Dr. Dan Michael
Dr. Dan Michael

While pandemic restrictions ease and people return to activities like dining out, meeting with friends and going to the gym, high-risk populations remain at home to the detriment of their movement health, but the situation doesn’t have to be a dire one.

As wildfires sent smoke into our outdoor space, those who are high risk faced an additional barrier to staying healthy and active, especially if they suffer from chronic lung conditions that prohibit smoke exposure. Thankfully, at home, there is safety from these environmental dangers if you are high risk, but remaining sedentary at home comes with its own set of health risks, such as being sedentary. The home is often seen as a place of comfort and safety, but too much comfort can make our muscles, joints and brain weaker over time, leaving our bodies unhealthy and unfit for the movement challenges we may face in the future.

A best practice would be to first have an evaluation and assessment of your function and situation at home by a healthcare professional. Virtual care is being used now more than ever, and my professional experience in treating spinal and other joint conditions virtually has been overwhelmingly positive.

Nothing beats face-to-face encounters, but you can cope with the health risks of remaining sedentary at home by following a home movement and exercise routine that is designed to challenge and progress you to becoming stronger and more functional in the comfort of your own home. With a good internet connection and a device capable of video chat, you can safely bring experts into your own home to assess what are your main movement health needs. If you have challenging health conditions, you should work regularly with a professional who can assess and progress your structure and function before attempting to challenge yourself on your own.

We often associate getting stronger and healthier with modern-day gym equipment, but much can be done with a padded floor space and a chair. In fact, you may want to remove all furniture from your home entirely after reading an article published by New Scientist magazine titled “How changing the way you sit could add years to your life.” In part, the article explores a Tanzanian hunter-gatherer community that is just as sedentary as us Westerners, with the only catch being that they do not have furniture. Indeed, they rest by standing, squatting and kneeling, rather than sitting in their favorite armchair, and they are healthier for it. In my June 2020 publication “3 tips for sluggish bodies and stiff joints,” I talk about the importance of getting back to playing on the floor like a child again, using your own bodyweight and the ground to improve your functional health. In fact, other than walking, getting up and down from the floor is one of the most functional and best exercises that you can perform, if you can do it safely.

Pain, weakness and disability during movements are realities of life for many, but they do not always have to be debilitating. While some conditions require prescribed medication for management, there is almost always a way to treat a limitation with focused movement and skilled intervention. A qualified healthcare provider who can effectively operate a virtual platform, and who can consider the health issues at hand and make an appropriate plan of action based on the functional health needs of the patient at hand, is often necessary to overcoming physical limitations. What is important is that we all keep these health concerns top of mind as we go forward into the fall and winter period when our environment will add a new layer of movement health challenges.

— Dr. Dan Michael is a chiropractic physician in Madison Park.