1 – Understand your body and how to maintain it
It always amazes me when I am interviewing patients how little people know about their bodies and health histories. Imagine if you were given one car when you turned 16, and were told you only have this car for the rest of your life, so take care of it and make it last. If that were the case, I think most people would make sure they took good care of it, did preventative maintenance, and if there were a problem, they would have it fixed.
Well, we only get one body for our whole life and the better we take care of it, the more productive and fun our life will be. All of our bodies will break down over time. This is influenced by many things including but not limited to: previous injuries or illnesses, our activities and jobs, habits we have positive or negative (exercise, repetitive postures or faulty movements, diet, smoking, drinking, etc.), the environment we surround ourselves in, our genetic predispositions, and other factors. The only person that will know all the details of your system is you. You need to be an expert in your body and your system so you can take care of it the best you can!
Preventive maintenance is the best. So take a personal inventory. Schedule a physical with a primary care specialist. Get a movement evaluation by a physical therapist or fitness professional. Determine factors in your lifestyle that could harm your body including nutrition habits, repetitive movements or postures in your work or daily activities, poor lifestyle choices (being sedentary, smoking, drinking, lack of sleep/rest). Build off your strengths, and work on your weaknesses. Determine what makes you happy, find purpose for your life, and establish goals to help yourself accomplish this. Enjoy your life, you only get one of them.
2 – Form a good health and wellness team that is right for you
While it is important to evaluate yourself, we are often biased. We also cannot be an expert in everything. For these reasons, it is very important to surround yourself with a strong team to take care of you. I recommend a health and wellness team include:
- Primary care provider who oversees your body as a whole and identifies areas that need additional help.
- Medical specialists addressing any of the areas that need extra medical attention.
- Movement specialist (physical therapist and/or fitness professional) to guide your musculoskeletal system.
- Lifestyle specialists: Someone to provide advice on any of the lifestyle issues that you have determined as weaknesses. For example, seek a dietitian for dietary issues, a smoking cessation specialist to quit smoking and, if you sit all day at work, meet with an ergonomic specialist.
When forming your team, make sure that the members are good and right for you. Just as with all professions, there is a wide variety of quality within each healthcare profession. The degree gives them a foundation, but what they learn through further education and clinical experiences are what make them good clinicians. If you don’t feel confident about one of your team members, replace them. Find someone who is passionate about what they do and who cares about patients. If you don’t know who is good, ask around, ask other professionals in similar fields of expertise, visit their websites. Find someone you can connect with and understand. Make sure everyone on your team addresses your goals. You shouldn’t adapt to their system, they need to work toward accomplishing your goals. If they want you to be someone else, you may not have a good fit. This does not include advice for poor lifestyle choices that are well researched and proven to be unhealthy. Sometimes you may need to hear the truth, and some choices may need to change to reach larger goals.
Know yourself, surround yourself with good people, and keep your body running strong and healthy. Your family, friends, and yourself will thank you!
This is the first in a 3-part blog series. Read second blog for tips on finding the correct movement specialist for you.