After graduating from the UofT with a degree in Rehabilitation Medicine and having started to practice as a Registered Physiotherapist, I spent the next decade working with the elderly, specifically those residing in long term care facilities (aka nursing homes), and assisted living facilities (aka retirement homes/senior apartments).
I blog because… not once did I meet anyone living in any of these facilities who purposefully planned to end up requiring ANY level of assistance with their activities of daily living in the early or later years of being a senior. No one planned to lose their drivers license, thus requiring help to get to appointments, to the bank, to get groceries; not to mention losing the independence and freedom of simply getting around. No one planned to lose their flexibility, their strength, their endurance, becoming unable to keep up with the upkeep of their home, their yard. No one planned to lose their dexterity, their balance requiring help with their own upkeep. No one planned to have a fall that required surgery, total knee or hip replacement surgery that then decreased their level of function to the point that simple tasks were no longer simple. No one planned to become overweight to the point that they became obese, impairing the function of their heart, their breathing, their other vital organs to the extent that it would require daily medical care. No one planned to end up with pain, nor believing that mild pains would become debilitating pain, that pain in one joint would lead to pains in other joints, that their pain would become unmanageable, that their pain would limit life.
Not one planned to end up in long term care or in assisted living, yet they all did. In the vast majority of cases (i.e. 95+% of admissions) it wasn’t some rare or unknown disease that was impossible to prevent or foresee that was the cause of their admission, it was directly due their lifestyle or its consequences.
Lifestyle Disease: dis-eases we cause ourselves, to ourselves as a direct result of our lifestyle choices, our daily decisions of how we live.
I blog because… everyone I met had one thing in common: they all thought that they were healthy or living healthy in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. They all thought that they were taking care of themselves, doing ‘enough’, making healthy choices in activity levels, their eating and drinking.
It doesn’t matter from what walk of life people came, I met people from all walks while working in care facilities: from former CEOs who were once titans in business, to legends of the music industry, to those who served in our Armed Forces, to business and health care professionals (even doctors and nurses despite all their knowledge), to those who lived simple.
I blog because… what people thought was healthy or was healthy ‘enough’… wasn’t.
If your definition of health today requires medications, ‘superfood’ smoothies, routine health or wellness appointments, intense sessions of exercise, dependence on braces, support and compression clothing, then compare your lifestyle to those living in care facilities:
- Average # of meds taken by a long term care resident is 13. This is not pills, this is medications prescribed, meaning that if 1 med is taken 3x per day, its counted as 1 med. How many are you poppin’ a day (e.g. anti-inflammatories, pain killers, blood pressure, sleep aides)? On your way to 13?
- Average resident who is on blood thinners, who is at risk of clots, who has venous insufficency, and/or is bedridden wears compression stockings. Yup, just like those marketed as “performance socks” to athletes, just like those worn by runners, CrossFitters, and triathletes. Only difference being is that those in care facilities are usually white or beige, not funky neon pink. If you are healthy, truly health, would you really need to wear compression socks, especially while exercising?
- Average resident has virtually every data point tracked… calorie intake, water input and output levels are compared, # of pills taken, their heart rate and blood pressure is taken on schedule, and when it is time to stand stand up, to walk, every step is counted to see if they took more than yesterday. Are you tracking your ‘health’ in the same way?
- Average resident spends the predominant amount of time in their day sitting or lying in bed. Is that any different than your average day of sitting while you commute, sitting at your computer, sitting through teleconferences and meetings?
- Average resident joins in to get some exercise by sitting in on a wheelchair tai chi class, strength ‘n’ stretch class using weights or stretch cords, or takes a walk around the facility grounds. Is that any different than your average amount of daily exercise?
Those who reside in care facilities are not healthy. If they were, they wouldn’t be living there.
If your lifestyle doesn’t come up significantly different than that of a resident in a care facility, then maybe you need to reconsider whether your lifestyle and choices are all that healthy.
Their health is being ‘managed’. Is that your goal? To be managed. To break even with your health? On the verge of pain, injury, burn out, break down or a disease, but good enough to keep it going another day? For what? Just to survive? What about thriving, not just surviving.
The average resident in long term care today had a better chance to have a healthy lifestyle in many cases when compared to your generation growing up. When they were growing up…
- Meals were typically made lovingly by mom at home, and were shared around the dining room table, along with family conversations about the days events. Meals were made from natural ‘real’ food, not pink slime, fillers, genetically engineered or fake factory foods.
- Portion sizes were a 1/3 or a 1/4 of what is served today in restaurants and at home, and no one was starving as a result, few were overweight, and even fewer were obese.
