Hallelujah! Spring has almost sprung and with under a month left of winter, it’s time to start prepping patients on how to shake off the winter pounds. If your patients are anything like mine, winter is not kind on the waistline. It starts with Halloween candy, flows into gluttony of Thanksgiving and Christmas, then finishes with a mix of sugar and booze on New Year’s Eve. Add in dark and gloomy days with little sunlight, and it’s a recipe that can make the most staunch fit and healthy person pack on the pounds.
Not to fear! The days are getting longer, the sun is peaking out a little more each day, and with warmer weather on the horizon, it’s a perfect time for patients to get moving.
Walk! I don’t think anything compares to the feeling of being able to get outside for an early spring walk after a long, cold winter. Encourage even 15 minutes a day of walking. The most successful fitness program I ever did allowed me a minimum of 15 minutes a day of movement. It counted towards my progress! Imagine, patients don’t have to be perfect to lace up their shoes, they just need to be consistent. Taking the stairs, parking farther away from stores, having “walking lunch meetings” with colleagues, going walking after dinner: all those moments in the course of a day add up to at least 15 minutes, if not more. If they don’t believe you, have them buy a pedometer. I think most people would be surprised how much walking can be incorporated into their day.
I know (and have known) a plethora of people who need an accountability partner to stay on track. What better way then by getting a dog? My new pooch has kept me busy with daily walks (even through the winter time), because nothing says motivation like not wanting to clean dog poop off the carpet. Maybe you’re more of a cat person, well why not borrow a friend’s dog? I’m sure the friend would appreciate the help and so would the waistline. If a patient is going all Emily Dickenson, recluse style, and has no friends, they could consider helping out at a local dog shelter. There are plenty of dogs who need the exercise and heck, so do our patients.
So, let’s say you have a patient who has any number of excuses as to why they can’t get up from their desk throughout the workday. Tell them to drink water, and lots of it. If their physical, mental, and emotional health isn’t enough of a reason to get up and move regularly, their bladder should get them up. Not only do they get the benefit of drinking water, they get the added benefit of having to get up and go pee every hour or so.
Do you live in a bike friendly city? If you do, this is an easy one. Warm weather and a well-fitted bike are some of the greatest joys in life. Patients could bike to the grocery store for smaller purchases, ride around their neighborhood, or even ride to work. If you’re an unfortunate soul like me who lives in a city where motorists are trying to run cyclists off the road, bike trails are a great option. Even my bike-hating city has some great trails through the local parks. For more adventure, there are longer trails out in the country.
Nothing says “great American spirit” like having the nicest house on the block. Good news is that yard work like mowing, raking, gardening, etc can burn a ton of calories. With proper mechanics, it can be a great way to make the neighbors jealous and get a workout in. Last summer, I used my Apple Watch to see how many calories I could burn with some good old-fashioned manual labor. By the time I was done, I had burned just as many calories as I normally would have with kickboxing and Crossfit. Obviously, different movements and body parts are involved, but I was tired and didn’t feel compelled to go to the gym afterwards.
The ideas are endless for getting outdoor exercise. From going to the park, Frisbee golf, regular golf, throwing a baseball with their kids, walking instead of driving to get ice cream, we can brainstorm with our patients to help them be as active as they can for their health and lifestyles.
Kassandra Schultz DC