Improve Your Life By Mary Jaksch GUEST POST BY CHRISTOPHER STEPIEN OF THE HUMBLE OBSERVER Do you want to be pain-free? Today? How about ten years from now? Your body is your home. Your health choices determine your ability to withstand life’s storms now and as you age. Choosing wisely allows you to live in your dream home with a forecast of sunshine, keeping pain off the radar. I once chose to continue running on a torn hamstring with the help of medication. The bruise behind my knee continued to grow until after a week, I couldn’t walk because the pain became excruciating. Rehabilitation took a couple of months, longer than initially expected. I couldn’t exercise, couldn’t move, and couldn’t play football, which I lived for. I was depressed. When the fire alarm goes off, don’t turn it off. Put out the fire! Lesson learned. Your Body’s Alarm System Pain is a powerful motivator because it isn’t pleasant. It can sometimes be horrid. People do whatever they can to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Pain is a signal that something is damaged … the higher the volume, the more likely we are to hear it and do something about it. The more difficult it is to put the fire out, the more likely we will be to prevent it in the future. Movement and exercise is fire prevention. They build a home that is not only safe, but that looks great too! Exercise releases endorphins to bring happiness, gives us lean muscles and reduced body fat to look beautiful, and healthier bio-markers such as reduced blood cholesterol and increased HDLs (the good fats) to keep us upright longer. Everyone knows that exercise works. Most don’t realize how they may be increasing the risk of fire by letting the maid do the plumber’s job! Just as your home needs different materials and workers (ie. plumbers vs. electricians) for specific tasks, your body craves various nutrients and movements to maintain the health of the various tissues of your body (ie. muscles vs. blood cells. vs. nerve cells). Here is your house maintenance crew. 7 Guidelines Towards Living a Pain-Free Life: 1. Move as many different ways as possible … as many hours of the day … everyday. Work, clean, play. This allows your body to vary its movements and keeps the body’s workload balanced. With repetitive movements, certain areas of the body become overworked, leading to pain. 2. Move every joint in as full a range of motion as possible at least once a day. Moving joints and muscles in their full ranges ensure that flexibility is maintained. We use the full length and width of our muscles. Short range movement guarantees muscular stiffness, decreasing the body’s muscular capacity, allowing a smaller amount of work to lead to pain. 3. Lift something HEAVY for repetitions at least a couple times a week. Lifting heavy things stimulates new nerve to nerve and nerve to muscle connections. Our muscles grow stronger and our metabolism increases. You can imagine what more nerve connections could do for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and depression! 4. Lift something QUICKLY for repetitions at least a couple times a week. Lifting quickly creates power. More than any other fitness attribute such as strength or endurance, power is the most important attribute when it comes to aging healthy. Why? When you slip on the ice, the quicker you can activate core muscles to catch yourself, the less chance there is that you end up on the ground and with a hip replacement. 5. Raise your heart rate and breathe heavily at least four times a week. Taxing the heart makes it stronger. Not only that, but increasing blood flow is akin to cleaning up a traffic accident. Inflammation and fatty plaques get lodged in our blood cells. When we increase the speed of our blood, it helps clean up the congestion so blood can easily flow and a heart attack or stroke is much less likely. 6. Don’t hold any posture without moving for more than 30 minutes (especially sitting). This doesn’t mean you have to run a mile. A 1 or 2 minute walk to the water cooler will do, perhaps combined with an arm stretch overhead. Why? Pull a rubberband taut for a second and let go; it easily comes back to its normal length. Pull a rubberband taut and hold for an extended period of time, it won’t come back to its normal length, and if it does, it will be a while. This same concept occurs to our muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. When our muscles are not at their normal lengths, they don’t function optimally, and can result in injury and compensation. 7. Eat as many vegetables and fruits as possible. They have a high nutrient:calorie ratio. Consuming calories causes stress in our bodies. The more nutrients we have to clean up the stress from digestion, the more easily we are able to keep our bodies in a relaxed and body-building state. Processed foods stress our bodies unnecessarily. A damaged and hyper-healing state (ie. inflammatory state) results. Any pain we are feeling is intensified and the body splints itself, laying down scar tissue. Not only that, but our body heals and makes new body cells out of the food we eat. Do you want a house made out of steel and wood or paper and straw? A Strong Foundation for a Thriving Life We all know somebody with chronic back pain from inactivity, or chronic knee pain from a fall. That somebody chose to forego house maintenance. Tragedy affects the exerciser as well. Over-training can lead to a herniated disc. Ignored foot pain during running can result in a stress fracture. Natural disaster hits. Whether we exercise or not, accidents and injuries happen. But by laying a strong foundation for our body with movement variety, we allow it room to handle life’s disasters (natural or unnatural) without breaking down. A proactive approach with movement prevents the pain that people assume comes with old age. Pain-free, we are able to do the things that we love now and everyday for the rest of our lives. How would a pain-free future enable you to do what you love? Christopher is a chiropractor, health/fitness enthusiast, and nature lover who lives to empower others and writes about the unconventional wisdom of health and happiness on his blog, The Humble Observer.