- Food products didn’t have to be enriched in order to make up for their deficient quality in vitamins and minerals, as fruits and vegetables were grown on nutrient rich soil, not barren wastelands that had to be sprayed and fertilized in order to yield.
- Exercise did not have to be planned, because you walked or biked to and from school, and then right after dinner you ran back out to play, staying out late only racing home to desperately make it back before the street lights came on (so you didn’t break curfew).
- Imagination was required to create games, to make up rules to figure out how to make this game of tag or capture the flag more challenging than the last.
- Climbing trees and playing in the ravine didn’t require the principals permission, a game of soccer didn’t need a city permit.
- Getting out of breathe was a normal part of play, never a concern over one’s well being. Falling down and scraping a knee wasn’t considered a medical emergency, you brushed it off and kept going because who wants to be out of the game?
- The work day and its stress ended at 5pm, because there wasn’t technology to make it 24/7.
- Dehydration was a non issue, no one carried around water let alone salt pills. If it so happened that you became hungry, you waited til meal time (as spoiling your dinner came with its own consequences). There was no snack time and again, few were overweight and even fewer were obese.
The average care facility resident grew up when being and living healthy was far easier, yet how many still ended up in a care facility?
Today I see age group athletes and masters athletes striving for health, exercising intensely, madly trying to burn calories, squeezing in fitness and performance into their life, as opposed to health being the priority. I see athletes straining to generate watts to improve a bike time, power to decrease swim or run splits, but few realize that they do not have the capacity nor conditioning to attempt such training, and what they are performing is not what is meant by healthy exercise. Hi Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is appropriate only if you have years and years of simple base training, only after you have transformed your physiology and psychology to handle the volume and intensity of training for competition. Completing any event, a 10k, a marathon, a triathlon, least of all an iron distance triathlon on next to no training is in no way any indication of health.
Today I see former National level athletes, athletes who went on scholarship to university, returning to sport as a masters athlete. Many return broken, having had to walk away from sport because they were pushed outside themselves to produce results, not for themselves, not on their timelines, but for others. They return hoping that they can once again find the joy that sport once brought them, but they struggle with inner conflicts, facing truths about dreams they did and did not accomplish, about their own met and unmet expectations, and those of others.
Today I see people doing loads and loads of stuff thinking that its all for their good, following the headlines of what food to eat, how much to exercise, what supplements to consume in order to be healthy, but the point is being missed.
Health doesn’t come from the outside in, you cannot buy it, you do not put it on like a pair of new kicks. If you could, then how do you explain all those who I met that despite being abundant in financial wealth still ended up in a facility? There is no amount of financial wealth that can buy health, return you to being healthy. We say… “if you don’t have your health, you have nothing”, yet we live believing that if we aren’t dead or at the hospital then we must be healthy.
Today I see people thinking that either they have their health because some aspect of their lifestyle has been sold to them as a ‘healthy lifestyle’ choice, or because they don’t think they need to worry about their health until later in life (e.g. youth will get them through), and if it so happens that something does happen… well, the assumption is that there will be time to get things right or that there will be a pill for whatever ails them.
Before I was hit by a car – while on a bike ride during 3rd year of university – I thought that life would go on for forever. You could not of convinced me that I was anything but invincible.
After I worked in care facilities I realized that everyone believes that life will go on for forever, convinced that they are immune, invincible, or that there would always be enough time to get things in order (ahead of any health problem arising too).
We may hope its true (that we are invincible or immune), but hoping is not a winning strategy: hoping for what is clearly not reality is delusional. To hope that a disease doesn’t take us down, hoping that what we are doing is enough, is gambling with our health and with our life.
I blog because…
I want to share that there is an alternative to hoping and to gambling.
I want to share the difference that I have found between those who do live healthy, stay and remain healthy, who continue to explore their peak potential, and experience peak performances across the spectrum of life.
I want to share that those who are health live differently, and how they live differently. Those who are healthy work, exercise, eat and sleep just like everyone else, but how they do it is unlike anyone else; it is unequivocally different.
I want to share that what is packaged and sold to us on store shelves, in magazines, in pop-up ads online, and during commercial breaks is business. Business focused first and foremost on generating revenue and profit for shareholders. Whether their products or services are actually healthy, or yield health is secondary to quarterly sales.
I want to share that health is available to all, to anyone who wants to take their health into their own hands, to anyone willing to invest the time and effort and energy into themselves, into becoming healthy.
I want you to experience the difference in quality of life available to you. I am certain it will surpass anything you can imagine, as it has already surpassed anything I could have ever imagined.
Please visit the Blog Library for posts on topics ranging from biomechanics, on various aspects of training, on coaching, and for sport specific information. Thank you for reading.