Follow the Five M's to Good Health
|James H. Rimmer, Ph.D., Director|
When the body has not moved for 7 or 8 hours from the previous night's sleep, and is immediately placed into a sitting position in front of a computer screen with little movement other than clicking a keyboard, a huge disconnect develops between the mind and body. While the mind is nourished by reading and writing, the body is nourished by having blood transported to remote areas of the body; allowing sweat glands to warm the skin and give it that illustrious red glow; and giving muscles, tendons and ligaments the opportunity to be lengthened and shortened so that they can maintain their elasticity and pull on bones to keep them strong and resilient. As anyone who sits in front of a computer screen for most of their workday knows, writing without movement is like a dog without a master. The two are inseparable. I turned the computer off and went for a run.
NCPAD's desire is to assist people with disabilities to move more because Moving More Means More Mobility, something I have started to refer to as the "five M's to good health." One of the essential ways to avoid chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease is to find the best combination of movement and non-movement that meets your own needs. For some individuals, this may require a few minutes of movement several times a day. For others, a couple of long bouts are more effective. Unfortunately, moving more is often difficult for people with disabilities because of poor access to the outdoor park and recreation facilities; missing curb cuts, cracked sidewalks, or no sidewalks at all; and a general lack of home exercise equipment that is affordable or accessible. Getting down to the local park is not an option because of a lack of transportation. Ironically, a person can often be transported to a medical facility to see a doctor, but services to get to a local park or exercise facility are unavailable. And so the person is left to his or her own devices to find stimulating, enjoyable activities that will keep the body vibrant and healthy.
We at NCHPAD are using our creative 'juices' to assist you in moving more and hope that over the next several years you will learn many more ways to do so.
Here are a few simple suggestions for people who use wheelchairs. Note that they may need to be modified for each person's ability level:
- Turn off the computer or television set and wheel back and forth from your living room to your bedroom for 5 minutes. If you want a more vigorous workout, carry something on your lap that weighs a certain number of pounds that you can carry comfortably while you are moving from room to room.
- If you have access to the outdoors, wheel up and down the sidewalk. Wheeling up and down a 100-yard stretch four times is nearly a half-mile. Note that this is only suggested for safe neighborhoods with a low volume of traffic. An alternative would be to purchase a stationary wheelchair roller for home exercise use.
- One thing that forces me to leave my desk a few times a day when I am home on the weekends or telecommuting is my Cairn terrier, Mica. At various times throughout the day, Mica wants to go for a walk. My brief dog walks or runs are refreshing for the both of us. If you spend a great deal of time at home and don't have a dog, think about getting one if you can make the commitment to provide the love and attention that all dogs need. Having Mica clearly gets me outdoors more frequently during the day.
- Fill up a couple of empty 1-gallon milk containers with water (filled to the top is equivalent to 8 pounds, and one-quarter full is 2 pounds) and keep them close to your desk or television. An alternative would be weights with velcro straps, which can be attached to your wrists. During every commercial or at the end of each hour, lift them a few times to build muscles in your shoulders, arms and hands. Also, stretch your arms by raising them to the ceiling and pulling them behind your chair. Gently turn and twist your body in several different directions to get a good stretch in your back but make sure you don't feel any pain.
- Reduce your risk of pressure ulcers by getting off your bottom as often as possible. Sitting for long hours during the day dramatically increases the risk of pressure ulcers, something you want to avoid at any cost. If you are able to get out of your chair on your own and get down on the floor, that's a good way to relieve pressure. Try lying on your stomach for a few minutes of every hour or two. A physical therapist can help you learn the right posture for maintaining this position.
- NCHPAD is starting to develop its own exercise clips and videos. Check out the NCHPAD website (or call us at 800-900-8086) in early January for more video clips on how to exercise in your home. We are preparing some exciting materials that, along with an inexpensive DVD player (they can now be purchased for less than $70), you'll be able to exercise with our NCHPAD staff and other people who have disabilities.
What's the bottom line regarding good health? Eat well, move more and sleep 7 to 8 hours a night. Most inactivity-related diseases affect people who move very little. It's time to follow the five M's to good health: -Moving More Means More Mobility.- You'll feel better and your overall well being will increase. Time for another dog run!