One of the most difficult tasks with my practice is getting people started on an exercise regimen, particularly those with chronic illnesses-the ones who need to the most. Many mistakenly believe that exercise is unsafe for them, but ongoing research is making the opposite case, repeatedly showing that regular exercise is not only safe for those with chronic illnesses but a vital treatment that can boost self-esteem, energy, vigor, and in many cases can even reverse the course of disease. I’m currently working with a man with Parkinson’s disease. A year ago, he could not transfer from the bed to his motorized scooter, much less walk upright (with a walker). Today, he is able to transfer much more easily, and currently walks with his walker anywhere from 800 to 1400 steps! How? He does relatively intense exercise therapy with me four times per week. The sessions are not always fun, but this man has his eye on the prize; to walk upright again and to gain more independence in his life. I don’t always have the same success with others, however, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. One couple in their 80’s, who had not exercised their whole lives, were referred to me by a doctor. Other than being extremely weak and deconditioned, they did not have any major disease. I started them on what I thought was an easy introduction to an exercise program, but it turned out to be too much. They reported being sore for several days and threw in the towel after just three sessions. That experience taught me to scale the sessions down to begin with, even if it’s just five to 10 minutes a day. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or uncomfortable to be effective. Try to do as much as you can without causing undue fatigue or soreness. Certain daily activities add up. Park the car so that you have to walk further to get to the store, When you’re on the phone, stand up and move around. When getting up from a chair, repeat it four or five times-it only adds a few seconds to the task but the strength gains are appreciable. If you feel too tired to exercise, give it a go anyway. Surprisingly, activity can actually give your energy a boost, and also elevates mood. Activity also makes getting in and out of a car, opening jars, carrying groceries, or climbing stairs much easier AND can reduce the risk of falls and other injuries. Before you start, check with your doctor. Also, before you continue to sit on the couch and watch TV, consult with your doctor. Drink plenty of water, wear good-fitting athletic shoes, and listen to your body when exercising. Stop if you feel nauseous, dizzy, break out in a cold sweat, have muscle cramps, or have severe nerve pain in your joints, legs, or feet. To stay motivated, find activities  that are fun and keep a journal/log to track progress. For an informative article on exercise and health, check out Consumer Reports On Health magazine this month (April).

If you are one who enjoys a soda or other sugary drink every day, beware! Sugary drinks are associated with a significant 20% increased risk of heart disease, according to  findings in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, reported by Dr Lawrence de Koning (Children’s Hospital Boston, MA) and colleagues online March 12,2012 in the journal Circulation. Sugar increases inflammation, which could be the pathway for the impact of soda on cardiovascular health disease (CHD) risk. The implications for public-health issues are quite substantial, given the widespread consumption of soda in the US and other developed and developing countries. Diet sodas were not analyzed in this study. Personally, I used to enjoy a Coca Cola a couple of times a week, but I’ve cut back to once a month or so, drinking water, tea, or coffee instead. I lead such an exciting life.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.