An interview by Delia from www.hranatate.ro
Nowadays, many people suffer from a disease, which can be called "the disease of the century": sedentarism.
Sedentarism is a lifestyle based on little or no movement. The activities of a sedentary person, regardless if we're talking about a job or free time, usually involve sitting on a chair or lying on a bed.
Sedentarism is a risk factor that leads to many health problems.
I have never been a "sport person", naturally feeling more inclined towards sedentarism. But, due to some health issues, I had to spend a lot of time lying in the bed, which has brought additional problems for my muscular system.
That's why I've started doing kinetotherapy daily, for more than 6 months already, and I understood the value of movement for healing, recovery, but most importantly, for the prevention of future health problems.
I have invited Alexander Ilie better known as Dr.Fix, from the "Provita" Clinic in Bucharest, to tell us more about sedentarism and physical activity.
Delia: What is the price we're paying for a sedentary lifestyle? Why is sedentarism considered the "disease of the century"?
Dr.Fix: First of all, I'd like to salute all the community that is following your blog. What you're doing for people can be considered true mastery and I find all of it extremely valuable for anybody who wants to lead a healthy lifestyle. Nowadays, people can be described as going against their own nature. We've been designed to be bipeds, to spend many hours walking, even running, but nowadays these activities have unfortunately become just a “cool trend”. The price for this sedentary lifestyle, when we work at least 8 hours a day in a seated position, then while we go home we are also seated in the personal or public transport, then after getting home again we are seated in an armchair... the price for all these is DEVASTATING.
I'm describing things this way because the majority of my patients lead this lifestyle, which causes a serious illness called herniated discs.
Delia: How did we get from an active lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle?
Dr.Fix: From my point of view, this can be called evolution taking a step back, regarding human nature, like I've already said. The reasons for this are simple, but I believe the most important one is the lack of education on this topic. Most people are not aware of the price they are going to pay emotionally, socially and also financially, for the lack of physical movement. A passive lifestyle guarantees that people will get serious health issues, the only thing unknown being when exactly this issues will manifest.
Delia: What is the role of physical activity and keeping a healthy muscular system, for the body?
Dr.Fix: Physical activity helps keep the muscular system healthy. It's also important to remember that most “energy factories” inside the body (i.e. the mitochondria) are located inside muscle tissue. A well developed muscular system ensures that we have a strong energy base, therefore the need for energy drinks (including coffee) surprisingly decreases. So, from a social and professional point of view, somebody can be more productive and more focused, simply by having a well developed muscular system. But this can happen only when we have enough active and functional “energy factories”. Therefore, here is another good reason why maintaining a healthy muscular system becomes a “MUST”. Luckily, nowadays we have digital equipment that can asses the state of somebody's muscular system.
Delia: What does muscular atrophy mean for health? Under what circumstances does it appear? How fast do muscles atrophy, compared to the time it takes to recover?
Dr.Fix: Muscular atrophy means loosing muscle mass. There can be many causes for this, and the level of atrophy can vary. If we're referring to a full halt of psychical movement after an injury, then we can notice that after a week of lying in the bed, we can loose up to 50% of the muscular mass. The duration of recovery varies based on age, physical activity level and diet. The general pattern is that the time needed for recovering muscle mass is 3 times longer than the time needed to loose the same amount of muscle mass. Therefore, we should avoid long periods of time when we are not constantly doing any physical activity. In other words, we can say that muscle mass is the same as trust or respect: easy to loose but hard to get back.
Delia: I've noticed that there are a lot of children that come to do kinetotherapy, in order to gain back the muscular mass they've lost, which seems incredible and maybe even dangerous for the health of the adults that they're going to become later. What are your recommendations for their parents? What can they do to motivate their children to lead a more active lifestyle?
