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Why is Lifestyle Medicine Essential to Sustainable Health?

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

Lifestyle medicine (defined by The American College of Lifestyle Medicine) is, “an evidence-based approach to preventing, treating, and even reversing diseases by replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive ones – such as eating healthfully, being physically active, managing stress, avoiding risky  substance abuse, adequate sleep and having a strong support system.” 

This progressive approach to healthcare has already shown to have many beneficial effects including decreased illness/injury rates, decreased healthcare costs, and improvement in overall quality of life. More research is coming out confirming that this holistic approach to health is more effective in illness/injury prevention and treatment than our traditional compartmentalized healthcare system currently offers.

Healthy Eating

Having a balanced diet is one of the most important factors to living a healthy lifestyle. There are so many diet strategies out there that people can sometimes forget that a whole food diet with a large volume of fruits and vegetables can have a positive impact on their health. Food also has can help how our bodies heal from injury or recover from illness. 

There is a “magic bullet” to a healthy diet, there are several factors to consider for nutrition. 

Plant-based diet

Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. Plant-based diets have been growing in popularity lately. A plant-based diet definitely has a lot of benefits like improving health, boost energy levels, and can help prevent chronic diseases.

Plant-based diets include:

  • Fruits: Any type of fruit including apple, bananas, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits, etc.
  • Vegetables: Plenty of veggies including peppers, corn, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, collards, etc.
  • Tubers: Root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets. etc.
  • Whole grains: Grains, cereals, and other starches in their whole form, such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, whole wheat, oats, barley, etc. Even popcorn is a whole grain.
  • Legumes: Beans of any kind, plus lentils, pulses, etc.

Physical Activity

Person running to get physical activity to improve lifestyleThis is where physical therapy is on the front lines in combating chronic illness and pain. Physical therapists are muscular structure experts with a strong knowledge of how to get and keep the body moving. Physical activity promotes increased muscle strength, improved heart function, improved circulation, and improve metabolic activity. All of these things help the body heal and gain progressive health.

Managing Stress

In line with physical activity, physical therapy allows us to manage the physical stress applied to the body. This, in combination with pain management and patient education, allows us to help individuals manage other forms of stress associated with a given ailment. Put simply, our stress level rises when our bodies hurt or do not perform to the level we would like them to.  Stress levels lower when we properly heal.

Avoiding Substance Abuse

Substances can obviously include alcohol and recreational drugs but can also include unhealthy consumption of other things such as soda, energy drinks, or even pain medication for a given ailment. Education is crucial here for some of these substances but physical relief from pain can also be a strong contributor to avoid this substance abuse. Natural pain relief through physical therapy helps individuals regain control over their lives and has a direct relationship with decreased utilization of addictive pain medication.

Adequate Sleep

Sleep has a major impact on all areas of health including physical, emotional, and psychological fatigue. Physical activity and proper pain relief through physical therapy have an immediate and direct impact on sleep performance. We are able to address positioning and sleep habits through physical therapy has helped improve our patient’s overall sleep quality.

Strong Support System

This is an area that is overlooked significantly in our healthcare system, particularly within the realm of physical therapy. Doctors of physical therapy are not only experts in their field but they are also part of a patient’s support system that encourages and assists them towards their overall goals. 

Unlike other healthcare professionals, we have the opportunity to meet directly with our patients multiple times per week to not only progress treatment but ensure their needs are being met. This consistent work with a healthcare professional has a direct relationship with successful health outcomes as the patient feels supported and has an always evolving treatment plan based on their needs.

Lifestyle Medicine is growing in popularity and is showing significant advantages compared to our “traditional” healthcare model of treating illness once it occurs with medication or surgery. This new approach allows patients to proactively take control over their health through preventative and holistic medicine. As doctors of physical therapy, we are in an ideal position to help patients regain control over their lives through a combination of physical interventions, education, and emotional support.

Please call your local Wright Physical Therapy location to see how our Lifestyle Medicine approach can help you towards your goals.