Creating a Healthy Lifestyle
Physical Fitness and Exercise
Physical fitness is not something that can be achieved quickly or easily. Always talk with your physician and orthotist first to see what kind of exercise program would be appropriate for your condition. In many cases some physical exercise will help your recovery both mentally and physically.
A comprehensive exercise program should condition both the upper and lower body as well as the cardiovascular system. Weight bearing activities and weight lifting are appropriate for most people and have the added benefit of strengthening the skeletal system. Swimming is a type of exercise that strengthens the body and cardiovascular system without putting additional stress on the joints. What matters most is finding a form of exercise you really like and that fits into your life. It can be as simple as walking or riding a bicycle, or can involve joining a fitness center or going to an exercise class. You decide and then stick with it!
One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it helps you maintain a healthy, stable weight. It is not unusual for new orthotic users recovering from injury to become sedentary. This can lead to rapid weight gain, causing challenges in both your health and in your rehabilitation. Being overweight also reduces your stamina and puts strain on your muscles, joints and tendons.
Good nutrition and regular exercise also have a positive effect on your skeletal system and help to prevent osteoporosis. Bone density, mass and strength all naturally begin to decrease with age as evidenced by the decrease in height that begins in men around age 40, and in women around age 43. After the age of 50, loss of bone tissue shows a marked increase, particularly among women. Most women will lose about 30 percent of their bone tissue, while men average a 17 percent loss. Millions of American women will suffer some kind of fracture this year due to osteoporosis. You can strengthen your bones by including calcium-rich foods in your daily diet like milk, yogurt, kefir, fish and dark green vegetables. Reduce your intake of caffeine, which blocks the absorption of calcium, and try to eliminate both regular and diet soft drinks from your diet. Depending on your specific situation, your physician may prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements, estrogen or fluoride.
Being active and maintaining a healthy weight also help prevent cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. About 60 percent of men over 60 and women over 80 will experience major narrowing of the arteries. In fact, vascular problems are one of the primary causes of lower extremity amputation in older adults. Many older adult prosthetic users are vulnerable to cardiovascular problems that stem from inactivity.
If you are feeling depressed or sad, physical therapy and an on-going exercise program can help you reduce these feelings. Studies have proven that regular exercise stimulates the release of chemical endorphins that help lift depression.
Like exercise, eating right is not usually something that can be achieved overnight. Start with small changes and slowly add healthier food choices to your daily diet. If you have not already done so, reduce your intake of processed food and sugar, and increase your intake of water. In your daily diet, favor fresh vegetables and fruits, lean cuts of meat, low fat dairy products and whole grain breads and cereals. If you eat out frequently, look for lower fat/lower calorie options on the menu or ask for your food to be prepared in a healthier way. For example, if the salad has fried chicken on it, ask if you could have grilled chicken instead, or substitute French fries with green salad or steamed vegetables.
Finally, if you smoke, strongly consider quitting. You may feel that quitting right now would be too difficult but you can at least learn about your options. The US Surgeon General has stated, "Smoking cessation (stopping smoking) represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives." You’ll find methods for quitting at www.cancer.org or www.smokefree.gov. Nicotine Replacement Therapy has helped thousands of people give up smoking for good.