Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How to Stay Active for the Long Term

Change the Calendar, Change Your Routines!

This time of year always brings memories back of performing in the ballet version of The Nutcracker. It really was an amazing time but it was also physically demanding. By the end of the run, I would need a few days of rest before I could get back to being my active self, even as a teenager.  When people find out I am a physical therapist that used to dance, the response is usually, "Oh, so you got into physical therapy because you got hurt at some point, right?" I was lucky enough to make it through my dance career without any major injuries. However, looking back, I really don't think it was all luck.

In addition to dance, I also played lacrosse. Yes, those are two very different physical activities, but that's the point. I would do weight lifting, sprinting, practice for lacrosse a few times a week and then have dance class and rehearsal the other days. By constantly changing up what my body was doing, I didn't allow for wear and tear injuries to occur and my body's strength was well rounded. I was reaping the benefit of cross training.

The metaphor I use with patients is this: when you look at the stairs of an old house, the wood is worn down in places where people placed their feet for decades. Your body is the same way; if you always do the same activities week

after week, your body gets worn down in the same ways. What wasn't a problem before is now painful or hard to do. That's why your, physical therapist/physician/trainer/chiropractor/etc might tell you to change things up in your fitness or activity routine.

Cross training is a proven concept. Professional athletes take yoga to stretch and unload joints. Factory line workers change positions on the line to prevent overuse injuries. So how does this relate to you? Someone who plays basketball often may want to do something different once a week, like a spin class. Now, you're not wearing down your body in the same way and you're making your strength well rounded. If a teacher spends all day standing, swimming would be a good way to unload joints while still working on cardiovascular fitness.

Whether you are a dancer, athlete, manual worker, or just trying to stay active for the long run (which should be everyone's goal), cross training is an important concept for everyone to practice. Physical therapists can help by evaluating your current weakness and figuring out ways to fix them. A physical therapy consult is a good way to get started.

 PTW’s Sean Vanin, DPT is the Clinical Supervisor at our Quakertown clinic. For an initial evaluation, call Sean at 215 538 9911 today!