functional strength is the ability to run your load-joints (shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles) through a full range of motion without pain, stiffness, or restriction. This is also known as load-joint articulation.
In simpler terms this is moving like you were a kid, not doing the same thing every day, but somehow able to handle climbing on the monkey bars, mowing the yard, playing kickball, and not needing Advil or medical intervention.
What would it feel like to have the range of motion and everyday strength to rake the leaves on Saturday, and then go for a hike on Sunday and not feel old or injured? What if you had good body alignment to allow for pushups or pushing the wheelbarrow without straining so much you peed in your pants? What if it was really ok just to do the one hour of tennis, and the next day do a stretch class, and not require bracing/meds/bragging about how sore you are and can’t sit on the commode?
What if being in the middle became the new norm? You would still have some body fat, probably not be a cover model for a fitness magazine, but you would feel good. I grew up on a ranch in Fredericksburg, and all the old ranchers did not look like they really worked out—but they were strong, they were flexible enough to get up and down off the ground in jeans and boots and over years of doing this, they had a great baseline of functional strength and endurance.
What if a commitment to being in the middle meant you did not have to go to physical therapy because of an overuse injury? What if wellness became the trendy thing to actually take care of your body and enjoy it for the long haul? I often compare the human body to car/home maintenance. Your auto insurance does not pay for your tires or your oil changes. You as the car owner have a certain responsibility for taking care of the maintenance of the car, so that it will keep running. The human body is very much the same. Your medical insurance rarely pays for “maintenance” but it is up to each one of us to keep our bodies in tune, so that we can feel good for the long haul.
Brenda Bryson, PT, LMT is the owner of monarch physical therapy. She is a hill country native and loves to be active hosting retreats, playing with her dogs, and hosting Airbnber’s at her “glamperhood” in Comfort. Brenda is a seasoned professional in the identification and treatment of many forms of physical pain and hopes to be a resource to those who seek it.