The lifestyle factors that have the biggest impact on long-term health can be summarised by the acronym SNAPS3. They are Smoking, Nutrition, Alcohol, Physical Activity, Sleep, Stress and Social Participation.
In chiropractic circles, this has always been conceptualised as the ‘Triangle of Health’
Books can, and have, been written on each of the SNAPS3 risk factors and how we can improve our quality of life and health by making changes in these areas. So, I am going to focus on providing a few resources that I have found helpful, primarily in the area of physical activity. I am, of course, very happy to discuss any aspect of SNAPS3 or health and healthy living on a one-to-one basis.
Getting Your Body Moving Again
It is so important to move your body every day. Chiropractic care can be really helpful for making this easier and more comfortable but you still have to get your body moving. For the joints ‘motion is lotion’ causing the release of extra lubrication (synovial fluid) and keeping the joints healthy. Did you know that marathon runners have less hip and knee arthritis than the general population? Muscles and bones need load to keep them strong and moving your body stimulates your brain in important and healthy ways.
If you are currently struggling with an injury, The [P]rehab Guys have some very well planned rehab programmes for various body parts (click on the ‘Products’ drop down menu to see the list).
International recommendations for physical activity and health
Most of us have heard the recommendation for 30 mins of moderate-intensity physical activity per day. However, many people don’t realise that the recommendations include at least two sessions of resistance training per week in addition to this.
These recommendations are the same for adults aged 18-64 and for adults aged 65 and over. The recommendation for children aged 5-17 years is for 60 mins per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
If you can make this level of physical activity part of the rhythm of your week, you will be amazed at how good you feel.
Moderate Physical Activity
If the thought of donning some lycra and going out for a jog is bringing you out in a cold sweat, the good news is that ‘exercise’ is just one sub-category of ‘physical activity’. Other options include leisure activities, play, active transport and household chores (think Mrs Doubtfire) dancing while doing the hoovering.
You’re aiming for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity that gets your heart rate up each week. Or, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of the two.
Pushing that up to 300 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week provides added benefits.
On a personal level, I have been learning about the importance of not neglecting this part of the recommendations recently. Prior to the Coronavirus induced lockdown, I had relied almost exclusively on swimming for my physical activity. Following the closure of the pools, I discovered how de-conditioned I had become in terms of working out on land. Getting back into some resistance training has really been helping me to address some long-standing muscle weaknesses/imbalances – a small, unintended benefit of the lockdown.
There are a myriad of helpful websites/on-line programmes and of course personal trainers and gyms out there to help you with this. The programme I have been using is provided by The [P]rehab Guys – it is their [P]rehab at Home programme. It costs $99 (reduced to $20 during the coronavirus lockdown) for lifetime access and provides some excellent functional workouts that you can complete at home with either no equipment or minimal equipment such as a few resistance bands and weights.
The Barefoot Revolution
Our feet are designed to function optimally when we are barefoot – that is when there is no drop from heel to toe, the toes are allowed to spread out to help with stability and balance, the muscles of the lower leg and foot support the arch naturally and we can gain plenty of sensory feedback from contact with the ground. It is also true that our feet need protection from dangerous/sharp objects on the ground and from extremes of temperature (I learnt this by trying to be totally barefoot in winter and ended up with chilblains on my toes – doh!). Unfortunately, most modern footwear, while adding style in a fashionable sense, cramps our style in a functional sense. This happens by raising the heel, squashing the toes together, providing arch support (so our muscles don’t have to do the work) and so much padding that feedback from the ground is reduced.
For these reasons, I think that gradually transitioning to ‘barefoot shoes’ is a great idea. That is footwear that provides protection from sharp objects and extremes of temperature but does this without altering the way the foot works (zero drop from heel to toe, wide toe box, no arch support and less cushioning).
This page at The Foot Collective has a large number of links to different barefoot shoe manufacturers as well as some information on making the transition.
If you are interested in transitioning to running ‘barefoot’, I would suggest Altra Running Shoes – because, for running, some cushioning is a good idea if you want to avoid common injuries.
For walking in the forest or in wet/muddy terrain, I would highly recommend the Freet Mudees – I absolutely love walking in these.
Finally, some books that I have found really helpful on the journey towards better health physically, nutritionally/chemically and mentally/emotionally/spiritually.