What is every 2 year old's favorite question? "Why?" Inquisitive toddlers have a lot to say and even more to ask. Why do you eat that? Why do you run? Why this? Why that? They are like little scientists wanting to know why their world works the way it does. They want to know the reason behind something and "just because" is not a good enough answer for them. It is this kind of inquisitiveness that we should always nurture within ourselves allowing us to remain the scientists that we start out as.
The reason this comes to mind is the staggering amount of information (and misinformation) that is now accessible to so many people through the creation of the world wide web. It is open to anyone (like myself) who wants to share knowledge, opinions, expertise, etc. to the masses. Unfortunately, this is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you have more access to excellent resources on any topic you can possibly think of. On the other hand, you have the same access to questionable resources and information about those same topics which is very concerning. Since this is the case, asking "why" like a two year old to make sure something makes sense will prove to be very beneficial instead of just accepting something at face value.
This is most definitely the case with the health, fitness, rehab and nutrition worlds. There is no shortage of dubious information, outrageous claims and downright zealotry about health and the human body. Perhaps I am becoming more critical of what I read on the internet as I continue to practice as a physical therapist and do my best to keep up with current evidence and literature but it seems as if the frequency of questionable (and just plain wrong) articles and headlines I come across on a daily basis is increasing. This becomes incredibly dangerous with social media's capacity to disseminate information so you get all sorts of myths (and truths, thank goodness) spreading like wildfire. Despite countless individuals and organizations doing their best to discount bad information, beliefs continue to persist and get in the way of facts. There also continues to be this idea that "But I read something or I saw something online" equals truth. It reminds me of this commercial:
Not everything on the internet is true. Somehow it has become the media's job to sell stories and latch on to hot topics rather than report and publish legitimate information as objectively as possible. Bloggers (like me), writers and "experts" among many others are trying to gain visibility within their respective fields in a very crowded health landscape and although the majority of intentions are good, it still does not make something true. Just because everyone is posting on Facebook does not make something true. And just because someone has some letters after their name also does not make something true. With all of this in mind, I strongly encourage you to read and listen with caution and to question everything (including me) as a two year old would. Why? Does that make sense? If I don't sit straight all of the time, I'll develop low back pain?! Gluten is the devil?! (I'll answer those last two for you: No and no.) Take a few minutes to double check what you read and listen to, and seek out credible and reliable sources so that you can truly make healthy and informed decisions.
Like that old saying goes, if it's too good to be true, then it probably is.
Knowledge = Power; Share The Power:
A couple of weeks ago I came across two things that really hit home and gave me one of those "aha" moments. One was an article on a blog I follow and the other was someone's "testimonial" for her current fitness choice. The common theme between the article and testimonial is that movement rocks! So often we take for granted the ability to move without any limitations and do whatever we need or like to do. It usually takes an injury or physical limitation to remind us how awesome it is to move or a change/increase in activity level to remind ourselves what we've been missing. Either way, the conclusion from both of these scenarios is the same with regard to movement. As the old milk commercials used to say, it does the body (and mind) good. On top of that, I would add that it is addicting (in a good way).
In the article, entitled "The Privilege of Movement", the author, Neghar Fonooni, reminds us that movement is a choice. In it she says "It's not an obligation or a begrudging requirement - it’s something to be eternally grateful for. Movement is a privilege, and one which we should honor daily...[by] making fitness enrich your life, not detract from it." Now fitness means a lot of different things to a lot of people as it should. That's the beauty of it since there is no one size fits all definition. At its core, however, I would argue that a major component of fitness means being able to move independently and satisfy your physical goals without any limitations rather than some number or image you are supposed to adhere to. Whether you accomplish that by going to a gym, heading to your local yoga studio or hiking with your dog, in some ways it does not really matter as long as it is something you like to do. The choices are endless. As long as it remains a positive element in your life and continues to enhance it then at some level you are probably addicted to movement without even knowing it. Now it's still important to mix things up and keep your body and mind engaged so that you don't get stuck in a rut and lose interest in making that choice to move altogether. We all know the outcomes when you choose not to keep moving and they are not pretty.
The "testimonial" was a bit of a different flavor in that it perfectly exposed the importance of movement on the brain. I am not the first person to make the connection of fitness/movement with changes in the brain and I will certainly not be the last either. There are plenty of researchers who have beaten me to the punch but after reading the next two quotes, it is quite obvious and you won't have to bore yourself with dry scientific publications. It began with, "I looked in the mirror and didn't know who that was. I was tired, weak, sad, embarrassed of my body and just felt plain old ugly." After a recent change in her activity level and choosing to make movement and fitness a priority, this same person now says, "I feel strong! I have tons of energy! I feel positive about myself and what I can do, in and out of the gym. My kids think of their mom as strong! I am happy." There has been a total transformation in her brain and mindset thanks to the power of movement and fitness. It is quite clear from this example that physical fitness and mental health go hand in hand. And those last three words are awesome! Happiness is pretty easy to get addicted to!
I could keep adding more anecdotes, articles and research studies reiterating the same ideas but that would be very boring. Why not be an experiment of one and make the choice to find the right kind of addiction to enrich your life?
You can also check out Ben Bruno for the article that inspired this post as well as find great information on training and programming for your movement, fitness (and brain) goals.
Knowledge = Power; Share The Power:
Dr. Greg Cecere
Your personal physical therapist, movement educator and knowledge dispenser.
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The contents of this blog is meant for educational purposes only. Momentum Physical Therapy of New Paltz and Dr. Greg Cecere are not responsible for any harm or injury that may occur due to any information on this blog as it is by no means a substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.