Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, Edgecliff, Marrickville, Bella VistaRandwickLindfield and Balmain today discuss common health shortcuts and the importance of sustained lifestyle changes.

Achieving your ideal state of health is by no means easy. It takes commitment, effective goal-setting and various adjustments along the way. It is no wonder that the industry has given birth to various ‘quick fixes’ to seemingly help you achieve goals in the least amount of time and effort possible. However, there are a multitude of perpetuating myths that do not paint a truthful picture for your long-term health and may even go against what scientific evidence shows. Sure, some might give you an easy, short-term boost in your weight loss or pain symptoms, but are they sustainable for your longevity? We have touched on adherence strategies in another blog this week written by Georgia, our team member at Drummoyne, so we will elaborate on these with some examples as we go.

Achieving your ideal state of health is by no means easy. It takes commitment, effective goal-setting and various adjustments along the way

Here are some common health shortcuts that have been circulating the industry, with the featuring sustainable lifestyle change examples that you could implement in their place.

 

1) Losing weight with meal replacement shakes

Considering almost 100% of our clients have ‘weight loss’ as one of their health goals, it is important that we shed some light on this topic for everyone. Research evidence suggests that, when used under the supervision of dieticians, meal replacements in conjunction with low-energy diets can indeed be an effective way to lose weight in the short-to-medium term. However, meal replacement shakes often lack the nutritional and energy value that you’d get from whole, unprocessed foods. These drinks may also contain other additives such as sugar or sweeteners, which can be detrimental to those with diabetes for example. Sure, they may reduce your overall caloric intake and therefore stimulate weight-loss, but this method alone is not sustainable and can even be harmful on your overall health. In fact, it is estimated that 80-95% of people who lose at least 10% of their bodyweight will regain it to end up as heavy or heavier than they were before they went on a diet.

This is not to say that meal replacement shakes are a lie. But this is why we must consider lifestyle, social factors and habits in your solution as well. For example, will you be able to sustain your diet over the long term? Will you enjoy the meals you eat? Are there other health conditions that you are neglecting? The evidence suggests that a combination of diet modification and exercise is in fact the most effective and sustainable strategy for weight-loss, as well as for managing overall cardiometabolic health. Thus, it is important to find an exercise and diet pattern that you can adhere to on a day-to-day basis, as this is what will get you health results that you can be happy with in the long-term.

For example, to be able to stick to a long-term diet plan, it may be highly useful set yourself up with a rewards system where you are indulging in a less ‘healthy’ meal once every week. Our brains are wired to reward learning, which motivates us to develop positive habits while still getting to enjoy the foods you love without it having a negative impact on your health.

2)  You are all set once you get an exercise program

It is a common thought that people go to see exercise physiologists (or EP) to receive exercise programs. While this is partly true, being prescribed a program is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of both what we do as EPs and what needs to be done to achieve your health goals. In fact, it is almost a false representation of what health is about. This is because going on an exercise program is something that requires constant monitoring and supervision in terms of what you are doing and how you are doing it, especially when you’re not accustomed to exercise, to ensure that you are performing your exercise safely and effectively for your health conditions. Programs will also require modifications according to your progress and to create a continued training stimulus for your body to adapt to. On the other hand, if there are any flare-ups or setbacks, your EP will know when to regress the program or modify it accordingly. Your exercise physiologist will also ensure that you adhere to your program and implement behavioural management strategies to allow you to reach a certain level of independence. Most importantly, to ensure that you are on track towards your health goals, your EP will perform structured assessments according to your health condition and evaluate how you are tracking.

Seeing an EP on a regular basis one of the best examples of having an external motivating factor for you to adhere to your health plans in the long-term. Not only will we have the expertise to guide you through progressive exercise and lifestyle modification strategies, but we will also hold you accountable towards your goals.

 

3) Feeling pain or soreness? Just get a massage

More often than not, you will feel less pain, stiffness or soreness after a session with the massage therapist or physiotherapist. However, this feeling is short-lived for many people, as their symptoms return within the next day or so. However, this feeling is short-lived for a many people with chronic health conditions, as their symptoms may return within the next day or so. Hence, it is absolutely imperative that we also treat the cause of your symptoms. Whether it’s due to muscular imbalances, dysfunction, soft tissue injury or joint issues, it is vital that we target the root of the problem to prevent your pain or soreness from reappearing. For example, if you have suffered a lower back strain, it will be ideal for your long-term health to undertake an ongoing exercise program prescribed by your EP with the overall plan of developing tissue strength, adopting correct movement patterns and restoring function. This will ensure that you will not injure your back again, as well as enhancing your overall physical capacity in the process. Sure, this may take a lot longer than just a 1 hour session at the physio, but your health outcomes will be far better in the long-term.

 

If you are already regularly seeing an EP and are looking for further motivation to adhere to a long-term exercise program, a great way to keep yourself accountable and on track is to write down your goals. Make they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely, or SMART.

Here is an example of a SMART goal:
– Reducing your waist circumference by 2cm after 5 weeks of exercising consistently

Here is an example of a goal that is not SMART:
– Slimming down your waist quickly

4) Managing your condition with only tablets

There is no denying that medicine has revolutionised the world of health, and it is worth noting that some people with chronic conditions may need to be on certain medications for the majority of their life. Medication definitely has an important role in managing and treating health conditions. However, when people start relying purely on medication to treat their symptoms, this is when problems arise. This is because we may not be targeting the actual causes of the condition, or managing the factors that contribute towards it. For example, one can take painkillers to suppress pain from their knee arthritis in the short-term, but neglect the long-term effects that a weight-loss program can have on reducing joint pain and progression of the disease. Furthermore, medications can have various side effects that may lead to other chronic health problems—this is also where exercise can come in and help offset various side effects of the medication.

 

5) Surgery will fix my condition for good

As a tie-in with the previous point, it is important to recognise that for many people with chronic health conditions, surgery may be an option proposed by their doctors. Again, medicine has a big role to play in improving one’s quality of life and overall functional health. However, it is absolutely essential to also recognise that surgery may only have treated the resulting symptoms of the condition; for example, getting a hip replacement to overcome painful hip arthritis. It is very easy to neglect the long-term factors that may have led up to the arthritis in the first place, such as lower body strength, walking patterns and body weight. Failing to address the core issues may cause one to get surgery earlier in their life than expected, have more surgeries during their lifetime and/or develop other co-morbidities.

Exercise physiology has a strong role in long-term preventive care. If it means that person can avoid surgery, or delay it as long as possible, or mitigate the side effects of the procedure, why not try and implement long-term lifestyle changes? This is certainly easier said than done for most people, and it therefore is highly useful to utilise adherence strategies such as recognising barriers to progress and writing down a method to overcome them. For example, if you struggle with fatigue after work, you can implement a plan to exercise early in the morning instead.

In reality, there is no magic pill to improved health. It can be a long and arduous process for many people. However, if one recognises this and embraces the long-term haul of working on lifestyle changes instead of searching for quick fixes, it is safe to say that they will ultimately be happier with their results and live a better life.

Written by Jackie Cheung