Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Fountain of Youth

Unfortunately, I have nothing new to report on the election front. Stay tuned! But I have been ruminating on a blog for quite some time. You lucky readers, you.

I was reminded of the idea tonight when suggesting a continuing education course about the impact an overweight population has on the practice of physical therapy. By this, I do not mean "bariatric physical therapy". Bariatric PT is a great specialty, or would be, if the APTA made it one. I could easily digress into why it should be a specialty alongside Prevention, Metabolic Regulation, and Community Centered PT, but that is not what's calling me tonight.

Tonight I just wanted to point out the fountain of youth. We've all seen it. It's the short one, the one next to the taller one that we all tend to drink from. So yes, I'm talking about water fountains. Stay with me here and feel free to point out wheelchair accessibility, biomechanical issues, and the vertically challenged, if you absolutely must. But the point I'm trying to make is that, when given a choice between an easy option and a minutely more difficult one, we tend to take the easier of the two.

I won't argue that you burn more calories by stooping for the lower water fountain. But I will say that a conscious, symbolic dedication to a more effortful why of doing things would help lessen our societal waistband. Am I wrong? It's not that people are lazy necessarily. I think it's the same poetic sensibility inherent to our brain's motor planning ability. We don't think about it. We just see, and take, the path of least resistance. A brilliant strategy for the serengeti, less so for a perpetual office safari. Perhaps there is a time to tell our clients, "Work harder not smarter!"

But exerting more effort will only get our society so far. Many people have dealt with weight related musculoskeletal issues so long, their anatomy no longer responds typically to stressors. And then they have their stroke, COPD diagnosed, diabetic event, heart attack, fall, car crash, or come to Jesus moment. That's where we come in. Except, wouldn't it be great to have prevented it all in the first place? To slap the proverbial Big Gulp out of their hand ages ago? To push for the short fountain while the short fountain was still an option? I think so. Where do you stand and where does your state measure up?



  1. I would imagine most people reading this blog agree that de-big gulping the general population would be great but the question is how do we realistically change those behaviors? I believe in the grassroots approach, getting one person at a time to start the health movement and hope it starts a domino effect to the rest of the population. Being healthy really is a huge commitment that requires a lot of sacrifice. Would a scare campaign work better? Americans are pretty great at ignoring the future and "living in the now". We can always try to set a good example (be the change you want to see in the world). It was upsetting (but somewhat understandable) when the Marilyn Moffat motion in the house a few years back was rejected, the one that stated all PT's should participate in the minimum recommended exercise (I don't recall the exact language) but the profession refused to take on this challenge at the time. It can certainly be a "younger" GOXV that helps set the trend. Small changes go a long way.

  2. I'm with you Bo. I thought it was a thought provoking motion too. (For those that need context, a few years ago the APTA came reasonably close to adopting a policy that would 'require' PTs and PTAs be active, a professional policy to 'dictate' behavior.) I can understand how slippery that slope might be. But still, PTs/PTAs know better.

    I think that generally, as you suggested, newer and younger individuals have more time to devote to physical wellbeing. But I would like to see the trends for average weight gain at five year intervals for the last few generations of PTs and PTAs. Could be interesting!