Dr.Fix: Indeed, sedentarism among children can lead to a series of health issues that did not exist among children 20 years ago. Children do what they see their parents doing, not what they're told to do. So, the best way to motivate children to engage in physical activity is by personal example. If you, as a parent, practice physical activities daily, and if it's a habit which has priority in your life, then your child will follow you 100%. I'm a strong believer in leadership and I think that the lack of it, is the root cause of most issues in our society. Personal example motivates others best.
Delia: What does an active lifestyle mean?
Dr.Fix: If we take a look at what most people call “normal life”, we see that people spend 12 hours a day in a seated position. This position leads to relaxation of the abdominal muscles, combined with lack of posture. This leads to certain changes in the spine and not only that. The most frequent issues arise at the lower back level, followed by issues at the cervical level, which cause discomfort in daily life, until the pain gets so intense that people have no other choice but visiting a doctor. So, an active lifestyle needs to consist of exercises that would compensate for the seated position, done twice daily, plus at least a minimum of 3 hours a week of physical movement, for example walks in the park.
Delia: It seems obvious that thanks to an active lifestyle and a balanced diet, we can prevent many health issues.
But if the health issues already started, can we later get rid of them by increasing physical activity? I'm asking because we, the Romanian people, have an ancient belief that we should lie in bed when we are sick. How valid is this belief?
Dr.Fix: A basic principle of medicine is individuality, meaning that there is no general sickness, but there is an individual state of being sick. When health issues arise, we need to get first a precise diagnose, then we need a recovery plan developed by an interdisciplinary team. Depending on the issues that are found, a team consisting of a neurologist, a pain specialist, a kinetotherapist and a psychologist may be needed. I want to emphasize the importance of the later, because 80% of my patients have acute pain caused by intense psycho-emotional issues. In other words, stress and frustration cause the body to be tense, the body being already unbalanced, therefore acute pain arises. When being sick, I recommend spending quality time with the loved ones for a whole day, and also having the mobile phone turned off during all that time. Lying in bed helps only in critical situations. Otherwise, human nature needs socializing and love, needs which can't be normally fulfilled, while lying in the bed. And since you've mentioned ancient beliefs, it's important to remember another one stating that “a healthy mind lives in a healthy body”. Movement means life, so certainly movement helps a lot during the healing process.
Delia: What do you think about going to the gym? Can there be an excess of sport?
Dr.Fix: Going to the gym can be extremely beneficial. Issue arise when we don't have a personal trainer or when we have one, but who has not properly prepared for this duty. Also, the gym is a place where competition will inevitably arise, and people could feel the need to affirm themselves compared to others, which can lead to serious health issues if their body is subjected to efforts higher than what it is prepared to handle. Training programs which don't have, as a main target, a balanced muscular development, can also lead to health issues. Unfortunately, a third of my patients come to kinetotherapy because they have been to the gym 3 times a week. This makes me warn people about going to the gym too often.
Delia: Is there any age limit for doing physical activity?
Dr.Fix: We start moving inside our mother's womb. Women who had a child can confirm this. So physical activity should become a lifestyle for the entire duration of our existence. By the way, something regarding age limit from my experience: I have a patient who comes twice a week at the clinic where I work, and who inspires a lot of people, because he's 92 years old and still regularly practices physical activities. There is no age limit when we're talking about practicing psychical activities.
Delia: Can you recommend us some exercises or how to incorporate physical activities in our daily life?
Dr.Fix: I recommend standing up from the office chair at least 3 times a day, and moving the cervical part of your spine, then stretching your legs, even under your office table, and also stretching your arms up, above your head, a few times. These simple movements, done daily, can prevent most of the spine health issues. During the recovery process, I'm always taking care that each patient follows what I call the “spine hygiene”: a set of specific exercises which help maintain our skeletal-muscular system healthy, when practiced daily.
Delia: Dr.Fix , in the name of all our readers, we thank you for your recommendations and for all the information that you've structured and explained so well, and we're looking forwards to talking with you about other topics regarding a healthy lifestyle!