"Dad’s Health: A Priority on Father’s Day" By Allen Weiss, MD, MBA, President and CEO

Dad’s Health: A Priority on Father’s Day

June 1, 2011 - Celebrating Father’s Day is a time-honored tradition. Keeping Dad healthy and uninjured as he ages and becomes a “weekend warrior” is important for optimum physical and mental health.
We all know that exercise is good for us but unexpected injuries can sometimes get in the way of a motivated Dad—or for that matter, anyone of us. These comments are directed to Dad this month but everyone, from young to old and all women exercisers as well, will benefit by avoiding athletic injuries.
Overuse injuries are one of the most common problems with young competitive athletes. Middle age and older folks, on the other hand, have a tendency to try to match their peak younger performance; this is impractical and often results in a musculoskeletal injury.
I believe the right course for most middle age and older people is to regularly exercise but do different activities.
This will:
1. Keep you from getting mentally bored.
2. Prevent excess stress on limited areas of the body which means overusing one area of the musculoskeletal system.
3. Develop both cardiovascular and musculoskeletal abilities.
Alternating between running, swimming, weight lifting, biking, dancing, and any other type of exercise usually fulfils these three goals.
People’s attitude towards exercise ranges from love to hate. Many folks are blessed with having a quick and reasonably predictable endorphin response, known as “runner’s high.” You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the body’s positive response to being exercised; swimming and any type of aerobic exercise—biking, spinning, floor exercises, dancing—can give the same salubrious feeling.
An attribute of this comfortable feeling is that once people start to exercise they want to continue. That is why most people feel so much better after they finish exercising than they do before they start. Leaving the gym is always more pleasurable than arriving.
Dads—and anyone who exercises—can develop an overuse injury, occurring over time and resulting from repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones and joints. Tennis or pitcher’s elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints are some of the more common overuse injuries, which are given names associated with the sport or position which commonly cause them. One other fact is that you don’t have to be in the sport to get the injury. Tennis elbow or runner’s knee, for example, can occur even after doing house work.
Our bodies have a tremendous capacity to adapt to physical stress. With the right amount of stress our bodies actually get stronger and more functional. If we are careful as we build our exercise tolerance, we will strengthen and protect our tendons, muscles and joints. When we are cautious and allow time for the body to adapt, the tissues have a chance to remodel, stretch, harden and strengthen, in the relevant area of the body.
The most common causes of injuries are over training and/or rapidly accelerating on a training regimen. We would all be better off “wearing out” than “rusting out,” meaning that over exercise is better than no exercise. However, going from an amateur status to tackling Olympic challenges will surely cause more misery and interfere with improving your physical condition. Slow, steady improvement and then maintaining a good functional status is probably better and healthier in the long run for those of us who are not destined to be competitive athletes.
Maintaining cardio-pulmonary health is probably the best way to stay well, extend life, and avoid a heart attack or stroke. “Twenty minutes a day will keep the doctor away,” is a catchy phrase which is true. Undoubtedly, you can get by with missing a few days per week; nevertheless, set you goal—or Dad’s—at exercising daily and enjoy the favorable results. Studies from the Archives of Internal Medicine show that risk of poor health is lowered 30% by exercising regularly, which they defined at walking only twenty minutes three times per week.
We hope all Dads have a great Father’s Day and everyone exercises safely and without injury; great mental and physical health will be the result.


Past Health Advice Articles

Dr. Allen Weiss is CEO & President of the NCH Healthcare System. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Geriatrics, and was in private practice in Naples, Florida from 1977 - 2000. Dr. Weiss is active in a variety of professional organizations and boards, and has been published in numerous medical journals, including the American Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.