Exercise that Works

Leading horses to water

I discovered pretty early in my practice that things don’t work for patients if the advice doesn’t fit them.  There could be the perfect treatment for their condition, as dictated by scientific evidence, but if it’s not something that interests them it doesn’t work very well, even if they do it!  For example, there’s evidence to suggest that weekly Tai Chi works as good (if not better than) medication for improving blood pressure, and maybe even cholesterol, and anxiety. 1, 2. Despite that, if you don’t enjoy Tai Chi, you’re not likely to stick to it or benefit as much even if you do.  This is why individual medicine and a tailored approach is so crucial to seeing real improvements.

Different Strokes

We often say, as if it is energetic voodoo, that “the best medicine is the one that resonates with the patient.”  The truth behind this is that you have to pick and choose things that fit with someone’s lifestyle and preference to reduce the stress changing as much as possible.  Stress and anxiety are barriers to making change; Something that challenges someone’s identity is also doomed to fail without some serious intent to change that identity. I’m generalizing, but good luck getting someone who identifies as macho, or hardened to do regular meditation or yoga practice.   You’re much more likely to get that kind of a personality to push weights at the gym, or even take on jogging or climbing.

Choose whatever sucks less!

Now, the hard truth is that exercise is never really easy.  One of the reasons it’s so beneficial is because it exercises discipline: few people want to get up and exercise, but once you’re going it feels pretty good.  If you feel good doing certain activity but not others, then keep doing the stuff that you feel good about, or that gives you some value.  The key here is that exercise is going to suck no matter what type you’re doing – so you might as well choose something you at least enjoy, or are likely to continue.  Don’t let someone tell you need to jog if you despise it, but actually really enjoy a leisurely walk. Don’t listen to advise to spend 40 minutes on an exercise bike if you actually enjoy throwing around iron in the gym.  There are many ways to make strength training into Cardio, you might just need some clever assistance in doing so!

By: Dr. Kahlen Pihowich, ND

  1. Tsai JC, Wang WH, Chan P, et al. The beneficial effects of Tai Chi Chuan on blood pressure and lipid profile and anxiety status in a randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2003;9(5):747-54.
  2. Wang J, Feng B, Yang X, et al. Tai chi for essential hypertension. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:215254.

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