I just read an excellent article in Slate, The Exercise Cure – How can we motivate people to take a free, safe, magic pill?. It’s by Jordon Metzl, MD, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, and is a particularly good example of the growing recognition by physicians of just how important exercise is for all aspects of our health.
As Dr Metzl says:
Exercise has benefits for every body system; it is effective both as a treatment and for prevention of disease. It can improve memory and concentration, lessen sleep disorders, aid heart disease by lowering cholesterol and reducing blood pressure, help sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, and raise low libido. Exercise does it all. Even with cancer, particularly colon and recurrent breast cancer, the data show clearly that exercise is a deterrent. Newer studies on a glycoprotein called Interleukin 6 suggests that general body inflammation, a factor in almost every chronic disease, is reduced by regular exercise.
Dr. Metzi, and the many other physicians, who prescribe the “exercise pill” to their patients are on the right track. But I think they are leaving out an important qualifier.
It’s not just being more physically active that enhances your well-being – it’s also how those physical activities are carried out.
If you have developed a forward protruding head and neck pattern from long hours at the computer, you’ll probably take that extra tension with you into walking or running.
Your couch potato slump is almost certain to join you on your bike ride.
And your overly arched lower back doesn’t just disappear when you go for a vigorous swim.
In fact, if all you do is ramp up your level of exercise, you’re quite likely to actually exaggerate your worst habits of everyday posture and movement.
So by all means get moving if you’ve been living a sedentary lifestyle. But be sure to give some thought about the manner in which you move if you want that extra activity to be safe and healthy.
One of the best ways to do that is to explore the Alexander Technique. The Technique, which has been around for over a century, has a long history of helping people improve the way they sit, stand and move and is well-known by performers of all kinds as a way to enhance their professional skills.
It also has a long history of helping people alleviate pain. A recent British Medical Study clearly showed it’s effectiveness in alleviating chronic back pain. Primary care physicians in the UK are now urged to “prescribe” Alexander Technique lessons to patients with this kind of pain.
The Alexander Technique is all about how you do whatever you do by helping you to identify and lose the harmful habits you have built up over a lifetime of stress so you move more freely and with less likelihood of injury.
Get moving. Take the “exercise pill”.
But don’t forget the Alexander Technique “prescription” if you want to exercise safely and effectively.
Here’s a short video produced by the British Medical Journal about the Alexander Technique back pain study:
And here’s an Alexander Technique Podcast interview with Dr. Paul Little, the Lead Investigator for the BMJ study: