I almost fell out of my chair when I read this headline: “AHA Strengthens Stand on Exercise for Disease Prevention.”
Strengthening their stand, you say? Who even knew the American Heart Association had a stand? Their first choice for anything is to reach for the prescription pad — so I guess any change would be an improvement in this case.
And if you’re like me, you might be wondering exactly what they consider to be a “strengthened” recommendation. Let’s take a look…
The idea of prescribing exercise to reduce risk of stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or any number of other preventable conditions is hardly new. Doctors have been toeing this line for ages — but few have taken the stance that I have and declared it non-negotiable. (I even installed a gym at my office at one point — it’s that important.)
So the AHA has now decided that it’s not enough to leave doctors to their own devices where counseling their patients on exercise recommendations is concerned. And you know what? I can’t argue with that.
I know I’ve asked this before, but it bears repeating: When was the last time your doctor asked you about exercise, or even once recommended what you should be doing to get more physically fit?
I’d be shocked if this topic has ever come up between you and your doctor. So, yes, the idea behind this “stronger” stance on exercise is sound. But as usual, the execution is questionable.
The AHA wants to create a fitness-based medical record system. And apparently, they want to enlist the help of community leaders and fitness experts to do it.
Now that’s all well and good. But doesn’t this sound a little, well… complicated? When it really doesn’t have to be?
Call me a rebel, but I have a simpler strategy for doctors — one I’ve been following in my own practice for years. Encourage exercise. Ask your patients about it. Challenge them to find an activity (or several) that they enjoy and to start off slowly.
But most importantly, lead by example. Having healthy habits and being fit yourself is the best way to get your point across to your patients.
Look, I could spend the next hour writing about the AHA’s ridiculous new suggestions for “tools” to monitor patient exercise, and other useless plans that treat physical fitness like some high-tech puzzle. But I’m not going to bother.
Because, ultimately, who cares?
All it really takes is a series of three simple questions your doctor SHOULD be asking…But since he’s not likely to start asking them to you anytime soon, I will:
- Are you exercising?
- If so, what are you doing?
- If not, why—and what can I do to help?
If you have specific answers you’d like to share, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind I can’t offer personal medical advice, but I am always interested in hearing from you, and knowing what challenges you’re dealing with. I can cover things you’re wondering about in future editions of the Reality Health Check or my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter. (If you’re not already a subscriber, you can sign up today by clicking here.)
In the meantime, don’t let the thought of exercise overwhelm you.
It’s not rocket science!
In fact, it’s easier than ever to get a gauge of your fitness…and to keep track of your progress. There are tons of wearable devices —like Fitbits and Apple watches — at our disposal now. There are apps for your phone that can help you track your health parameters.
If you don’t have one of these devices or apps, I strongly recommend you get one. There are options available at just about every price point.
Most of these devices and apps will walk you through a set up process that involves setting some personal goals for steps, activity, and fitness. Choose ones that are doable for you, and do your best to attain them every day (or at least come as close as you can).
Make it fun and make it safe — I do everything from Soul Cycle to mountain climbing to trapeze and a whole lot more. But it’s okay if you’re not at that level yet. Simply aiming for 10,000 steps a day is a great place to start. Start slowly and build up over time.
And monitor your own progress on your app, because even if the AHA’s new exercise guidelines do take off, most doctors aren’t going to have the time to look at your data in any meaningful way.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People won’t support your efforts if they don’t know about them. So whether you need the accountability of a personal trainer or just a friend to work out with, reach out and ask.
I promise, it’s worth it — and so are you.