success stories

A Plan All Priests Need to Take Much More Seriously
to Reduce Seriousness and the Anxiety
it Produces in their Ministry

Taken from St. Luke’s Web Page
Developing A Fitness Plan
Dana Dowd, M.S.P.T.

First the good news: the pursuit of a healthy body is easier, safer, more scientific, and more "user friendly" than ever. Health clubs, wellness centers, insurance incentives, and a variety of fitness/health professionals are a telephone call or email click away. The bad news: under 20% of all individuals have an organized, specific exercise/health plan. Smoking, poor diet, and lack of physical activity are serious culprits in most major disease processes. It has been stated that if exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the most prescribed medication in the world.

Moderate exercise of thirty minutes, three times a week has benefits beyond cardiovascular endurance, and muscular strength. Multiple physiological systems are positively affected and reflect the following changes:

--- Decrease in "bad" cholesterol, increase in "good cholesterol"

--- Decrease in blood pressure, increased immune system function, increased transfer of blood sugar into cells

--- Decreased incidence of certain cancers (breast, colon, prostate)

--- Decreased incidence of cumulative stress disorders (carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet, chronic neck pain, chronic low back pain, TMJ syndrome)

--- Increased deep sleep, increased production of "mood" neurotransmitters and natural opiates (melatonin, seratonin, endorphins)

---- Increased bone density, increased reaction time, balance, and coordination.

The costs of exercise are much less when compared to medication, doctor visits, medical procedures and time lost from work due to illness. Finally, medication, tests, and surgical procedures all have significant risks and side effects while properly performed exercise programs are virtually risk free and all the side effects are good for you!

There are five major areas addressed in a complete fitness plan.

1) Heart/Lung Endurance (cardiovascular/pulmonary) is the ability of the heart and lungs to handle muscular activity, brisk walking, stair or hill climbing performed for over twenty minutes.

2) Muscular strength is the capacity of the muscles to move heavy objects for a short period of time, such as lifting a suitcase into a car trunk or carrying a heavy bag of groceries. When individual muscles have increased strength, these tasks are easier, and there is less a chance of injury due to strained effort.

3) Muscular endurance is sustained strength of a muscle or group of muscles. This would include the ability to maintain correct posture while seated without slumping into the chair or the ability of leg muscles to walk a full day of sightseeing without becoming sore, cramped or tired.

4) Flexibility is the ability of muscles and joints to stretch and lengthen. Good flexibility of muscles keeps joints in proper alignment and reduces chances of overuse injuries, repetitive strain injuries, and back and neck pain from poor posture positions. Flexibility training also increases blood flow to muscles and decreases muscular tension.

5) Balance and coordination are integral parts of physical fitness and are often seen to decline rapidly with increasing age. While aging does affect many physiological processes, it is more a result of decreased use of our balance/coordination systems than age that causes a decline. Because of weakness, injury, pain, fatigue, and fear there is a change in the normal human movement, slower movement, use of railings, elevators, canes, and general decreased activity. There is decreased movement and especially decreased movements that stress balancing and coordination (ice skating, bike riding, sport activities, dancing). Muscles and joints become weaker and the skills of balance and coordination also decrease. Exercise allows the practice of balance and coordination activities in a controlled environment, so that if confronted with a stairway without rails, an icy sidewalk, or a pushy crowd the skills of balance and coordination will be responsive.

The hardest part of exercise is getting past the excuses. Exercise must be a priority in you life. It must be scheduled weekly and not canceled. It must be thoughtfully planned to meet specific goals for personal physical health and the five areas of fitness. It must be safely executed, progressed, and modified. It must be balanced with proper nutrition, sleep, and relaxation. Finally, it must be minimally enjoyable or it will not become a part of your life.

There are several steps that need to be taken to ease the burden of starting a fitness program.

--- First, ask a doctor about types of exercise that would benefit personal goals and find out if and how medications will affect the response to exercise (e.g.,insulin taken near an exercise workout will cause a large drop in blood sugar; blood pressure medications may cause dizziness during exercise; some heart medications don't allow increases in heart rate).

--- Second, write down five appealing exercise options (walking, swimming, racquetball, videotape, group class).

--- Third, buy proper equipment: water bottle, good shoes, proper clothes, hand weights etc.

--- Fourth, schedule at least two days a week in your calendar and stick to the schedule.

--- Finally, record the progress in detail as motivation increases when positive results are seen. Remember that one month of dedicated participation deserves a reward!

Integrating exercise into your life is not easy but it is possible, and it is important so that the rest of life can be lived with energy and without pain. Use the resources in magazines, books, and the internet to learn about health and activity. Ask family and friends to join in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Use the skills of professionals to guide your program so that it is efficient and purposeful. Finally, focus on the good feelings of exercise in body, mind, and spirit, the progress, the feeling of accomplishment, control, and personal empowerment.

Dana Dowd, is the Coordinator of Fitness and Physical Therapy at SLI.