Exercise for Optimal Health

Exercise for Optimal Health

By Dr. Aparna Hegde,

General and Integrative Medicine Practitioner, and MMBS, FRACGP, MPH & Tropical Medicine, Dip Aviation Med, ACAAM

"Eat less, move more" is the catch phrase often quoted. There are many ways to move more and the key is to individualise to what works best for you. Exercise can be a prescription for anything that ails you and has so many benefits from neurogenesis to cancer prevention that we simply must get on and do it! How do you find what will work best for you? It depends on your existing health issues and goals. This is where a functional medicine GP can work with you to get your best "bang for buck" with your exercise plan.

The common strategies I use as a functional medicine GP as well as for myself are outlined below:

1. Cheap and Easy
Start easy to incorporate routines in your life to get at least 1 hour of activity daily. This can be broken up into small chunks through the day as part of your lifestyle such as taking the stairs instead of travelator or lift where possible, walking or riding to the shops, friends or work and doing necessary chores such as cleaning the house vigorously – music with a fast beat such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers is awesome for the more unpleasant jobs such as cleaning bathrooms!

I find people are more likely to do exercises if there are multiple benefits to the one activity such as women catching up with girlfriends by going for a walk along the beach, foreshore, around Lake Monger or Kings Park – we get in our Vitamin D production with exposure to sunshine, enjoy natural surrounds positively helping our mental health (The Nature Fix by Florence Williams is a great reference I recommend reading), keep up the pace by one picking it up while the other slacks off all while chatting and laughing and best of all it does not feel like we are working at getting our exercise done.

Another activity that is fantastically multi-purpose is dancing. It is very social, excellent for maintaining brain health, bone density and improving co-ordination. Whether it be Zumba, latin, ballroom, or Bollywood dancing - finding a dance or many that you enjoy is a great way to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle without it feeling like a chore.

One activity that many long lived patients do right here in Cottesloe is daily swimming in the sea. Regardless of the weather, there are a stalwart bunch of swimmers that gather in the morning to get into the water for their daily constitutional. One lady that is well into her late eighties claims never to have skipped a day for over 10 years and looks decades younger than she is. It seems there is a very like-minded group that are getting in their daily exercise while having some cold therapy (look into Wim Hof, the Iceman's research on the benefits of cold exposure), Vitamin D, nature fix and social interactions long before many of us have started our day!

I can also recommend gardening as a multi-purpose exercise, which is particularly social if you get into the local community garden– you gain the satisfaction of seeing your efforts translate into growth in beauty and/or edibles, gain your vitamin D, have your nature fix add to the health of your microbiome with exposure to soil.

Some people find a pedometer and targeting 10,000 steps per day suits them more and personally I find free youtube videos such as Yoga with Adriene great to unwind mentally while getting in some activity. If I have got to the end of a very sedentary day and kids are fed and in bed, watching a TV series while on the treadmill is a great way of ensuring I can get 60 mins exercise in while also switching off from the demands of the day.

2. A more targeted approach 
Get a DEXA scan to get your baseline body composition and fasting blood tests to establish your risk factors for chronic health conditions. The DEXA scan will give you very useful information such as bone density, lean muscle mass, fat distribution and any asymmetry between right and left that can be used to target your exercise interventions. You can organise to have a DEXA scan and get follow up advice at Azure Medical.

If you have a chronic medical condition (such as osteoarthritis, hypertension or diabetes) your Azure Medical GP is able to do a GP Management plan to enable access to allied specialists such as dieticians, exercise physiologists, psychologists with a Medicare rebate. This makes these essential services to establish an exercise plan that best suits you more affordable.

3. A specific approach
Another strategy I use in addition to the above to get more specific with my exercise recommendations is a genetic test such as the Genomic Wellness test by Smart DNA. https://www.smartdna.com.au/genomic-wellness-test/ I recently did one of these for myself to see what was involved.

The company provides a test kit to registered medical practitioners such as myself that can order the test for you. It must be paid for upfront (current discount cost at Azure is $450 + GST) and there is no Medicare or Health fund rebate for this test. The information provided incorporates genetic information that you can address with lifestyle and has proven very useful to give specific advice to patients.

You can make an appointment with me to discuss if the Genomic Wellness test would be useful for you.

Regardless of what your approach to exercise may be, I know that if you enjoy and look forward to it rather than approach it as something you detest doing, you are more likely to stick to it. If you are not getting an average of 1hr a day of moderate to vigorous activity a day, it is time to get some help to get you there. Book in with your Azure Medical GP to discuss some of the strategies I have discussed in this article and with me in particular if you want a functional medicine approach.

Published by A5M with permission from the author

A5M Medical Education - Providing training, certification and continuing education in Preventative, Integrative & Anti-Ageing Medicine

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